Photography is a crucial part of how we present the University. 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:

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

UCCS Photo Database Free downloads of high quality, high resolution photos for university-related marketing publications, presentations, or websites are available in the Photo Database.

While the individual project strategy will dictate much of the photography selections, general recommendations follow.

8 pictures of people in squares doing different activities

Prefer images that are:

  • a journalistic style
  • simple, easy to understand subjects
  • realistic and believable
  • human and emotional moments
  • bright, natural, contemporary lighting, accurate white-balance
  • open and airy, straight-on compositions
  • straightforward portraits

Do not use photography that is:

  • stock, canned, or generic (see note below)
  • unnatural, 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  • evidently outdated or old (unless in a historical context)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, out of focus, or otherwise low quality
  • cliché (i.e. college kids playing Frisbee)


  • special effects such as fisheye lenses, unnatural artificial lighting or color gels, unnatural tone mapping/HDR effect (treatments such as color-washes may sometimes be applied during design, but source photography should be clean and modern)
  • heavy use of dutch angles or other unnatural/overly-stylistic angles or composition

In essence, if your photograph is real and not posed, contemporary and not trendy, authentic and not contrived, timely and not dated, clear and not fuzzy, purposeful and not cliché, then it will be a strong choice that supports our brand positioning.

Have a reason. Only use images that support an idea or illustrate a point. Do not use images to fill space or simply because they are appealing.

Go big. When appropriate, use photos edge-to-edge, full-bleed. Prefer a single strong, compelling image when possible (as opposed to several less compelling images.) Use of large, simple photography—mostly full-page or full-spread imagery is encouraged.

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.

Model Releases, while not always 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.