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Selecting Strong Visuals

Skillful use of visual elements – photography and video – will lift your content to an entirely new and engaging level, one that words can’t achieve alone. Thoughtful use of good visual content is important and can be achieved, regardless of budget, if you know where to find it.

Photography/video typically falls within four groups — professional, amateur, found and stock. Each group has its advantages and associated costs, and often it’s a combination of imagery from these groups that will make your site the most effective and memorable it can be.

On this page:

Professional Photography/Video *

Typically, professional photography/videography is the most expensive, but you get what you pay for. This quality of image gives you the most flexibility in getting the best photo or video tailored exactly to your needs.

Photographers/videographers bill at hourly and day rates, but if you plan well, you can get quite a few locations or settings photographed in a half day. The university also has professional photography/video available free of charge at a number of websites, so you may want to check there first before assigning an outside professional.

Professional Portraits

University Communications recommends a freelance photographer to shoot excellent, quality headshots. You also can go to any commercial photography studio and get a well-lit, quality portrait.

Amateur Photography/Video

If budgets don’t permit hiring a professional, you can use amateur or in-house photography, especially for social events, meetings, lectures and situations that have a limited shelf-life. Everyone has a camera these days and we encourage you to add visuals to your site, but with some basic shooting and editing guidelines (see sidebar tips).

Written Consent

Written consent is REQUIRED if the subject matter contains minors or if it contains patients in any health care situation.


Otherwise, permission is NOT NEEDED to use images of UB students or employees, or the public on UB's campuses, unless the subject specifically requests their image not be used.


If you are producing videos, please be sensitive to copyright regulations, including any music that is sampled.

YouTube is aggressively policing its videos and suspect videos will be blocked. Be sure to follow YouTube's copyright guidelines when uploading new content (more details).

Section 508 - Accessibility

Federal law requires all significant elements of a website to be fully accessible, including images and videos. Images just require 'alt tags', but videos require captioning and audio descriptions, as well as an accessible player. > Read more about accessible videos

Found Photography

Photography from the Web

The web is a fertile source of free (or low-cost) photography on virtually every topic. Although the web is inherently share-friendly, don't assume that because a photo or video is easy to copy or download, that it's free to use. Always check to be sure a photo or video is not copyright protected before using it on your website. It's also important to be sure that web images do not have links embedded in them. There are many online galleries that offer free images for public use, including: 

Photography from your Faculty
Another place to consider tapping for free images are the computer files of the faculty members in your department. Many faculty members have visually rich images in the form of microscopic images, computer models, datasets, field images, etc. Don’t just think of visual assets as pictures of people. Asking faculty members for images from presentation posters can add visual texture to your site and inform visitors of the kind of work being done in your department.

Stock Photography

Stock Photography/Illustration/Video
Commercial stock photography can be both expensive and inexpensive, depending on the company and whether it’s royalty-free or not. Stock photography works best for topical or conceptual photos and not for photography that needs to be about specific people or research. Often you can buy credits with companies all at once and then use them throughout the year on an as-needed basis. These companies will offer not only high-quality photography, but illustrations and video as well.


Infographics can be a great way to convey complex information in an easy-to-digest visual form. And you don't need to be a graphic designer to create one. There are a number of free resources available for "non-designers." Here are a few resources to help you get started:

Tips from visual communications experts

Tips for making the most of your photography

Captions = Content. If possible, caption photos. It’s an opportunity to add content to your site. People read captions after the photos and headlines, and sometimes even before they read the text.

Crop out blank space. If you took a photo and most of it’s of the wall behind the person, crop it out. Cropping an image is a powerful way to draw attention to what’s important in the photo. Take the time to really evaluate the content of the image and what it’s saying before adding it to your site.

When photographing an event for a slideshow, take pictures of people hugging, smiling and laughing, rather than people just holding drinks staring at the camera, which can get tedious after you see three in a row like that. Consider taking some shots from unusual angles or of interesting details, like feet dancing on the floor, a detail of class rings or a view from the second floor shooting down on a crowd. You are looking to capture emotions in images, so visitors can see the personality of the event. Taking a variety of subject matter also will help if you decide to create a slideshow of the event, so it’s not 10 photos of people in the same pose.

Less is more.
The smaller the image, the less complex the visual information should be, and vice versa. An image of 10 people doesn’t translate well to a small size and should only be run at a larger size. If you don’t have that kind of space, it’s better to leave the image out.

All heads should be the same size. When cropping photos for faculty headshots, be sure all the heads take up roughly the same amount of space in the frame.

The wonders of Photoshop.
If you have access to photo-editing software, take the time to improve the photos if you shoot them yourself. Lighten dark areas, increase color saturation, crop to eliminate extraneous content. Even professionals “tweak” their photos so they look the best they can be.


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