Photography is a powerful and compelling tool for creating an emotional connection and showing our values, our campus and our community. Washington University photos are high-quality, reflecting the identity of the university: personal, collaborative and world-class.

Use imagery that is engaging, candid and authentic. Always consider the diversity of race, culture, religion and gender of our community. Look for the energy and beauty of the subject matter, in its many forms.

Subject matter

  • Emphasize emotion and real life in the subjects we portray
  • Regularly give viewers a sense of place in our photography, especially when on campus
  • Photos don’t always have to be a literal interpretation of the subject matter


  • Use natural lighting whenever possible
  • Use short depth of field to focus on the subject
  • Treat photos with a bright tonal range

Our commitment to depicting safety

WashU is committed to reinforcing a culture of safety in photography. We are mindful of the appropriate use of personal protective equipment (PPE) such as safety glasses, gloves and lab coats when in research or laboratory settings, and the appropriate protective measures at construction sites, other field locations and during drone flights.

Best practices for design


Print: For all printed materials, images should have an actual resolution of 300 pixels per inch (PPI) and an effective resolution of at least 300 PPI, at a maximum of 100% scale. These values can be checked in the “Link Info” menu of the Links panel in Adobe InDesign.

Web: For featured photos that span the full width of a screen, the ideal width is 2800 pixels (px) to maintain crispness and readability across a variety of screen sizes and resolutions. At a minimum, image width should be 1440px. Horizontal images are preferred because they respond well to mobile screens and other new web formats. Try to limit the number of large, full-width images used on a single page as larger photos can negatively impact page load speeds. If using the WashU Web Theme, explore more about image sizing here.


Focus: Use fewer and larger images. Photos are powerful, but their power is diminished when they compete with other images in the same layout. In a crowded montage of small photos, most viewers don’t look at any individual image; they simply see the patchwork. Select a single dramatic shot as the focus whenever possible.

Type: When the design features type over photography, choose photos that provide negative space to use for headlines or copy. Images that are busy or high contrast can render text unreadable.

For web layouts, try to apply text over photos with HTML code, rather than applying text directly to an image in a photo editor. This will ensure accessible standards to screen readers and other assistive technology. If using the WashU Web Theme, this can be accomplished without coding, using the cover image block.


Avoid using artificially colorized imagery that does not align with WashU style guidelines or the subject matter.

(Last Updated – June 2020)