Photography Guidelines

Because a picture is sometimes indeed worth a thousand words, it is very important to carefully consider the messages that photographs convey in campus communications. The campus’s 2003 Strategic Communications Plan suggests that to support the marketing goals of the campus, photography used in communications must convey the following:

  • the intensity of working groups
  • the advantages of architectural and natural settings for inquiry and inspiration
  • the engaged interaction of students with faculty, staff, and others integral to their education

The following guidelines and techniques should be applied—preferably using the skill and talent of a professional photographer or a staff member with professional-level photographic skills—when commissioning or taking photographs for use in campus communications:

  1. Produce images that are
    —fresh, colorful, and bold 
    —interactive, dramatic
    —warm, spontaneous, unposed
    —shot from unusual angles and perspectives 
    and communicate
    —outside-the-box thinking
    —pioneering research
    —the interdisciplinary collaborations that characterize UC Santa Cruz.
  2. Keep in mind that one large, dynamic, engaging photo can often be more effective at conveying the spirit of UC Santa Cruz than a number of smaller, less-engaging images.
  3. To make existing images seem "new" and become more effective, apply close or unusual cropping to create a sense of intimacy and spontaneity and to emphasize the most active/meaningful aspects of each shot.
  4. When commissioning or shooting new photos, secure the approval of all photo subjects to appear in your communication by asking them to sign a official campus photo release (click here to access and download a variety of UC Santa Cruz Photo Releases—individualgroup, for minors, and en Espanol), in printable PDF form. Keep all signed releases on file for future reference.
  5. To receive permission to use existing campus photography in official campus communications you are producing, go first to the campus’ web gallery to determine whether any of the images archived there would meet your needs. If so, please send email to specifying which photos you are interested in using.

Digital Photography

When shooting with a digital camera, (1) adjust camera settings to shoot JPEGs of the largest size with the least amount of compression (generally, this will be a Large/Fine setting); this will yield an image that can be reproduced at the largest size possible shooting with your particular camera.

A four-megapixel camera at the highest image-quality setting will yield a 300-dpi image of about 5-1/2 x 7-1/2 inches in size; a six-megapixel camera will yield a 300-dpi image of about 7 x 10 inches.

To keep digital "noise" (analogous to "grain" in film) at a minimum, do all your shooting with the camera set between ISO 100 and 400; if light is inadequate to shoot in this ISO range, use a flash or a tripod to compensate.

To see examples of effective photography, go to:

For in-depth reviews of digital cameras and comparisons between them, go to: