What a crazy time to graduate.

Anyone who has graduated during this pandemic: YOU GO!! Zoom university was not easy for many reasons. Add in unusual graduation ceremonies (or lack thereof) and whew, not quite the experience you were expecting when entering your specific program.

This group of graduates was referred to me by a former coworker from my days working at UNC’s Health Sciences Library as a Graduate Research Assistant (and by days, I mean last year!). It’s not the first time I’ve taken graduation pictures on campus since moving to North Carolina a few years ago, but it WAS the first time I got to experience the mayhem that is the line at the Old Well right before graduation (and who knows how bad it gets when it’s NOT a pandemic!!). If you’re a May graduate reading this (December and August grads should be fine), I highly, HIGHLY recommend you get your pictures taken in March or April to beat the rush and stress that comes with shooting at the Old Well during peak times.

I got in line for the Old Well at 5:30pm thinking I’d get to the front by the time our session was supposed to start at 6pm...no dice. Luckily, since we had a group of four, I was able to have at least one person stand in line while I did individual portraits nearby. Even better was that these graduates followed my suggestion and brought props!! I loved the balloons and board they brought! They also brought champagne and confetti, but we had an incident with the confetti that resulted in it being popped too early... we made it work though!

We hit up two locations during this session: the Old Well and Gillings School of Public Health. Since I was anticipating the line (but clearly not as much as I should have!) we started at the Old Well. When I tell you the number of groups taking photos near the Old Well like us to get pictures in the background...it was a lot for the amount of space available. Despite this, I was very happy with the pictures we got near and at the Old Well. It would’ve been nice to spend more than 10 minutes at the Old Well (another reason why May graduates should take their pictures early! You’ll be able to spend more time there without the pressure of others waiting!), but since we got so many nice individual portraits nearby, it wasn’t too bad. I mostly used my 85mm lens for the photos behind the Old Well, but I also took some pictures with my 50mm lens, which you can tell by looking at pictures where it’s the same person at the same location but there’s a difference in compression. 

This shoot was actually my first time trying a dual camera setup at a portrait shoot to minimize lens swapping. I’m not sure it’s something I’ll do consistently as I’ve tried going back to a single camera setup for a few shoots following this one, and it was fine. I made it work before, and I can make it still work like many others do. :)

As I predicted, no one was at Gillings when we went afterwards. I did find my 35mm lens was just barely not wide enough for my liking for getting pictures of the students with the building’s letters (there was a tent on the patio that I had to avoid from being in the photo), which made me think of the Sigma 28mm lens that has been on my mind for MONTHS now since upgrading to full-frame (I did the math on my most used wide angle focal length on APS-C, and it turns out it translated to 28mm on full-frame). If you have experience with the Sigma (or the Canon 28mm), reach out and let me know what you think! Looking back, I probably could’ve tried the Brenzier method - which involves stitching photos together to create the look/compression of an 85mm lens but at the wide angle of a 35mm - but I completely forgot. I ended up trying it at another graduation shoot that I did a few weeks later and will share that photo!

It’s been so fun seeing graduation photos show up on social media now that restrictions have lifted. As a former UNC master’s student, current UNC grad students hold a special place in my heart when it comes to graduation pictures, so I really loved doing this shoot.

Congratulations again to all 2021 graduates, and enjoy some of my favorite photos below from the session!!