Photo and Video Standards

These standards and practices are suggestions to help the University of Tennessee best promote its people, initiatives and brands by adhering to professional photography and video principles with all of its imagery while conveying the following, mission-derived themes when possible: educate, discover, connect. 


Photographic Style 

UT System photographs are: 

  • Tastefully composed and free of clutter 
  • Selective focus on subject to draw the eye in to the photo 
  • Clean and out-of-focus or slightly out-of-focus backgrounds 
  • Express the joy that comes with attending the University 
  • UT-branded gear/clothing/buildings if at all possible, is preferred at all times and when appropriate 
  • The diversity of the people of the University of Tennessee should be reflected in all respects 
  • The mission-derived themes of educate, discover, connect should be expressed when appropriate
  • Photos taken on a cell phone should be avoided for official University communications 

Editing of Photographs and Photographic Integrity 

  • A photograph must never be changed from how it was originally shot aside from standard toning or cropping of the image, which improves its overall appearance. 
  • Removal of items from a photograph via “clone stamp,” “healing brush” or any other photo editing software or tool that alters an image from its original state should be avoided. (Permissible exceptions are limited to removal of blemishes, etc. in an official headshot OR dust spots on the lens or sensor) 
  • Use of special filters that alter the color or contrast of an image so that it looks radically different from the original should be avoided unless the photo is being used in a way that necessitates the altering of those attributes. (e.g. a stylized photo layout in Our Tennessee magazine, layouts used in any other print / online publication, advertisements and promotional pieces where use of artistic license makes sense) 
  • Do not use filters found in social media platforms/apps like Instagram, Twitter, Facebook or similar social media platforms. 
  • Photo illustrations allow more leeway in terms of editing, composition and posing than a journalistic-style photo. Photo illustrations should be obvious to the viewer and do not need much explanation. If, before publication, the question of a photo’s authenticity arises, efforts should be made to clarify that it is an illustration. 
  • If in doubt, contact Kasey Funderburg, digital content strategist, by emailing   

Captioning Photos 

Accurately fill out metadata as best you can for each finalized photo before submission to the UT System Office of Communications and Marketing 

This should include the following information: 

  • Names and titles of those pictured, (use left to right naming mechanism) 
  • Date captured 
  • Caption information describing what is seen in the image 
  • Photographer name and initials 
  • Location photo was made 

Photo credits should read: 
(Photographer’s Name / University of Tennessee) 

Submitted photos should read:
(Photo Courtesy of John Doe) 

Photo File Names

Final versions of photos should be named using the following model: 

Ex. 140921_Welcome Back Cookout at UTC_utc_atb 

  • Year format – YYMMDD 
  • Subject – Short description of subject or event 
  • Campus – UTC, UTK, UTM, UTHSC, UTSI, UTIA, UT (for system) 
  • Photographer’s initials

Other examples of this naming convention 

  • 140716_Board of Trustees Meeting_utk_atb 
  • 141001_Randy_Boyd_ut_atb 
  • 141010_Presidents Council Tour_ut_atb 


Visual Style for Videos 

  • Video shots should be tastefully composed in such a way that draws the viewer into the imagery. 
  • Audio should be clean and well adjusted. Using external microphones is a must for all subjects. If interviewing, use a boom or lavaliere mic. Ensure the signal is clean and wind and rustling clothes do not obstruct the microphone. Check audio every time. 
  • Lighting should be well-balanced if using artificial lights. If using natural light, make sure the subject doesn’t have harsh shadows on his/her face. Position subject in shade or use reflectors to balance out the light when possible. 
  • Video resolution should correlate with the mode of final delivery for the product. In general, shooting at 1080p is ideal for all situations, but in the future, 4K may be necessary for certain uses. 

Video Editing 

  • Videos should be tightly edited and convey our passion for UT. 
  • All videos should include our branding using the master files created by Communications and Marketing:
    • Opening title screen
    • Watermark/bug
    • Lower thirds
    • Closing title screen
  • Music should be royalty-free OR licensed for our use unless noted otherwise 
  • Videos should be exported as a master file using ProRes 422 HQ or DNxHD 175 formats at 16:9 / 1080p and then later converted to smaller sized files for web or DVD / BluRay distribution. 
  • All videos posted to YouTube or Vimeo must be closed-captioned for the hearing-impaired.