Striking a Pose: Tips for Unique Grad Photos

Your convocation is YOUR day, and how you commemorate it should be a reflection of who you are and what your university experience was like. There are plenty of traditional things that you’ll do on the big day like wearing your robe and hood, strutting across the stage, and posing for photos — and it’s that last one that you can really make your own. Here are a few suggestions for how you can up your photo game with some unique poses.

Bear-able Ideas

Posing Tip: Posing with the Alberta Bear in front of the PAW building can be a little intimidating at first — can you get close? Are you allowed to touch it? Can you climb up there in your robe? Keep it simple to start, and just stand in front.

Posing Tip: You can totally touch the bear! You can gently lean on him for a shot that says “it’s cool, we hang out.”

Posing Tip: You can go all Christopher Robin with your photo by making it appear as though you’re taking the bear for a whimsical walk. Simply take a slow step beside the bear and reach out for its paw while your photographer snaps away.

Posing Tip: Go nose to nose with bear.

Posing Tip: You could kiss the bear…. or you could just get really close to it. Maybe don’t kiss it — who knows where it’s been.

Posing Tip: If you aren’t a fan of wearing your graduation cap, keep it in your photos by letting the bear wear it for you.

Posing Tip: Show your love for your educational experience by giving a big ol’ bear hug to the place where you studied.

Note: It’s best to approach the bear from the west side, with a spotter.

Posing Tip: Get comfy!

Posing Tip: At some point in the day someone will suggest that you throw your hat into the air. You can do it in front of the bear, or you can do it over on the lawn in front of the Jubilee Auditorium, or you can do it where ever else you might like — but when you do it, try to keep the throw low and slow. If you throw it too high or too quickly, you’ll likely miss the shot. Also, try to throw it slightly away from you to avoid hitting yourself in the head. (It happens. A lot.) It might take a few tries to get this kind of pose just right, but it’s usually worth the effect.

Posing Tip: Ride into the sun. While on the bear, have your photographer stand just behind the bear, and look over your left shoulder to create the allusion that the bear is actually carrying you away.

Pro Tip: Check out Paige’s guide to getting the perfect Alberta Bear photo… you can pet it, ride it, hug it, stand beside it, run from it, etc.

Classically Collegiate

Posing Tip: Pick a building that you feel represents your view of the university and go for a long shot. This type of photos is less about seeing your face and more about placing you next to an icon part of your university experience.

Posing Tip: If you go for a shot on the steps of Convocation Hall/Old Arts, then try to sit further down on the steps so that you can be a pop of colour against the grey stone.

Posing Tip: The Old Arts Building (i.e. Convocation Hall) has exquisite masonry, which usually looks good in photos. When posing on its steps, ask your photographer to stand down a little from where you’re standing/sitting — doing so will allow them to play with the angles of the masonry work and will allow both you AND the building to stand out.

Posing Tip: Adapt yo your lighting! If the lighting around you is really dramatic, be dramatic. In the first shot, we used the flash and in the second one, we didn’t. The second photo is far more dramatic because of it, so the choice to look up rather than straight at the camera helped to up-the-drama.

Posing Tip: You could just stand and look directly at the camera, or you could take a very slow walk towards the camera. Doing so will give movement to your photo, and might make it easier for you to post — because instead of worrying about your smile, you’ll just be concentrating on your walk.

Posing Tip: At some point, try to look at something. It could be a window, it could be a display, it could be other people — whatever you like. Looking away from the camera will add some variety to your photos and will help to prevent red eye…. plus there are plenty of interesting things to look around campus, so glance at them before you go.

Posing Tip: Try to be comfortable when taking your pictures. Lean on things. It’s okay to do so. Also, try to position yourself slightly to the side of centre so that you can create more context around you. And fun fact about your academic hood — it’s going to slide around. To keep it in place, you might want some strategically place safety pins.

Posing Tip: If you see the word “convocation” written in big letters somewhere, get in there and get a photo! Also, when wearing your hat, don’t pull it down to far forward and definitely do not stick it to the back of your head. It should be up top, but comfortably so.


Posing Tip: A headshot is a pretty standard photo to take during convocation. To prevent it from feeling like a mug shot, angle yourself a little away from the photographer and turn your head ever so slightly towards them. It will look more casual than a straight-on shot will.

Posing Tip: As a new grad, you are a part of the U of A’s history, so head to the Presidents’ Circle (right next to the Admin Building) for some historically influenced photos. You can pose with the university’s first president (that’s him standing up) and Alberta’s first premier (he’s the one sitting). There’s room to stand up between them.

Posing Tip: Don’t just stand with the university’s founders, get in there and pose like you’re a part of what’s going on. Raise your arms and help President Tory sell his vision for a public institution that can “uplift the whole people.”

Posing Tip: You can even give President Tory a high-five while Premier Rutherford looks on. Just reach up and hold your hand in front of the president’s.

Posing Tip: Convocation is the day when you become an official U of A alum, which means that you get to join the tradition of taking photos in the Alumni Walk (which is located at the cross path between SUB, the Admin Building, and quad). Try to stand as close as you can to the plaque to avoid having people in your background.

Posing Tip: Don’t be subtle, literally point out the fact that you are now a part of the Alumni Association.

Posing Tip: This one might be tricky given how crowded the Alumni Walk can get (especially during convocation) — but, it should also be worth it. As an alum, this walk is yours, so own it! Stand above the Alumni seal and embrace your new status as a grad.

You Do You

Posing Tip: Commemorate the reality of your student life by doing a few of the things you used to do on a daily basis. If that means standing in line for a coffee, then do it. (Let’s be honest, you probably need a caffeine fix anyway.)

Posing Tip: As a student you must have gone to class…. hopefully…. There are plenty of empty classrooms for you to pose in during convocation — just run in, sit down, and snap away.

If you decide to take a photo in classroom, try to sit in a middle row towards the centre — it will create more space around you and will better illustrate that you’re in a classroom.

Posing Tip: If you can enter a lecture theatre, try to take a “last look” photo by standing down at the front and looking up at the seats.

Posing Tip: Get quirky!

For more photo ideas, check out our guide to the best places to take your grad photos.

Special thanks go out to Chelsea (a Physical Education and Recreation grad) for sharing her convocation experience with us!