Photography can make or break a marketing piece. It should be powerful, relevant, and evoke emotion or illustrate an idea. When creating materials that use photography, be sure to adhere to the following guidelines:

Stack of photos

Use clean, high-quality, real, current, honest photography that has a clear subject and tells a story.

Do not use photography that is:

  • stock, canned, or generic (see note below)
  • un-natural, with people who have cheesy expressions or are obviously posed
  • evidently outdated or old (unless in a historical context)
  • busy and has no clear focus
  • blurry, pixilated, or otherwise low quality
  • cliché (i.e. college kids playing Frisbee)

In essence if your photograph is real and not posed, timely and not dated, clear and not fuzzy, unexpected and not cliché then it will be a strong choice that can evoke emotion and be very powerful.

Note about stock photography: We suggest against using stock photography whenever possible, though there are certain times when it is appropriate. The best way to decide if stock photography is appropriate is by asking "is it honest?" Dishonest and generic photography not only doesn't resonate with our audience, it can be damaging to the credibility of the material.

Usage Rights and Model Releases

When hiring a photographer, make sure you have (in writing) the usage rights for any images that you use. Some professional photographers will grant rights to use in one location only (a brochure, for example). If they are used in other locations, (a website or another brochure) they will want additional fees. University Advancement generally only hires professional photographers who grant the university full usage rights. More information can be found in the "Hiring a Professional Photographer" section of this website.

Model Releases, while not absolutely necessary, are recommended for subjects who are clearly identifiable in photos used in marketing materials. It is not absolutely necessary, say, for a group of students in a class or walking in the distance. But if you're going to use a recognizable subject in a large photograph or profile, it is recommended.



Portrait of Jeff Foster

Jeff Foster

Multimedia Marketing Specialist

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