Photography for the web and social media

On

Outline

The Sheffield style is straightforward: use high-quality imagery that reflects our global reputation. This is also necessary as images on our website must be large – the minimum size requirement for our CMS is 800 x 450 pixels.

It is also important to think about composition and contrast so your photos stand out and to use a depth of focus to create a strong sense of place.

Vision

As part of the university’s content strategy, we want to use photography to help users complete real and understood tasks, and also to help inform, inspire and educate them. 

A key role for photography is to show our audiences what they want or need to see, as well as telling them via written content. 


Photographing staff/students/alumni individually

Posed

Avatar/profile pic – We should always capture a simple, well-lit to camera shot that could be cropped to 1:1 for square or circular avatar-style uses e.g. similar to how profile images are used on social media. We would advise against shooting these too tight so that there is room for custom cropping depending on specific users.

Example:

Portrait of Dr Bina Ogbebor

Centred wide shot (posed) – We should always capture a wide shot of a subject that can easily be cropped to 16:9 with the subject in the centre. These images will primarily be used on our university website as part of basic page, news page content types. The composition should feature the subject in a relevant campus/city location e.g. journalism student in the newsroom.

Example:

Dr Denis Cumming

Left or right wide shot (posed) – When possible we should also capture a wide shot with the subject panned either hard left or hard right. These images can be used on social media with the wide open space to the subject used for text overlays/quotes.

Example:

Emma La Vine

Candid

Centred wide shot (candid) – We should always aim to capture a candid wide shot (for cropping to 16:9) of our subject in a situation that is real to their experience. E.g. a chemistry researcher in the lab conducting an experiment (pipettes, test tubes, petri dishes etc) or an English student sat in Jessop West studying with a stack of relevant books on the table next to them. 

Example:

An Information School student with her laptop smiles at the camera.

Left or right wide shot (candid) – As with the posed photography, we should also think about how these images can be used in print/digital designs with enough space to overlay text/quotes.

A male research student in the Dental School.

Studio

Simple studio portrait – It can be helpful to capture a studio-style portrait of the subject that is shot against a plain white background or green screen. These photographs are the easiest to cut out and composite into artwork for specific campaigns or uses. These studio shots should include some with the subject looking straight in the camera and some that are designed to feel more candid or natural.

A profile photograph of Mark Bradley.

Photographing staff/students/alumni in a group

It is important to use group photos for the website as they show that the university is friendly and students are welcomed and valued by others. Group work also plays a vital part of the studying experience here at the University, so it’s important to highlight it.

Our approach to group photography would be to consider the following:

  • Construct a natural scene – If possible, try and arrange the group into a scene that feels natural. This could be as simple as them all sitting around a table having coffee together, or it could be a scene that aims to show them collaborating on a project or working together in a lab. 
  • Think about creative composition – Most group photography involves participants being lined up in one or two vertical lines. This will always look forced and it can be far better to think more about composition and how you can place the group throughout the foreground, middle and background of the shot. For example, in a lab setting, it might work to have some group members further back behind a different lab bench working with others closer up. This is something that a professional photographer will be best placed to advise on – and it's worth asking them to consider it because most group photography looks terrible. 
  • Sometimes you have (little to) no choice – It is important to point out that sometimes a photograph has to be taken of a group of important people together. In these situations it is advisable to try and get a variety of posed-for and candid group shots – you’ll probably end up using the awkward posed for one but sometimes you can get away with using a better, more natural shot. 

For website purposes these photographs will generally be used in 16:9 placements so make sure your image isn’t too tightly composed that you will cut people off when cropping to these dimensions from a camera’s default aspect ratio of 4:3. 

Examples:

Two Information School students laughing.

What works well with this image? 

  • Shows students in their working/studying environment
  • People in the photo are being natural and not posing
  • Students look confident and happy
  • Sufficient lighting 
  • High-quality image 
A photograph of a seminar taken through the a window.

What doesn’t work well with this image? 

  • The photo has been taken through a glass window, which adds distracting reflections
  • Nearly everybody in the picture has their back to the camera
  • Students do not look engaged and are not interacting with each other 
  • It is not clear what is being presented 

Photographing buildings

We know from the success of our central Instagram account that the architecture of our university is hugely popular. We would always advise getting high-quality shots of any relevant buildings – particularly any that are well-loved or photogenic.

Our recommendation for this would be to capture: 

  • Sunrises/sunsets at your building
  • Clear blue, bright sky days at your building 
  • Seasonal changes to your building e.g. Firth Court with red leaves in Autumn or the Diamond covered in snow in winter. 
  • Interesting angles and perspectives of your building – this is something that ES Kwon has been excellent at for us, and he is a great source of inspiration. 

It might seem very basic but we know that these types of photos are very popular with our audience – and can be a selling point for students looking forward to a Hogwarts-esque vibe from their university. 

When shooting buildings, we would advise capturing many wide-angled shots, so that you can pick one that works in both 16:9 and 5:2 banner crops. 

Examples:

The Mappin Building front view.

What works well with this image? 

  • There are students in the photo, which shows that the building is a friendly and safe place with lots of activity going on
  • There is a contrast of colours with there being a clear bright blue sky
  • High-quality image
  • The whole front of the building is in the photo
  • The leaves in the foreground are aesthetically pleasing and showcase the greenery of Sheffield
The mappin building looking from the front.

What doesn’t work well with this image? 

  • The composition is too dull
  • There is only a small part of the building on show
  • The Mappin Building appears far too dark

Photographing facilities

It is always useful to have a range of photographs of important facilities/equipment. We advise capturing a range of focal lengths, ranging from wide shots that are practical and capture the full image of the equipment/facility to close-ups that are more artistic and focus in on a particular feature or aspect of the equipment in greater detail.

Solaris machine in laboratory

I want to see the facilities in terms of labs and equipment so that I can feel confident I am choosing a university that is at the cutting edge in terms of technology.

Prospective biology student


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