Photography is a powerful way to communicate the San Francisco State brand. One of the best ways to express our dynamic university culture is through strong images of our campus, students, faculty and staff. The photos should be unstaged, simple direct single-focus compositions with the subject in sharp focus and a soft focus background without clutter.

Best Practices for Photography

  • Try not to use images with a vague or generic location that does not convey a sense of campus and culture.
  • Do not use stock photos to depict students, faculty or staff. Limit stock photos to subjects not related to students, faculty, staff or campus locations and should be strictly for generic images.
  • Avoid using or taking photos that feel posed, unnatural or inauthentic.
  • Avoid compositions that are overly cluttered and might take away from your subject. For example, if you photograph a student looking through a microscope, ensure the background doesn’t distract the viewer’s attention.
  • Select an individual or single subject to draw your audience’s attention when taking photos.  
  • Be aware of everything within the photo frame when shooting or selecting photos. Avoid any images that are overly cluttered, blurry, too light or dark.
  • Vary your photographs with close-up shots that concentrate just on the subject. These medium-distance shots show more of the location, and farther-away photos capture the entire environment.
  • When using multiple images, try to select various images that showcase the ideas you’re trying to communicate.



  • If taking the portrait outside on a sunny day, try to find a shady location. Shade lighting is flattering with even light without hard shadows.  
  • Move close to your subject and find a neutral background that will allow your subject to be the image’s primary focus. 


student smiling to the sky with a yellow SF State shirt and blue headband
student wearing colorful garment and jewelry sitting on a wooden bench



  • Post a photography notice sign in several prominent locations so attendees know that the University may include their images in print or online marketing/communication collateral. 
  • Please photograph the sign and archive it with corresponding images from the event.
  • Take close-ups of people and wide shots that depict the entire event.
  • Don’t limit how many photos you take. It is far easier to delete images rather than not have a large selection to choose from. You aim to capture the event; taking many photos will help you achieve it.


a dean listening to a student's science project
student smiling in front of four beakers holding a pipette



  • Before starting, ask if anyone would rather not be in photos and do not include them in any compositions. 
  • Take photos during class that don’t feel posed and give a sense of what it was like to be there in person. 
  • The most interesting photographs are interactions between students and faculty. 
  • Move in close and move out to get a variety of shots. 


a class of students working with typography machine letter pieces
student pins red fabric to a mannequin


Campus and Student Life

  • Prominently post notices in several locations informing individuals in the area or venue that photography will occur. Document the sign by photographing it and archiving it with the associated photos verifying consent. 
  • If anyone would prefer not to be photographed, respect their decision and don’t take their photograph.
  • Take close-up, medium and far-away photos.
  • Try to capture facial expressions and reactions.


two students embrace while smiling in a field
SF State students jousting on a red and blue bounce house


Photo Release Forms

When using photographs of people in your marketing and communication materials, any individual depicted in the photos must consent to be photographed and have their image used for CSU purposes and must acknowledge by one of the methods listed below. Please note: Some individuals will choose not to have their photos taken. In those cases, please respect their wishes and do not photograph them.

  • Subject are required to read and sign SF State photography releases for the use of images in which they appear and are recognizable.
  • For public events, signs must be prominently posted in the venue, informing the participants that photography or videography may occur for CSU marketing and communication purposes. (See SMC’s downloadable public photography notification.)
  • If individuals register for the event, please include language in the registration informing individuals that photography may be taking place during the event and that their image could be used for University marketing and communication purposes.
  • All releases should be permanently archived regardless of the usage or status of the associated photo. It is the responsibility of the department or division to maintain and make accessible the consent forms of their photo collections. 

If the subject is identifiable in the photograph, a photo/image release is always required. Minors cannot consent to have their image used for any purposes, and a parent or guardian must sign a waiver on their behalf.

You can obtain consent in paper form (below), through Docusign, or via an email to with the following language:

Subject line: SF State image release consent

Hello (name),

Thank you for participating in the (name of the shoot) on (date of the shoot). Please review the following statement and hit reply with “approved by (your name)” in the subject line of your message.

I grant permission to California State University (CSU), its employees and agents, to take and use visual/audio images of me. Visual/audio images are any type of recording, including but not limited to photographs, digital images, drawings, renderings, voices, sounds, video recordings, audio clips or accompanying written descriptions. CSU will not materially alter the original images. I agree that CSU owns the images and all rights related to them. The images may be used in perpetuity and any manner or media without notifying me, such as, but not limited to, university-sponsored websites, social media posts, publications, promotions, advertisements and posters. I waive any right to inspect or approve the finished images or any printed or electronic matter or be compensated for their use.

I release CSU and its employees and agents, including any firm authorized to publish and/or distribute a finished product containing the images, from any claims, damages or liability I may ever have concerning the taking or use of the photographs. I am at least 18 and competent to sign this release.

I have read this release, understand its contents, meaning and impact and freely accept the terms.


(your name, title and contact information)