UCSF

Photography Guide

This page describes how to take photos easily and with great results, even during a pandemic.

Before shooting

  1. Legal and privacy considerations:
    1. You should have an understanding of consent from everyone in your photos. Exception: This isn’t needed if you are in a public place where there is no expectation of privacy, such as a sidewalk, a public park, or an outdoor common space on campus. For events, ask the event coordinator for guidance.
    2. Additionally, written consent is required for faculty, staff, students, patients, and people not directly affiliated with UCSF. PharmD students typically sign a release form during orientation, and the Office of Student and Curricular Affairs tracks those who did not. See the Policy section on Brand Photography Library for guidance on this and other policy topics.
    3. Photos must not contain any confidential info. For example, patient info on a document, screen, or object. Keep it out or digitally obscure it afterwards.
    4. Mobile device photo geotagging can reveal where you shoot, and some may need to keep these locations private. Turn geotagging off before shooting or remove geotags afterwards. Search the web for instructions for your device. Screenshots generally do not contain geotags.
  2. Light is the most important quality:
    1. Use as much indirect sunlight as possible: indoors near windows or outdoors on an overcast day or near sunrise or sunset.
    2. Generally avoid light only from behind the subject, but sometimes this can work well for a dramatic effect.
    3. Avoid direct sun, unfiltered light, light that is too harsh, and strong light from directly overhead. All of these can create unflattering shadows on faces.
    4. Avoid mixed light sources. For example, indoors instead of a room with both fluorescent and incandescent lighting, seek a room that has only one kind. This provides even color warmth across the entire photo.
  3. Photo subjects:
    1. Select a background that contrasts with your clothing and hair color. For example, if you have dark clothing or hair, avoid dark backgrounds.
    2. Avoid solid white or beige or pastel clothing, which can reflect too much light and possibly cause white balance or color balance problems.
    3. Avoid solid black clothing, since this can make it difficult to distinguish the details of your clothing.
    4. Avoid narrow stripes, which can cause an undesirable moiré pattern.
  4. Wipe camera lenses with a screen-cleaning cloth.
  5. Consider having the photo subject use a Zoom background then taking a screenshot:
    1. Branded backgrounds are available from UCSF.
    2. Also check out the Brand Photo Library (top level) in case one of the many great photos taken by pro photographers works for you. Use the search box or browse Brand Photo Library and Locations for something that fits your situation. Probably the best ones to use are building exteriors or interiors where any people in them are not the primary focus. Follow the site’s instructions and requirements for usage and attribution.
    3. Photo subjects: If you have a choice of webcams, use the newest one, which likely has the best camera quality.
    4. How to take a screenshot.
  6. Pandemic considerations:
    1. Follow all University and local health authority guidance.
    2. Don’t share photo equipment with others outside your household—including phones.
  7. Get a feel for the UCSF photo style:
    1. Photos should authentically represent the subjects. They should identify with one or more of our photography pillars: emotion, environment, and science. Details: Photography Standards.
    2. People in the Brand Photo Library has examples of great portraits.
    3. Galleries provided by the photo team at Documents & Media includes many great examples of portrait, clinical, campus, group, event photography and more.
  8. Check out these quick guides to better photos (or search the web on your own):
    1. Portraits (PDF, 1 page), also by Documents & Media, describes a few simple tips to get great photos.
    2. 13 Tips For Stunning Portrait Photography On iPhone.
    3. Apple: How to Shoot.
    4. Video: Pro Headshots with your Smartphone in 6 Easy Steps (3 minutes).

While shooting

  1. Shooting via screenshots in Zoom (with or without a Zoom background) or other videoconferencing application:
    1. Are you shooting during a meeting in progress? Mute screenshot noises so that you don’t disturb the meeting. Practice muted photos with a partner in advance if needed.
    2. Photo shooters: maximize the window. If on a computer with multiple displays of different sizes, use the largest display, which can potentially increase the quality of the image.
    3. Frame the subject properly. A headshot should mostly fill the frame, neither too high nor too low, and leaving a little space above the head.
    4. In some apps, names can appear next to each person’s image thumbnail. If people might mind being identified in this way, prevent the names from appearing or digitally obscure them afterwards. Search the web for instructions for your app.
    5. If a group is involved, get a variety of shots: single speaker, group gallery, thumbnails across the top, thumbnails on either side, etc. This provides later flexibility, such as using a different image when cross-posting to social media.
    6. Photo subjects on campus: Position yourself so that the setting behind you is clear, appropriate, and won’t unintentionally capture other people.
  2. With a smartphone:
    1. If you have a choice of smartphones, use the newest one, which likely has the best camera quality.
    2. Check the camera app’s settings to confirm that you’re creating images at the highest quality setting.
    3. If possible, use the phone’s back camera, which commonly has higher quality than the front or selfie camera.
    4. If a portrait mode is available, use it. If not, avoid standing too close, which can create unnatural distortions of faces.
    5. If shooting mask-wearing people causes problems for auto focus, tap the screen where the face appears to set the focus.

After shooting

Avoid using email to share photos. Email applications often compress images, which can reduce image quality. Instead, do one of the following:

  1. Upload to a file sharing service like UCSF Box then share the download link.
  2. If sharing in person, use AirDrop (iOS) or Nearby Share (Android).
  3. Use some other sharing method that retains the original filesize and quality of the image.

If you must use email, wrap the image in an archive format such as ZIP. Email applications will not alter images inside a zip file.