Ian works to capture the ‘hero shot’ for graduating students (camera and top of Ian’s head is just visible at the base of photo)

Graduation Photography Sydney

We’ve had the pleasure of meeting Ian via a mutual client in Sydney.

We both attend graduation ceremonies where George H Lilley Regalia provide the academic dress and graduation gowns, while Ian provides graduation photography.

In our humble opinion, of all the graduations we provide gowns for, Ian is by far our most favourite photographer! This is not just because he’s a friendly, funny and highly creative bloke. It’s also because we have a shared history of regalia making.

There’s not many regalia makers around, so it’s been a pleasure to learn about Ian’s past making regalia in Sydney in the 1960s. We’ve also enjoyed learning about what makes a great photographer ‘click’… pardon the pun.


Just another day at the office – Ian Barnes speaks with students about their photographs

We at George H. Lilley Regalia believe that there are a few occasions in life when you want a real, creative and naturally talented photographer who can capture such moments that are truly dear to you and your family.

When it comes to your graduation, why experience this special occasion through a smartphone? Why have someone from your family run around with a digital camera when they should be enjoying the moment with you? Who wants to stand awkwardly in front of a daggy backdrop while someone takes a few pics of you with testamur in hand, all the while charging you a sitting fee for the pleasure of delivering your final photographs with someone’s eyes part-shut?

Whoops. That last one just slipped out!

So how does a great graduation photographer like Ian capture the true essence of the moment and bring out the natural sentiment of the time?


People engagement skills and an artistic eye are vital to help people feel relaxed and happy, resulting in great graduation photographs.

Ian explains that as a photographer, ‘…it’s vital to have people-engagement skills, sociability and an artistic-eye to help you and everyone feel relaxed and happy’.

Photographing people, according to Ian, can be a ‘very personal’ encounter. Therefore it is essential to be able to comfortably and genuinely socialise with people.

It also takes experience. Ian has several decades of experience in photography of public and private events and announcements, weddings, portrait and roaming photography of entertainers, celebrities and other high-profile persons.

At the ceremony documented here, Ian had about 70 students and an audience of hundreds of family members totally engaged with him. When it came to the larger group photo of all students together, he took the time and care necessary to figure proportion and lighting, and then he patiently took hundreds of photos, all the while chatting with the students and audience, directing them in position and making them laugh and smile.


Everyone matters – Ian takes the time and care to re-stage and photograph a student who missed the graduation ceremony

When it comes to individual, small group and family photos, it doesn’t matter how many times some students ask to have a second or third set of photographs captured. Ian easily has everyone feeling relaxed and looking wonderfully happy, all the while making sure his subjects are photographed in the best possible manner.

Also captured by Ian are candid pictures of lecturers and official party, behind-the-scenes photographs as well as the all-important stage photographs of each and every student. Even students who may arrive late are included and re-staged later.

The result for client and graduates is a fabulous collection of photographs that capture such a special moment and ensure the best of graduation memories for a lifetime.

Ian’s Memories of his 1960’s jewellery apprenticeship


Image credit – Etsy, Oakey Creek Vintage

As you can imagine, Ian has an artistic and creative background, beginning his career as an apprentice Jeweller at Sydney Angus and Coote in the 1960s.

Angus and Coote are perhaps Australia’s largest and best-known jewellery retail store. Angus and Coote were founded in 1895 and while the business has evolved over time, it has a long heritage as a family owned and operated business that has continued over several generations*.


Angus and Coote Newspaper Advertisment 1961 - Image credit Brislington by Michaela Ann Cameron 2015 National Library Australia

Ian recalls, ‘As an apprentice, part of our learning was to make our own tools. To make a pair of pliers, for example, I was sent across the road from Angus and Coote to Paul’s hardware store. Here I purchased a pair of alligator pliers, which I then had to take back to the workshop and grind down the teeth to make a pair of jewellery pliers’.

Just to think, these types of pliers and a wide variety of pre-fabricated tools are available these days from jeweller supply stores.

Ian learned the art of hand engraving and diamond setting for engagement and wedding rings, and during his apprenticeship he also completed a design course.


Saw piercing at our Melbourne premises – one of the many hand processes we do that bring back memories for Ian

So not only have we here are George H. Lilley Regalia become a fan of Ian, Ian too has become a fan of us. Ian often comments how a lot of work we do here brings back memories of his time working as a jeweller. Saw piercing, hand engraving and enamelling are just some of the hand processes we do that he remembers practicing as an apprentice jeweller.

Ian recalls seeing mayoral chains and pendants being crafted in the workshop at Angus and Coote. No doubt that these days such regalia made during that time would be priceless. Regalia and particularly mayoral chains had a different type of relevance in those days, and a significance more widely appreciated at that time. Mayoral chains may well have been crafted using precious metals such as gold. Whereas today, for budgetary requirements, we make mayoral chains using base metals that are then plated and finished with less expensive ornamentation.

Nonetheless, as previously discussed in our other blog posts, there are many occasions that regalia still holds much significance and is something highly valued at various community events and across many cultures.

Thank you, Ian, for sharing your past experience making regalia and for making our time working with you such fun!


For more of Ian’s work or to get in touch, see