Photography 101


  • Scout a few different locations ahead of time to test as your backdrop(s). The best photo location typically:
    • Is indoors for winter months and outdoors for spring, summer and fall.
    • Has good lighting. This will be the hardest part, so try a few different locations. Stay away from direct sunlight — look for a sweet spot between sun and shade, where you’re just inside the shade but facing the light. Mid-to-late morning is often great for this.
    • In front of a solid color backdrop, like a painted wall or sheet, or ties into your story. Feel free to consult the writer or designer if you want or need ideas. Avoid backdrops that are too busy and cluttered.
  • Grab a friend or a tripod. Selfies don’t typically make for great headshots. Your best bet is to ask a friend to get better angles and provide feedback.
  • Camera phones work great! Make sure you:
    • Turn off live-mode.
    • Have plenty of storage space cleared.


  • If shooting outside, a cloudy/partly cloudy day is best. Avoid direct sun or overcast days and avoid late afternoon sun. Late morning is the best time in order to avoid direct overhead sunlight.
  • Make sure you position your face toward the source of natural light.


  • Capture an assortment of poses:
    • Looking directly into camera.
    • Looking away from camera, for a more candid feel.
    • Sitting, standing, dancing, having fun!
    • Never facing your body squarely to the camera. A good rule of thumb is to turn your body 30-degrees left or right of the camera.
    • Showcasing your personality. The more we see the real you, the more memorable your photo will be.
    • Including a prop if it ties to your story (if it’s about graduation, grab your cap and gown!)
    • Wearing your most natural facial expressions. The best expressions are natural, — have someone tell you a joke! Turn on some lively music!
  • Frame you from the waist up, sitting or standing.
  • Provide us with uncropped photos. The designer will need the space to do their work.
  • Show you looking comfortable, loose and natural. The more photos you take, the less stiff you’ll appear in the pictures.

REMEMBER TO check your photos at the very start. Take photos, pause the shoot, scrutinize them and make adjustments as needed. Be on the lookout for the following:

  • Hot spots: an area of your photo that is significantly brighter than other areas of your photo
  • Glares: particularly on eyewear/glasses.
  • Good lighting on your face: beware weird shadows


  • Wear your normal clothes and makeup. The photos should reflect you and your personality.
  • Have a few different shirt options picked out so you can test which ones work best with the background. To keep in mind:
    • Avoid black and white (or colors close to white like pale yellow, light pink, cream, etc.).
    • Make sure your outfit contrasts with your background(s). If you blend in with your background, you’ll disappear!
    • Don’t wear anything with large logos or brand names that are not Purdue.
    • Subdued/low-contrast patterns work well.
    • Solid colors work well.
    • Avoid small, busy patterns that will distract the eye.
    • Try to strike a balance between your normal appearance while still looking professional.
    • Make sure your outfit is not creased/wrinkled.
    • Tame those flyaways (running a dryer sheet over your hair will work wonders).


  • 300 DPI / JPG format preferred.
  • Give yourself (and your friend) plenty of time for setup, taking the photos and going through them. Try to plan for an hour.
  • Send in an assortment of photos that you like best. Between 5-15 photos is a good number.
  • Send in any instructions you might have. If you want something edited, feel free to let us know.

At Home Photography Examples

  • Good, natural light
  • Looking away from camera
  • Story prop included
  • Colorful, solid shirt
  • Contrast with background
Outdoor photo example
Neutral background photo example
  • Neutral, textural background
  • Include a story prop whenever possible
  • Attire speaks to story, Purdue
  • Look at camera
  • Space around to crop
  • No reflections
  • Looking at camera
  • Every-day clothes and makeup
portrait style photo example
candid shot photo example
  • Added, additional light source
  • Looking away from camera
  • Contrast with background
  • Include a story prop whenever possible
  • Great, natural light and neutral background
  • Authentic expression
  • Express your personality
expressive photo example
background specific photo example
  • Good, natural light
  • Include a story prop
  • Have FUN, do something that reflects your personality
  • Background specific to story