Office of Strategic Marketing & Branding

Great photography helps us tell better stories. The U of I’s approach to photography is largely based on traditional photojournalism techniques that capture the essence and emotion of the moment.

Our photography brand standards were built on the strength of our university photographers and the impactful style they have established in recent years.

Great photography can also reinforce key brand messages and traits. That’s why our photography standards are rooted in foundational elements of our brand, like pillars and powers.

Brand pillars and photography

The university’s brand pillars are the qualities we are most known for: Innovative, Tailored experience and Legacy. When assigning, taking and selecting photography, think of how the images can depict these pillars (including the use of historical, archival photography to illustrate the U of I’s rich history)

Historical photo of the quad

Brand powers and photography

Using our seven Brand powers or I-words to guide your photography choices is another way to align photography with the brand. The brand powers are: impact, innovation, inclusion, integration, individuality, inspiration and involvement. Consider how photography can illustrate these concepts, bringing them to life and infusing them with meaning that is uniquely linked to the U of I.

Photo of female student using innovative technology

Brand-specific photography styles

The U of I brand hero shot

  • Low angle: Psychologically, the effect of the low-angle shot is that it makes the subject look strong, powerful and larger than life.
  • Leading lines: Use leading lines to carry the viewer’s eye to the hero subject.
  • Background: Move the subject away from buildings and trees – the fewer distractions in the background, the better. This helps sustain that larger-than-life illusion.
  • Headroom: In particular, the area around subject’s head should appear uncluttered. Using the sky or architecture as the a frame is ideal.
Photo of football player after a win

The Power of I photo style

  • Take close-up angles of a single subject’s face, in self assured aspirational expression and action.
  • The subject should feel isolated, so create a neutral, calm background. - Texture is important, and can be achieved through proper lighting – pure blue key light on the face and orange hair light.
  • Split coloration of the background can be achieved in post-production or in camera (in camera is preferred).
  • Together, the effect creates an easily-recognized photography style viewers will tie to the U of I and the idea of “power”.
Photo of female student with aspirational expression

General best practices:

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Use real people. Showcase the one-of-a-kind community of students, faculty and staff that live and breathe the U of I from day to day. Only use stock photography when completely necessary.

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Incorporate U of I brand standards for color, logo and graphic elements. Also, incorporating current, approved U of I elements (ie: subjects wearing Illini gear) and landmarks (ie: Alma) in the photos themselves helps reinforce university identity.

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Focus on a single subject. Even when taking a photograph of a group, find a way to highlight an individual for your audience to focus on.

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Keep the frame clutter free. If the space you are shooting feels complex, choose to focus in on particular details of that space.

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Pay attention to detail. Keep an eye on what subjects are wearing or holding. Avoid corporate or other university logos, as well as branded packaging (ie: food or beverage containers).

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Stay current. Regularly refresh your unit’s photo collection to ensure your images are relevant and up-to-date. Avoid using images that look or feel dated.

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