Ah, the campus photoshoot. The few days each year that have to be picture perfect: sunny with dozens of well-dressed students studying on the lawn. We’re very familiar with these days and know the planning (and sometimes stress) that comes with finding the right balance in representing your school. You don’t want overly staged photos, the “three and a tree.” But you also don’t want to bank on students wearing the right colors and being in the right places without some level of prompting either. It’s a dance. And we’ve kept notes on the choreography we’ve learned over our thirty-one years. Here are those notes, packaged as ten key tips just for you to get the most out of your campus photoshoot:

1. Set Your Priorities

When setting up the photo schedule, consider what programs, buildings, and facilities are most valuable to meeting your marketing goals. Most schools skipped photography last year due to COVID, so you may have new buildings, clubs, or majors yet unrepresented in your images. There may be some specific events you’d like us to capture either indoors or out. Delegate extra time and attention to those priorities. We also need to know how your new images will be purposed. With proper foresight and planning, The Parish Group will provide a new seasonal archive of images targeted for print and online communications.

2. Inform the Whole Campus

Satisfy everyone’s curiosity in advance by forewarning them of our visit and asking for friendly cooperation, (especially the faculty) in case we need to pop into classes unannounced. Please post a notice in everyone’s campus mailbox or place an announcement in the school’s social media feeds. If you have specific faculty or students you would like to be photographed, please advise those folks that there will be setup time required for each situation. It is also a good idea to let campus security know that we’ll be on campus.

3. Consider Time of Day

Campus shots are best taken in the early morning and late afternoon, when there is warm light and there are long shadows. Outdoor shots scheduled for the middle of the day often have harsh shadows that are difficult to work with. Please also keep your students and their schedules in mind. Do not schedule residence hall photos early in the morning.

4. Make Weather Contingencies

Our team will work with you if there is any inclement weather during our visit. Please check the forecast a few days before we visit and adjust the schedule to fit around what you think will be possible.

5. Photograph Key People

Select professors, students, and others who represent your school positively and accurately in the photographs. Be true to the school’s demographics and include the proper mix of male, female, international, and minority individuals. Pick people who are engaging, and include any key students, faculty, or “campus celebrities” that you would like to feature online or showcase in your publications. If you have student quotes to use in your enrollment communications, it’s a good idea to photograph those students for use throughout your materials. Remember, the photos in this archive will be the first impressions of your school for many prospective students.

6. Notice Fashions and Branding

Be sure to ask everyone to wear bright, colorful clothing—no solid white or black garments, please! Also ask them to bring a different shirt/jacket so we can make changes once the group congregates and we sort out our people. Remind the students not to wear clothing with names of other colleges. It’s also a good idea for them to come looking ready for class with a variety of textbooks, backpack, notebooks, pens, etc. This helps with realistic staging to meet your needs. We may want to “borrow” items from the bookstore if we need a branded image.

Given remaining mask mandates, you’ll want to consider what percentage of your images you’ll want showing students with masks vs. without. (And for the love of all that is good, we’ll want to make sure that any photographed masks are worn properly. There’s nothing worse than a school full of students wearing masks with their noses out!)

7. Manage Facilities and Maintenance

The groundskeepers need to be alerted of our visit well in advance. Trash, chipped paint, and untrimmed lawns can do much to kill a carefully planned photo shoot. Often, these issues may end up in the backgrounds of our photos, and require more time in post-production to touch up. Along the same lines, please check each classroom we’ll be visiting ahead of time to make sure it is presentable and all featured technology is working correctly.

8. Capture Residence Life and Student Activities

We’ll want to photograph a residence hall room with students. Select a room that’s attractive, yet typical. Think strategically about choosing a male or female dorm or photographing one of each. Try to pick students who have laptops in the rooms. Be sure to let us know of any special sporting, social, or chapel activities happening on the days of the shoot. Choir, band, or theater rehearsals and team practices all have the makings of remarkable shots.

9. Be Careful of Evening Activities

Our evenings are typically spent downloading and reviewing photos from the day and creating backups. If there are any evening activities – sports, student activities, or the like – we are happy to accommodate them. But please arrange the schedule for that day so that those activities fall within our work hours for the day, and are not scheduled in addition to them. Photographers are people, too.

10. Please Provide Transportation

With a two-photographer team, we carry around a lot of equipment! Some means of transportation around campus would be helpful. It would be ideal if we could borrow a golf cart from the facilities team. Also, our team will be unloading and loading equipment and may take the liberty of parking in a “no parking” zone for a few minutes. If we’ll need a special parking permit for those days, please make arrangements for that, as well. We’ll also benefit greatly from a guide; whether that’s a student or admissions staff member who can give us access to buildings and help manage the logistics between sessions.


11. Bring Us Back!

While one visit from our photography team can generate an extensive and versatile photo archive for your school, consider bringing our team back for additional visits to photograph your campus during different seasons or to cover events like welcome week, homecoming, or commencement.

These tips will keep make your photoshoot efficient and effective, yielding higher numbers of great photos. And as Bill always says, “Our images send their minds. Their bodies soon follow.”

Ready to schedule a photoshoot to upgrade your online or print presence? Contact us today! 828.505.3000 or shoot us an email at