How To [Cheaply] Get Photography for an Enrollment Campaign

Having beautiful photos for your university’s website and enrollment campaigns is no longer “nice” to have, it’s necessary. Often though, universities think the only way to get images is by hiring an expensive professional photographer. While this is an option that often works well, it isn’t necessary for curating compelling photos that are in line with your school’s brand.

Before diving in, set aside time to thoughtfully envision what images would best represent your brand. Consider the colors that should be included and the feelings you want to evoke from your images. Plan out the backgrounds and settings you want to include in advance. Don’t forget models if your images include students — at least some of them should.

Here’s a sample higher ed shot list to get you started:

1. Students collaborating with each other and professors
  • Naturally pointing and/or viewing a computer screen
  • Conversing
  • Reviewing paperwork
  • Typing on laptop
  • Actively taking notes (next to laptop)
  • Actively taking notes (lecture)
2. Use of technology on campus
  • Student using a laptop viewing the school website
  • Laptop with school site – hands on keyboard (face not in frame)
  • Studying/collaborating in library, campus coffee shop, etc.
3. Photos of students dressed professionally
  • Presenting to a class and/or in a meeting
  • Shaking hands
  • Meeting/conversing
4. Students walking upstairs (from overhead and from foot level)


5. Students being mentored by a professor
  • Small group/one-on-one
  • Classroom/lecture setting
6. Buildings from more severe angles (looking up at a taller structure, for instance)


7. Silhouettes of students walking hallways or in classroom


8. Photos of recognizable campus spots (2-4 locations)


Once you have a direction for your images, it’s time to figure out if you should hire a team or rely on your internal team. You have multiple options:


Let’s start with one of the most inexpensive ways to get photos: doing it yourself. Be warned: this option requires a lot of work and time on your end. Taking professional photos for your university requires materials and tools, some trial and error, and persistence. But, with a little work, you can gain a new skill and have the flexibility of taking new photos for every campaign.

Photography arsenal

You’ll need a DSLR or a smartphone with a camera that lets you adjust shutter speed, depth of field, and ISO. If you’re photographing products, get started with this blog. Save money on lighting and flash tools by making items on this DIY list.


To edit your photos, try Fotor. This software is free and includes the option to edit photos on your smartphone, through their app, or on your computer, via their desktop option. Using software that is available on both allows you to get comfortable with editing on one platform and gives you the ability to cohesively edit images that you capture on both your phone and DSLR.

If you’re nervous about where to start, begin by getting comfortable behind the camera and developing your photography style through creative exercises. This list of photography tutorials is helpful as well.

Hire a Photographer

Maybe taking the photos yourself is daunting or maybe your team doesn’t  have the time. Many professional photographers that are just starting out offer introductory pricing. Also, you may be able to source a photographer from the photography program at your university.

Finding a Photographer: 

This blog is helpful if you don’t know how to find a photographer.

Interviewing Candidates: 

For every photographer you consider, you should do your due diligence and interview them. Check out this list of questions you need to ask. Also consider how professional their communication is and if you think they understand your brand when making your selection.

Stock Photos

If you need professional photos yesterday, consider stock photos. Keep in mind you won’t get personalized photos for your university with this option and you’ll need to be flexible. While Shutterstock is our go-to source for buying photos, there are — thankfully — multiple options for free stock photos. Read our “Best Of” blog on sourcing stock photography to find websites and best practices.

Since some stock photos have a tendency to be  almost comically staged, be picky when selecting photos to use for your enrollment campaign.


Have you looked at your university’s geotag on Instagram lately? There is a good chance your students and alumni  are already crafting photography for your school.. This  is called user-generated content (UGC). UGC is beneficial for brands for a couple reasons:

1. Prospective students  prefer it, as it seems more trustworthy and reliable to hear about an experience from a fellow student.  

2. You don’t have to take the photo or pay for it.

Incentivizing Users to Make Content: 

Make sure you have a unique hashtag for users to tag your photos. Offer small giveaways consistently for a steady influx of timely user-generated photos.

additional resources

This guide is helpful if you’re still having a hard time determining where to start on UGC. It will also inform you of proper legal practices.

Regardless of if you’re trying to revamp your enrollment campaigns, update the images on your university’s website, or have something to share on your social channels, you need to consider your brand’s visuals. If you decide to ultimately leave the visuals to the professionals, please consider Lucid Education. Our agency offers professional photography and has experience with education-themed photo shoots. Contact us today!

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About the author

Karli is a Content Specialist at Lucid Agency. In her spare time, you can catch her groovin’ to 70s tunes, trying to teach herself to sew, or reading a new book.