Use of Photography

A picture is really worth a thousand words. Unfortunately, those words can either be good or bad! Vibrant colorful photographs of students actively participating in events will help create interest in any page. It should be your goal to place at least one quality photograph on each page to break up text.

Photography should play a powerful role in communicating our personality; it is the medium best suited for conveying our progressive, engaged and timeless attributes. We want to paint a picture of the Case brand: Real. World. Impact. Photographs must accentuate, support or complement the informational content.

In our experience, only 5-10% of the pictures taken are suitable for use on web pages. That means you should not hesitate to take more pictures than you might need, and get them at a variety of different events.

What makes a good picture?

In a photo journalistic style, people photos should be as appealing and natural as possible, with a feeling of spontaneity rather than posed perfection. Unexpected cropping and composition can be create the forward-moving and powerful image we want to communicate. People in motion or at rest and involved in their surroundings show our commitment to engaging in the learning process. The following are elements of an effective photograph:

  • Quality lighting and color
  • Vibrant colors
  • Use of focus (parts of the photo may be blurry)
  • Use of action or motion
  • Unexpected cropping and composition (the person or main object is not necessarily centered)
  • Engaged subjects (for photos involving people)
  • Diversity of subjects
What makes a picture unusable?

The following are qualities of photographs that are not appropriate for inclusion on the website. There is always room for interpretation, though, and some of these things may occur for artistic reasons.

Out of Focus
Blurriness is the number one reason that a picture cannot be used. It isn't necessary for the entire picture to be in focus, but at least one element or person must be in sharp focus. Other people or objects in the picture can be out of focus, and when done correctly it actually adds visual interest to the photo.
Bad Lighting
This is the second most common reason for a picture to go unused. This usually happens with indoor shots where the room is not sufficiently lit and a flash is required. Outdoor activities and brightly lit rooms are usually not a problem. If it is dark enough that you are using a flash, don't expect to get a good picture of a large group. The range of your flash is only about ten feet. Don't get too close, either. The flash can wash out your subjects.
Distorted Color
A number of issues including bad lighting can cause colors to be distorted in a picture. Some cameras also have settings to deliberately alter the color in a photograph. Colors, especially flesh tones and easily-recognizable objects should be represented in their true colors. Some minor problems (i.e. "red eye") can be corrected with editing.
Too Many Staff
Many pictures tend to focus on faculty, staff or student staff. They are easy to get pictures of because you know them and they are always happy to pose for you. Seeing a lot of pictures of staff does not help students see themselves as a part of your program, though, and especially noticeable if your staff wears a uniform or other identifiable clothing. Limit the number of times your staff are represented (especially that one person that seems to be in every picture), and make sure they are always actively engaged with students in the photo.
Posed Pictures
Posed pictures are great for your scrapbook to remember all of the great times you might have had at an event, but they do little to show someone else that an event was exciting. There is always a place for that occasional group photo. In general, though, if you had to "prepare" for the picture, and everyone is looking at or making some effort to do something for the camera, it probably isn't going to be interesting to anyone that wasn't there. Capture what the group was doing before or after the picture instead!
A picture of a single person sitting in a chair smiling at the camera is almost never interesting. There may be a place for this sort of photograph in an information page about that staff member, but portraits are not suitable for general use.
No Context
Pictures must complement the information they are presented with. Even if a photo is good in every other way, it may not be used if it would not be obvious how it links to your program.
Facial Expressions and Gestures
Be conscious of facial expressions, especially those that may not be particularly flattering to any of the subjects in the picture. Carefully check the expressions or gestures of anyone in the background, as well.
This is one of the hardest problems to completely describe, but some pictures are just plain boring. Many of the issues have already been covered here, but there are always more examples: people standing in line, people sitting in an auditorium listening to a lecture, someone giving a lecture, a picture of a building.
Stock or Web Photography
Our goal is to show the CWRU experience. How do pictures from other sources help reach that goal? In most cases, they don't. In addition, there are additional costs or copyright issues that would need to be addressed before they can be published online. There is a very limited role for stock photography in certain situations, and that is generally not on pages describing student programs.
Preparing the Picture

The IT Operations Group can help prepare photographs for use on the website:

  • Selecting high-quality photographs from a bank of available photos
  • Cropping to provide a unique view of the subjects, when possible
  • Editing to fix minor imperfections
  • Cropping and resizing to predefined sizes dictated by the web template:
    • Full-Size Banners: 960 x 285
    • Divided Banners: 320 x 285 (for use on the Student Affairs homepage)
    • Highlight Column: 250 wide
    • Content Page Photos: 200 to 300 wide (varies)
    • Standard Button/Logo: 175 x 75
    • Compact Buttons: 156 x 51
  • Adding text or graphics, especially for banner images
  • Compressing files so that they load quickly for site visitors (under 50K)
  • Conversion of files to the PNG image formats
Accessibility Information

For visitors with visual impairments, it is essential that all of the information included in a picture is conveyed in some other way. The online editor will require all images to include an "alt tag" which contains text that a screen reader will read to the visitor with the appropriate software. If a picture has overlaid text, that information should usually be included elsewhere on the page, but can be included in the alt tag if necessary. In most situations, the alt tag should be a short, natural description of the contents of the picture.

Last Updated: October 30, 2012