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.

Be aware of the components of a photo before shooting or using them in any communications. Avoid any images that are busy, too complicated, out of focus, low resolution and under or overexposed.


  • Do not use an image with a vague or generic location which does not convey a sense of place.
  • Do not use stock photos which feel inauthentic and should never be used to depict students, faculty or staff.
  • Avoid photos that feel posed or unnatural.
  • Avoid compositions that are too complicated or busy.


  • When taking a photo select an individual or single subject for your audience to focus on.
  • When choosing imagery, keep the following pillars in mind: Vigorous Learning, Inclusive Community, Resilience, Collaboration, Innovation

To access a portal of images to use that embody the SF State brand, visit, our image archive.

Photo Releases

When using photographs of people in your marketing and communication materials, an individual consent/release form is required before the image is published or made publicly available.

Some circumstances present exceptions to this rule, including large public events where an individual release is not practical. In these instances, the following posting should be displayed in multiple visible locations or written form:

This event takes place in a public venue and will be recorded and photographed for distribution through various California State University outlets. All audience members (or parents/guardians of minors attending the event) acknowledge that they may appear on these recordings and photographs by attending or participating in this event and agree to the University’s use of photographed or videotaped materials through the University’s website, applications and other channels of communication.

An individual release is required if:

  • If the subject is the primary focus of the photograph are recognizable, and they have been recruited specifically to serve as models.
  • Any individual(s) recognizable who have not been recruited to serve as models.
  • For minors (under 18), a parent or guardian must sign the release.

An individual release is not required if:

  • The primary focus of the photo taken is not recognizable when in silhouette, posterior view or out of focus.
  • Participants at a group activity or event, when signage is posted in multiple visible locations advising attendees, their image may be used publicly.

You can obtain consent in paper form, through Docusign, Adobe app for IOS or Android or via email.

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. 

Any questions about using photographs in marketing materials for San Francisco State University can be directed to Strategic Marketing and Communications.