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Tips for Taking Your Own Photos

Most amateur photographers at Rutgers need to photograph a speaker at an event, photograph a group, and/or take a portrait photo of an individual. Here are some pointers for getting a better-than-average photo with a typical point-and-shoot digital camera, for saving your images so they are easy to retrieve, and more.

Get a Photo Model Release or HIPAA Authorization

Use the university model release forms to obtain written permission to photograph or videotape subjects. HIPAA Authorization forms are required when working with patients who disclose health information in any form. All subjects must complete and sign one of these forms for each photo, taping, or interview session. Learn more and download the forms.

Keep Your Photographer and Photo Subjects Informed

A few days before your photo shoot, send all persons involved a detailed email message with photo time, date, and location; cell phone numbers; directions and parking info; requests for certain apparel, etc.

Course Offering: "Photography Basics"

CameraIf your position at Rutgers includes regular communication projects, consider signing up for the university’s Communicator Certificate Program. “Photography Basics” provides a basic introduction to equipment and techniques to compose, light, and utilize photos in print and on the web.

Photo Credits

Check with your photo source to determine if photo credits are required. Photo credits (usually the photographer’s name and/or organizational affiliation) generally appear in print pieces, either at the end of the publication or under the bottom right of the photo in small type. If space and design allow, credits may also appear on webpages.

Photographing Student-Athletes

NCAA guidelines restrict how photos of student-athletes can be used. Contact the Scarlet Knights' communications department at 732-445-4200, for information regarding NCAA guidelines for photographing student-athletes.

DPI (Dots Per Inch): Print vs. Digital Reproduction
  • Higher resolution photos are required for reproduction in print. Standard print resolution is 300dpi. With digital printers you can sometimes use fewer dots per inch, although the image must have enough data in it to stretch the pixels.
  • Lower resolution photos are appropriate for reproduction on websites and other electronic media. Standard web resolution is 72dpi.

Learn more about technical photography tips.

Photograph a Speaker

Speaker at PodiumAt speaking events, you often see and hear professional photographers clicking away. That’s because people frequently do not look their best while speaking, and the photographers are taking as many shots as possible to try to get that one good shot.

  • A trick of professional photographers that you can use is to arrive early and take setup shots of the speaker at the podium prior to the actual event. This way, you can get closer to the subject (5 to 6 feet away), better control the photo, and not disrupt the flow of the speaker’s presentation.
  • Keep in mind that the flash on your point-and-shoot camera is of little use when photographing a speaker from a distance in a large room.
  • The flash will not be sufficient to light the room, so the best strategy is to use available light.
  • Available light is any light already in the room: artificial, natural, or combination of the two.

Take a Group Portrait

Group PortraitYour point-and-shoot camera is not ideal for photographing groups of people in motion, e.g., clapping hands, shaking hands, presenting awards. You will be better off taking a posed group shot where the subjects are standing still.

  • Try to limit the group to three to five people and stand 5 to 6 feet away.
  • Available light is best, but you can also try some shots with the flash.
  • Try to keep the group at least 10 feet away from a wall or other background.
  • Don’t be reluctant to fill the frame with people.

Take an Individual Portrait

Portrait of Professor Seated on BenchHow you photograph an individual will depend on whether you are shooting indoors or outside.

  • When shooting indoors, try to use indirect window light. Avoid using a flash, which can cause red-eye and shadows.
  • When shooting outdoors, open shade or an overcast day is best for avoiding shadows. Place the subject in an area with a nondescript, generic background at least 10 feet away from a wall, tree, etc. Be conscious of avoiding lines in the background—poles, lines on a building, utility wires, etc.—that can look like arrows bisecting the subject’s head.
  • Don’t be reluctant to fill the frame.

Composing a Photo

Rule of Thirds for Photo Composition: Rutgers Day Gate Greeter in Period Costume

When deciding where to place your subject(s), try to avoid centering, which can result in a static, boring photo. Rather, keep in mind the universal rule of thirds. Imagine the frame divided equally into nine parts by two equidistant horizontal lines and two equidistant vertical lines. Place your subject(s) on one of these lines or at an intersection of these lines to take a more dynamic photo. Also keep in mind that the viewer’s eye will be drawn to whatever is brightest in the frame.

Organizing and Storing Digital Images

Keeping your images organized when you save them helps in searching for them later.

  • Before saving your images, choose a file naming convention that works for your department.
  • Shoot date, unit abbreviation, image number, and file format is a common file naming practice. For example, an image with the file name 052110KeckCtr012.jpg is jpeg photo number 12, shot on May 5, 2010, at the W.M. Keck Center for Collaborative Neuroscience.
  • Remember to save images in multiple places so if one medium fails, you still have a copy. 
  • Always keep the image number in the file name and try not to use too long of a file name when transferring files because the file name can become truncated and hard to decipher.
  • Entering metadata into the file with identifying tags (subject, date, location, etc.) and copyright information (photographer’s name, usage rights, etc.) also is necessary when trying to find information about the image and will aid in searching for images.