The adage that “a picture is worth a thousand words” is not always true. Some are worth less. Some are worth much more. The factors that determine the quality of any one photo are always subjective, always difficult to control – especially given the high standards and lofty objectives UM-Flint has for “on-brand” photography.
UR acknowledges that many times the best photography occurs when the “rules” of photography are thrown out the window. That said, the following are some guiding principles for photography that fits the University of Michigan-Flint brand:
- Authenticity Matters
- UM-Flint’s brand requires images that fall more into the genre of photojournalism than photo studio. Avoid using stock photography. Photos should feature our students, our faculty, our campus, our community. Avoid using photos that appear staged, contrived, or depict events that do not “naturally occur.” These days, everybody has enough media-savvy to know the difference between attempts to reconstruct reality and the “real thing.”
- Action Matters
- For a picture to tell a good story, it needs a verb – an action. For an institution of higher learning, it is easy to convince ourselves that our most important “actions” belong to the realm of the unobservable. Take one of the tenets of the brand promise: learning. How does one capture “the action of learning” in a way that is compelling – and real? A student reading a book is real, but not compelling. Neither is a professor lecturing a class. Nor a student nodding her head. UM-Flint is lucky to have faculty who employ creative, hands-on, “learning by doing” approaches. A physics professor who illustrates a point about gravity by having students roll down a hill would be a great “action shot” of learning.
- Originality Matters
- It always does. Yes, UM-Flint requires that the photos we use be high resolution (300 dpi). Yet there are no hard and fast rules for lighting, aperture, use of flash, or even subject matter. In the age of YouTube and Flickr, perfectly executed composition is out – “Snap-Shot Aesthetic” is in. This speaks to the ideas of authenticity and action as well. Special moments and rare glimpses do not wait. They are here and gone. Capturing this immediacy can be very powerful and visually interesting. Other “visually interesting” photos might feature: unique vantage points, harsh angles, high contrasts, extreme close-ups of common objects, etc.
MediaBin, UM-Flint’s online photo library, is full of pre-approved images.