College marketing and communications teams increasingly look to boost video teams and budgets. All well and good, but we should not overlook the enduring value and impact of your still image library.
It’s easy to grow complacent and assume that last year’s photos will meet this year’s needs. It’s tempting to hire less qualified photographers, and to cram too many shots into a long day of shooting.
Here are 5 Quick Tips on how to build, maintain and mature your campus photo library.
Frequency: Many college photo libraries grow stale without anyone noticing. If you want to maintain a viable collection of photos, plan on four, two-day shoots each year. Story needs and brand understanding change — as do seasons, fashion, hair, and the campus environment. You will need to schedule multiple shoots each year for photos to keep pace.
Quality: Staff photographers spend so much time shooting grip-and-grin, raise-a-glass campus events that few have time to hone their editorial POV and technical craft. And while you can find plenty of less expensive, “I know a gal/guy” photographers, inexperience will show. Quality wins. One great image will outwork 50 pedestrian images. Better to find a great photographer willing to negotiate a longer-term contract than settle for fair-to-middling assets that offer all pain and no reputation gain.
Editorial Planning: Editorial planning should be a year round activity that covers all publication, marketing, campus and social media needs, including photography. Rather than building a shoot schedule around people, let the story lead. Curate photos — considering how stories, events, and schedules might align. But don’t prioritize convenience. If you’re not photographing for story first, you will end up with images that fill space but fail to serve a need.
Student Faculty Encounter: As Wesleyan College President Michael Roth writes: “The richness of the curriculum and high quality of the instruction may receive a nod, but they are rarely celebrated. Promoting everything except what happens between faculty and students may be good for short-term appeal, but the result is to make the entire enterprise of higher education more fragile.” Rather than simply “book” photo appointments with faculty/students, it’s worth a conversation to discover how best to capture the encounter. Each relationship has distinct contours, and the photo should capture something essential.
Scouting: The best way to ensure a productive shoot day is to scout early and often. Send both an art director and writer – each brings a different perspective.
Stylist: Some photographers will insist on working with a stylist. That may seem like an unnecessary expense, but it’s worth paying the extra level of attention to the details of hair, clothing, accessories and overall vibe. This is one place where you might find a staff member or student worker who clearly brings an eye for this detail, and knows how to work a comb, brush or touch up mirror under pressure.