Know what goes great with any diploma? A graduation photo album! If you’re a grad, making a graduation book for yourself (and your friends, and your family) can become one last, super-rewarding bit of homework. And if you’re a proud parent, taking the time to assemble your child’s (or your suddenly-all-grown-up’s) brightest moments into a photo book makes for a great graduation gift—even if they really wanted a car.
Whether it’s college, high school, or second grade, you’ve got a great reason to celebrate and commemorate this once-in-a-lifetime milestone with a school days memory book. Read on for some great theme ideas and tips for making a graduation photo book that rises to, and elevates, the occasion.
Pick a theme
We’ve got enough graduation photo book ideas to fill a spiral-bound notebook here, but one easy way to narrow things down is to decide whether it’ll be a book about graduation day (and/or the parties), or a look back at the student’s year (or years) in school.
For the former, you’ll want to make sure you take enough great photos to properly document the event, including all of the most important faces and moments. Have an idea of what you want to include in your book, and keep that in mind while you’re shooting. You don’t have to be a professional photographer to find, frame, and capture great shots, but it can’t hurt to learn a bit about how to take better photos in preparation for the big day.
If your graduation photo book is more of a retrospective, your biggest (and most fun!) task will be collecting the photos you’ll use to tell the story. Depending on how deep your theme runs, this could mean just scrolling through your phone’s camera roll or digging through old memory cards and reaching out to your network of friends and loved ones to assemble the ultimate anthology. Whatever approach you’re taking, make sure the photos you select are high-quality and high-res enough for print.
Most of today’s graduates grew up in a world where there was always a camera within reach, so you may find that you’ve got a virtual mountain of photos to choose from. Remember, you don’t have to include everything—a short-but-sweet graduation book can hit the highlights, and it’s a great route to take if you intend to print lots of copies to share. But if those highlights are hard to narrow down, and you really want to go big, Blurb offers large book formats with hundreds of pages to rival any textbook.
Naturally, you’ll take a lot of pictures of the big day. If you’re making a graduation day book out of the whole affair, you’ll want to take more. Document the lead-up. Find a good angle for the diploma handoff. Seek out and snap plenty of shots of the friends, family members, and teachers in the crowd. And aim to collect a nice mix of posed and candid moments. A good event photographer is everywhere—but do make sure to be present in the moment yourself, and respect the wishes of more shy subjects.
Graduation is a big achievement, and it can’t happen without a lot of other achievements along the way. A graduation photo album that chronicles those wins makes for a great way to recognize and encourage the grad’s hard work and encourage them going forward. From first-days-of-school, to blue ribbons, to the successful driving test, if you’ve got photos of moments that make you proud, now’s the perfect time to bring them all together.
Graduation isn’t all about a successful string of report cards. Some students forge their most important memories (and huge parts of their identity) on the field, volunteering, performing—the list goes on. If extracurriculars like sports, band, or theater were central to the grad’s time in school, a custom graduation book is a good idea for a theme that can do those pursuits way more justice than any one-size-fits-all yearbook.
The grad isn’t the only person graduating, and their friends likely played a bigger part in their formative years than any academic subject or sport. They were there for the carpools, the sleepovers, the road trips, and maybe a breakup or two. Building a graduation photo book around the grad’s circle of friends and their exploits is a great reminder of how important these bonds are—and can even serve to strengthen and preserve the friendships as they move on to new endeavors.
One thing that’s great about making a personalized graduation book is that you can truly personalize it. Beyond the theme, the book’s layout and content can reflect the interests and passions of the graduate. So if they’re heading off to art school, a look back at their student’s journey from crayons to oil paints can really hit home—and the book itself can include artistic flourishes to carry the theme.
This will probably come naturally for the grad who’s self-publishing their own graduation book. If you’re making a book for someone else, think about who they are and what they love throughout the bookmaking process.
Add features and extra touches
Notes, captions, and quotes
A graduation book doesn’t have to be strictly a Photo Book. Have some editorial fun with it by including text that helps tell the story and provides context. Did something hilarious happen right after that photo was taken? That detail would make for a great caption. Did the valedictorian say something that really defined the day? Quote them on the final page. Remember you can also scan and insert just about any document or piece of artwork among the photos. So that first misguided (but beautiful!) attempt at drawing a horse can live on forever.
Room to write
You may want to leave some space for friends and family to write their own notes for the graduate, especially if the graduation book is being unveiled on the day-of. This could be an open-ended blank page or two for signatures, or a more structured prompt like advice for the graduate, favorite memories, or some fill-in-the-blank statements. It’s a great way to involve all the most important players and make an already personalized graduation book even more personal.
Graduation day and parties
Even if your book project follows a different theme, graduation day can make for a great final chapter, and put a nice bow on things. If you plan to include it, try to take some shots that account for the overall theme you’re following here, too. Gather the team for a group shot in their gowns, or have the dance squad strike their favorite pose.
Generally, you’ll want your graduation album to feature photos that portray your subject(s) in a good light. But nobody’s perfect, and including some not-ready-for-Instagram bloopers can liven up a page or two. The regrettable haircuts. The DMV-quality school photos. The irresistible laugh so big the braces actually showed. These character-building snapshots might’ve been embarrassing at the time, but they can actually help tell a more honest, heartwarming story about growing up. Of course, your mileage may vary; do make sure those bloopers come from a place of love.
Make the book
When you’ve got your plan in place, and your content gathered, the next fun part is turning it into an actual graduation book. Blurb’s free BookWright software includes everything it takes to lay things out for publishing, and it’s easy to pick up and get started. That said, you’ll still be making important decisions along the way, and each page is an opportunity to make the book even more special. Set aside some time, and your book will keep improving with every click.
We’ve got lots of resources to help you make a great photo book, and most of BookWright’s tools are self-explanatory. But here are a few things to keep in mind as you set out on your bookmaking project:
Choose the right format. You’ll select the trim size (book dimensions) upfront. Different trim sizes and bindings allow for different page counts. So be sure to check the dimensions and confirm you’ve got the size you had in mind, and the pages you’ll need for everything you intend to include.
Fix your photos. Not to say they’re broken…but a lot of people are surprised when they place two photos next to each other and find that they’re distractingly different after they’re printed. BookWright can help identify photos that aren’t high-res enough to print properly at a given size and offers single-click image correction to help ensure that the colors pop.
Remember the cover. It might be a simple line of text or the best shot from the top of your photo pile, but you’ll need a well-designed book cover and title. Everyone’s process differs, and you should never judge a book by its cover—still, the cover should never be an afterthought.
That’s Graduation Books 101. Remember: your final assignment should be a fun one. Use the graduation photo book tips and ideas you’ve learned, and you’ll wind up with a finished product worthy of honors. Done right, a graduation book is something you’ll want to revisit more often and display more prominently, than any diploma.
Ready to make your graduation photo book a work of art? Get started and make your photo book today!