Resources for Graduation Event Professionals

How special memories are created by composite photographs

A composite is a large photograph created for an organization consisting of smaller pictures of that organization’s individual members. They are traditions at many institutions, particularly

  • Professional schools, such as law schools and medical schools.
  • Smaller departments within a college or university.
  • Organizations where the membership is tightly knit.

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The purpose of a composite photograph is to capture a “snapshot” of the organization at a given point in time. In most cases, composites are annual events. It’s not uncommon to see rows of framed composite photographs, dating back decades, lining academic halls across North America.

Photography Considerations

The workflow to take composite images is similar to that required for portrait photography. Each member of the organization is photographed in a controlled environment with professional-series camera equipment and studio lighting. However, there is a unique skill set involved with composite photography. The objective is not only to take outstanding quality pictures, but also to ensure that lighting and framing are precise from one person to the next. Without this attention to detail, the appearance of the individual members on the composite could appear sloppy and inconsistent.

Indoor composite photographs are usually taken in front of a portrait backdrop. Some organizations have their composite images taken outdoors in front of a natural background, which can provide a picturesque touch to the images. However, outdoor composite photography is very technically challenging, since the intensity of sunlight and shadows change throughout the course of the day.


Organizations themselves set the dress code for their members’ photographs. Most opt for formal business attire. Some organizations even choose to have common clothing elements within each member’s picture.

Portrait Sessions

Depending on the number of people in the composite, the number of days required to photograph all members may vary. Smaller organizations can usually be photographed in one day. Larger organizations, however, may require multiple days to accommodate everyone’s schedule. The assistance of appointment scheduling software may also be warranted.

Organizational Involvement

If you are thinking about composite photography for your organization, it is important to understand there is some work necessary on the part of the organization for any composite to be successful. For starters, your photography company will need assistance relaying information to members about dates, times, locations, dress codes, and any other pertinent information. Multiple reminders are usually necessary.

After all the photographs have been taken, one or more rounds of proofing will be required to make sure the organization’s members are properly identified, names are correctly spelled, and titles (if applicable) are accurate. When these items are perfect, and the organization’s leadership has signed-off on everything, only then will the composite be sent into full production.

University Photo

University Photo, a sister-company of GradImages, specializes in composite photographs at colleges and universities. University Photo and GradImages work alongside each other, and even share talent and resources when available. Their team of dedicated professionals is second-to-none, and the service they provide is outstanding.  Click here for the University Photo website.

Topics: Composite Photography