From Every Angle: An Art Director’s Tips for a Successful Photoshoot


As an art director for a small marketing agency, there’s not an army of staff members waiting around to help plan photo or video shoots, hold a brainstorming session or map out a 48 page viewbook. We don’t have a cool chalkboard wall or a conference room surrounded by glass to inspire ideas—although we do have beer in the fridge.

 Like college and university marketing or communication staff, there’s a lot on our plate, but that never means settling for less than award-winning work. And that includes photography.


Strategic imagery is crucial to telling your school’s story—it provides a framework for all other advertising, so it must set your school apart from the competition. 

So what can you do to have a successful photoshoot?

  1. Start with an eye towards the end. What is the ultimate goal of your imagery, and what messages do you want to convey in each individual photo? Where and how will you use the imagery—will it be for a video? A brochure? A viewbook? Your website?

  2. Then, define the style of imagery that helps you achieve your goal. Pull together samples (and please, look outside of education). Do you have similar environments? How many people are in the image? Can your photographer achieve the right lighting?

  3. Speaking of your photographer, don’t skimp on the photographer. Period. Treat the shoot like it’s for your wedding: you only have a short window of time to capture your school’s essence. Ensure your imagery is of the highest quality. You wouldn’t hire a relative to take all of your wedding photos with a phone, so don’t just arm random members of your team with cameras and hope that they will capture the right images for branding. Every other industry, service and nonprofit uses professional photography for marketing. Don’t think that your school can get by without a pro photographer.

  4.  The “drop-in” method doesn’t work. You need a plan! Schedule the right students and faculty participating in the right activity that helps achieve your goal. (Some activities may need to be “staged,” but all must remain true to on-campus experiences.)

  5. Select your participants carefully.  Cast a group of students and faculty that fully represents your brand. Self-assured students will be your key players, because the confidence they have in their appearance will shine in the photos. Students should also be comfortable with their environment—pick your star athletes for shots on the field and your strongest scientists for images in the lab. As for faculty, the best choices have solid relationships with students, hold engaging discussions, and don’t look so young that they appear to be students themselves.

  6. Finally, art direction is key. It’s wonderful when things just happen, but a great image can take finessing. Are desks clean? Is there an outdated computer in the background? Is there a kid with his head down? Is everyone dressed appropriately? Can you pull blinds up to highlight the space? Art direction accounts for those seemingly small elements to ensure that prospective students and parents will see a positive image of the school, from all angles.


Written by Emily Hajjar, Brand Strategist and Art Director at Creosote Affects

Creosote believes the right photos have the power to capture the essence of a school far better than any amount of text. It’s why we place such an emphasis on the use of imagery in our branding solutions.

Emily Hajjar