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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. Using good visual content is important. Even if you're not a photographer, there are many sources of good images for every budget. Just remember to check usage policies.

On this page:

Professional Photography/Video

Typically, professional photography/videography is the most expensive, but you get what you pay for. 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.

Photography from Faculty

Faculty members can be rich sources of images, both photographic and graphic. Check with faculty, especially when you're working on stories that relate to their academic discipline, to see if they have access to field photos, microscopic or scientific images, computer models, or other shots.

Professional Portraits

For professional portraits, University Communications recommends using a freelance photographer. Quality is important in headshots and a bad one won't go unnoticed. Contact UB University Communications for more information - or visit any commercial photography studio and get a well-lit, quality portrait.

UB Resources

University Communications provides extensive collections of compelling, high quality photographs and video. You are welcome to use these in your UBCMS website.

Amateur Photography/Video

Everyone has a camera these days. If budgets don’t permit hiring a professional, you can use amateur photographers, especially for social events, meetings, lectures and situations that have a limited shelf-life. Use the tips and tools on this page to create compelling images (see sidebar tips).


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 used.

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).


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

Royalty-Free & Rights-Free Photography

Photography from the Web

A photo found on the internet is not necessarily free to use. Most photography found anywhere has some type of copyright restriction. If you use a photo without the required permission, you will be guilty of copyright infringement.

While there are hundreds of photo sites on the web that offer "free" photos, it's important to check each photo you find to understand its copyright requirement. Even if it's from a "rights-free" website.

Often, free photography requires attribution or a link back to the photo source. Additionally, most free photography is not usable on items you'll be selling. Please check carefully.

Nevertheless, there are many sources of royalty-free and rights-free photography including Public Domain photos.

What is public domain?

Works in the public domain are those whose copyrights have expired, have been forfeited, or are inapplicable. 

Read more about Usage Rights:

What is public domain?

Here's a list of some of the more commonly listed.There are many online galleries that offer free images for public use, including: 


Infographics are 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. Here are a few tools to get you started:

Image Creation / Manipulation Tools

There are many web-based and mobile applications that make changing and adjusting images easy. You don't need to be an expert in Photoshop to use these tools to size photos; add text, colors, or backgrounds; or to quickly make your image social media-ready.

Image Creation

Image manipulation, Screen Shots

Add Text to Images

Photo Collage Makers

Colors, Backgrounds & Patterns


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.

Last Reviewed:

August 3, 2015

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