Imagery is the sum of all the visuals that represent Virginia Tech's brand identity. The images that make up Virginia Tech's brand imagery can appear in all forms, from billboards to social media, websites to print ads. These images convey an emotion in the viewer. Brand imagery can be an opportunity to visually communicate with our audience.
Photography adds a human element to the Virginia Tech brand. Although our words are powerful, images offer proof that words cannot convey. With this in mind, carefully select photos that match our messaging and feel authentically like Virginia Tech.
Our photography shows members of the Virginia Tech community in their element. When crafting communications, we look to create a balance between the various photo styles in our toolkit, so that the result is vibrant and captivating.
To be prudent, have your photo/video subjects sign the media release form. In general, people at public events in public spaces do not need to sign the media release form, but those in photos and videos that are used for paid marketing must sign a photo release form.
For how-to information on using the university photo library, visit the Using Photography guide.
Our photographic language consists of eight different styles:
In the Moment
The people of Virginia Tech are active and intentional, and our photography is too. Portray students in their natural environments. These images are in the moment, never posed, showcasing the amazing things Hokies are doing.
Note that we do not shy away from showing the less glamorous side of things. If a situation is gritty, show the grit. If a situation is beautiful, highlight the beauty. Just capture what’s happening authentically, so that viewers gain an idea of what it’s like to actually be a Hokie.
TIP: For maximum impact, the photographer should use a tight crop and a short depth of field to focus in on the subject and the action taking place.
Distance photography always demonstrates a sense of scale, usually with a symmetrical composition. These images feel larger than life, evoking the idea that the subject is stepping up to a great challenge. These photos avoid complexity — the simpler the image, the better the result.
TIP: A strong focal point and camera angle will help achieve the correct aesthetic. Plenty of empty space in the composition helps when the image is used in combination with type.
Point of View
Point-of-view images capture the setting or action from the subject’s vantage point. Viewers must be able to quickly transport themselves into the shoes of a Hokie. These shots can represent the subject’s experiences in the field, the equipment our faculty and students use, the intricate details of what they do, and the settings they work in. The goal is to convey what it’s like to see things from a Hokie point of view.
TIP: Point-of-view images can be captured by shooting over the shoulder or with a GoPro camera, at any angle that feels like a first-person perspective.
The setting for a portrait photo should be appropriate to the subject’s major, program, or area of interest. Contextual elements (such as tools, machinery, or accessories that relate to the topic at hand) can be helpful in building a realistic image, even if they’re in the background or out of focus.
TIP: The photographer should use a short depth of field and natural lighting when it’s available. Eye contact isn’t mandatory for portraits, but it does help make an emotional connection with viewers. Be cautious of overly distracting backgrounds.
When taking photos of groups, we want to focus on the interaction or action taking place. People should be engaged and focused. We want every group photo to feel natural, not staged or posed. When possible, we should highlight groups that are doing interdisciplinary work.
TIP: The photographer should use a short depth of field and natural lighting when it’s available. Eye contact isn’t mandatory for groups, but it does help make an emotional connection with viewers.
Sense of Place
We want to showcase our campus in its best light, but creating a sense of place also goes beyond campus. In addition to Blacksburg campus photos, we want to represent the university in Roanoke, the greater Washington, D.C., metro area, and beyond to showcase all of the opportunities that are available to Hokies.
TIP: Photos should be composed to give an accurate representation of scale and proportions. Photos should also have a strong focal point and feel balanced.
When photographing buildings — inside and out — an equal, balanced composition is key. The subject of the photo should always be centered, from side to side or top to bottom. Additionally, empty space is preferred, leaving a clear area for type in the layout.
TIP: Photographers should consider using a grid or turning on the grid overlay in their cameras, if available.
Closely cropped detail images should pair with and support the rest of the photo library. They focus on the many things — subtle, small, and overlooked — that make our story unique.
TIP: Always capture the pieces and the parts that make up the bigger scene. This could be a single gear in an airplane turbine or a leaf in a forest of trees.
NOTE: Find photo resources at: photolibrary.unirel.vt.edu
Photographs should always feel bright, with a warm tone. If needed, boost the image’s contrast and saturation settings. A warm photo filter may also be applied from 5 to 15 percent depending on the photo.
TIP: Keep in mind that you may need to adjust the saturation, contrast, and filter differently for each photo, based on the lighting and conditions in which it was taken.
Altering images, including using artificial intelligence (AI) to alter images, is highly discouraged. Alterations to an image must never fundamentally change the truth of a scene or the accuracy of persons, places, or events depicted in the image. Alterations that are not allowed include mirroring, rearranging, adding, removing, or distorting faces and bodies, changing or removing art on clothing, and any edit that intends to deceive the viewer. Cropping to omit extraneous portions of the image is permitted.
Alterations should be limited to those minimally necessary for clarity, accuracy, privacy, and proportion, such as:
- Color and contrast to brighten, darken, to improve clarity
- Cloning of natural backgrounds to extend image dimensions, correct distortion, removal of debris or non-contextual distraction (e.g., shirt wrinkle distorts logo or message relevant to image use, hair in face, dead grass patch)
- Blurring personal information to protect privacy or bring focus to the important part of an image (e.g., blurring the background for added depth perception and to emphasize the focus on the subject of the photo)
Explicit content in a photo is a photo that should not be used; blurring or replacing the content is not a solution in these cases.
More Information about Videos
For more information and best practices about videos, visit the Publishing Videos section of the Communications and Marketing Resources.
Stock imagery is generic photos, illustrations, icons, videos, and motion graphics files created outside of the university without a particular project in mind. Stock imagery is usually licensed, typically for a fee, to individuals or organizations for use. Stock imagery should be used sparingly as a complement to and in support of true university imagery, or in limited cases, where there is no other option because the subject cannot feasibly be photographed, filmed, or illustrated.
Paid marketing uses
Stock imagery should not be used for any paid marketing effort, with the following exceptions:
- Common landmarks, such as the Washington Monument, that will not be represented with any originality through new imagery
- Theoretical/historical/scientific, when a true image does not exist or is impossible to capture with our resources (e.g., stock MRI images to support a cancer research story).
Stock imagery in paid marketing must always be licensed or used with written permission from the owner.
Stock images are appropriate when:
- Time — If time is limited and the content is generic enough, consider utilizing an image from the curated collections in the University Photo Library prior to using stock imagery.
- Supportive — The lead image exists, but it may need support (e.g., the President of Botswana portrait that we captured, accompanied by a stock image of an African river bed to contextualize his visit, Washington D.C. landscapes to represent Innovation Campus proximity).
- Theoretical/historical/scientific — A true image does not exist or is impossible to capture with our resources.
- Data — Icons and illustrations representing categories, types, and data
- Effects — Motion graphic effects to enhance other creative work such as lens flares, splashes, etc.
All other uses
In some cases, the use of non-Virginia Tech imagery is permitted for media relations and editorial purposes when no Virginia Tech images exist. In those cases, the selected image(s) must be publicly available and not under copyright. Attribution information should be listed following the university style for photo credits whenever possible.
All stock photography used for Virginia Tech News must be credited in the caption information, and credit information should be noted when the stock photo is uploaded into the CMS. Whenever possible, credits should follow university style guidelines: “Photograph courtesy of...” Please note any required deviation from this credit in the internal notes section of the article template.
Use of stock photography on externally facing platforms must be approved by communication directors or the director of Brand Creative before publishing. University trademarks, including the HokieBird, are usually not allowed as additions to stock photography; for more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stock images should NOT be uploaded into the University Photo Library.
More Information about Videos
For more information and best practices about videos, visit the Publishing Videos section of the Communications and Marketing Resources.
Daily Doodles are sketches created to document daily life at Virginia Tech and are published on Virginia Tech News and in its email products to supply fun and interesting visual content. Doodles also appear in the Virginia Tech magazine as “Doodles at the End of the Magazine” and, occasionally in social media posts. The university illustrator covers events and special moments and is also assigned specific illustrations. Illustrated by the university illustrator, Doodles are the property of Virginia Tech, much like photographs taken by university photographers. They are available for use in ways you would use a photograph from the university photo resource library.
- All original Daily Doodles created for Virginia Tech News emails and for any other purpose are archived as university property.
- Special request doodles should be requested at least two weeks in advance and may also be used in Virginia Tech News emails or Virginia Tech social media posts. Requests are subject to the availability of the university illustrator and must adhere to brand and licensing guidelines.
- Daily Doodles featured in the Virginia Tech News emails must be available for all viewers and may not be exclusive content only viewable with purchase/gift.
- Daily Doodles cannot be sold but may be offered as giveaways (stickers, postcards, etc.).
- Daily Doodles may be repurposed for a variety of uses including printed items, presentation images, swag, social media posts, service anniversary gifts, office decor, and more.
- Unique requests for Doodles that would not be used in the Virginia Tech
- News emails, that would be used for Advancement purposes, or serve another purpose altogether, must be reviewed by the director of brand creative. This includes fundraising incentives and special gifts.
- Daily Doodles may not be modified in appearance by removing, changing, or adding art or text to the image. For questions, contact the director of brand creative.
- Daily Doodles may be cropped to fit a variety of applications as long as the subject(s) and intent of the original Daily Doodle are not altered or excluded. All cropping of Daily Doodles must be reviewed by the director of brand creative.
- The university illustrator has exclusive permission to illustrate university trademarks in Daily Doodles as a contribution to the Virginia Tech News email content with approval from the Office of Trademarks and Licensing.
- Special request Daily Doodles that include university trademarks and are not for Virginia Tech News, and use of repurposed Daily Doodles that include university trademarks, are not permitted without pre-approval from the Office of Licensing and Trademarks and must meet standards of use as outlined in the Virginia Tech Brand Guidelines and Licensing Guidelines.
- Daily Doodles containing registered trademarks not owned by the university must be approved in writing by the owner of the registered trademarks and reviewed by the director of brand creative and the Office of Licensing and Trademarks.
- The university logo and logo lockups are permitted on doodles as long as the marks are located in an area where they are not distorted by the art and meet the 2-inch wide requirement as noted in the logo use section of the Virginia Tech Brand Guidelines. If there is no space for a 2-inch wide logo then a logo should not be used.
Release form guidelines
Release forms are required:
- For photos or videos of any minors (i.e., under the age of 18), release forms must be signed by parents/guardians regardless of editorial or marketing use (see next section “Defining different use cases” for definitions and examples).
- Exception: when documenting an event occurring in an outdoor public space or public event (i.e., Drillfield, Commencement, football games) with no reasonable expectation of privacy. Best practice is still to confirm verbal consent from parent/guardian before photographing or filming.
- Photos or videos of students, employees, or visitors are used for paid marketing.
- When using photos or video for signage and mural installations.
- Ex: DEI initiatives
- Ex: When using photos or videos of individuals to represent broad community segments. (i.e., a photo of a student who may appear to be an international student cannot be used without permission to represent international students because that student may not in fact be an international student).
- When using photos or video to assign statements about Virginia Tech.
- When sharing photo or video content with third parties, except for editorial use.
- If there is any doubt as to whether the photo/video will be used for advertising, a release should be obtained.
Release forms are typically NOT required:
- When photos or video are used for editorial purposes (see next section “Defining different use cases” for definitions and examples) UNLESS subjects are minors as stated above.
- Such imagery should not be used for paid marketing/ad purposes without a signed release according to the guidelines below.
- When capturing photos or video of a public event with no reasonable expectation of privacy, for editorial use. (i.e., the Drillfield, Alumni Mall, Commencement, football games at Lane Stadium).
- When the subject/s of the photos or videos are unidentifiable (i.e., captured from a great distance, as a total silhouette, or detailed images, such as of hands.)
- When a photo or video is created originally for use outside of paid marketing, please consider if the photo or video could also be used for paid marketing and obtain releases if that’s a possibility. (Otherwise, it may be impossible to obtain permission after the fact.)
Defining different use cases:
- Editorial use — using photos and video to share news, information, and storytelling. Documenting and showcasing the work of Virginia Tech students, faculty, staff, and alumni.
- Editorial use typically does not require release forms unless photos or video is of minors, which require releases.
- Examples of editorial use at Virginia Tech include photos and video used for:
- External media requests
- Virginia Tech News articles and feature stories.
- Stories, articles, and features in Virginia Tech magazines or newsletters (online or print)
- Virginia Tech websites or pages
- Organic social media posts
- Presentations and reports (i.e., Virginia Tech presentations and slide decks, PowerPoints, etc)
- Print or digital materials to provide information about a course or program offering.
- Paid marketing use
- Paid marketing use requires release forms.
- Examples of paid marketing use at Virginia Tech include photos and videos used for:
- Paid print or digital ad placements.
- Print or digital materials to sell a Virginia Tech-licensed product.
- Paid or sponsored articles/content.
Events and visiting speakers
- When arranging for a paid/contracted visiting speaker, the unit responsible for organizing the event and inviting the speaker should ensure that the speaker’s contract allows for photography and video to be captured and shared on Virginia Tech communications and marketing platforms before it is signed.
- For public events, releases are not needed for the use of photos or video except when used for paid marketing or other parameters listed above. State law requires written permission for commercial use (including advertising).
- Examples of public spaces and events:
- Drillfield, Duck Pond, Alumni Mall, outdoor campus areas
- Run in Remembrance, Gobblerfest, sporting events at Lane Stadium or Cassell Coliseum, Alumni Weekend
- Examples of public spaces and events:
- For private events (i.e., not open to the public, or not in a public space), it is still best to get a signed release if used for marketing purposes in order to not violate state law: https://law.lis.virginia.gov/vacode/title8.01/chapter3/section8.01-40/
- Language should be posted alerting participants to photography/videography for editorial and marketing purposes. This notice should also be posted on registration pages, info/cancellation pages, event confirmation emails, etc. Suggested language for signage at events: “By participating in this event or entering this space, you consent to be photographed, filmed, or recorded. Virginia Tech retains the right to use these photo, video, and audio assets in our communications and marketing materials. Virginia Tech does not sell photos or videos. Please notify the photographer if you do not wish to be photographed, filmed, or recorded.”
Additional best practices
When photographing or filming a video in private/non-public settings (i.e., classrooms, labs, workspaces, etc), photographers/videographers should coordinate in advance with the appropriate contacts.
Photographers/videographers should make their presence known in the private/ non-public space prior to photographing/filming to allow students to opt out if they so choose. When space allows, those who opt out may move out of the frame to avoid being filmed or photographed; however, they should not be asked or expected to leave the space or forgo their opportunity to participate in the event/activity.
Release form practices — gathering, signing, and storing
For non-public events involving minors, it is recommended to provide the Virginia Tech release form in advance of the event for parents/guardians to review and sign before the event. This can be done as part of the event registration process.
A common practice after gathering releases is to provide a visual cue for participants to wear (like a wristband, lanyard, etc) for content creators to know who does and does not have a signed release.
- Release forms may be signed physically using pen/ink. Releases may also be signed electronically using a program like Adobe Auto-sign, if available to the signatory.
- Hard copies of signed release forms should be kept on file with the unit/college/department organizing the event.
- The best practice is to scan and save an electronic copy along with corresponding photo or video files.
- Release forms should be stored indefinitely or as long as the photo/video is available for use.
Photos with signed releases are indicated as such in the metadata field of the image(s). All photos with releases can also be found through an advanced search in the Photo Library.
Photography should be done in a manner that does not run afoul of privacy, safety, and research-subject compliance.