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The low-down on low-angle hero shots

September 3, 2020
Video & photography

The “hero shot” is an important element of our visual identity, in part because it makes for emotionally powerful photography. The photo style also illustrates a core element of the new U of I brand: seeing the students as the heroes of their stories and the university as their guide. In this post I’ll explain that a bit more and also share some insights on how to capture these shots.

The foundation of our brand strategy emphasizes the “tailored experience” we offer students (one of our brand pillars), and the power of “individuality” (one of our brand powers). The university is also “empathetic,” which is one of our personality traits. Together, this adds up to an approach to marketing that always considers what our heroes – the students – are reaching for and hoping to accomplish. 

This incredible shot by U of I photographer Fred Zwicky (below) is a great example of a hero shot. Fred is a master at capturing these low-angle shots, which frame characters from below the waistline looking upward, using the sky or other uncluttered background to frame the subject’s head. 

Low-angle shots carry a very specific visual language, conveying that the character is strong and heroic. My training is in cinematography, and it’s no coincidence that the film genre that uses this iconic, low-angle shot the most is superhero films.

When taking a low-angle shot it’s best to use a wide-angle lens, which will help you capture the visual information surrounding the characters in the frame. It also helps to make the characters seem larger than life, which is evident in this Fred Zwicky photo taken outside the Illini Union (below).

Focusing on the heroes in a frame while capturing visuals that represent the U of I also helps to subtly tell this critical story: That while the students are the heroes, the university is the essential guide, helping them thrive and achieve their goals. Nothing communicates that quite like a heroic graduation shot (below, also taken by Fred Zwicky). 

You can check out more about our brand-specific photography styles and guidelines here on our website.