The use of photography in communications is integral. The saying “a picture is worth a thousand words” is true, particularly when a photograph is interesting. As with art, photography is largely objective–but there are rules that help create more impactful and meaningful photographs. Remember, photographs tell stories. Action photos are more meaningful than staged photographs because they tell a better story. Strong, authentic photographs are more indicative of the university’s brand and convey the experience to audiences in a much more effective manner than uninteresting “grip-and-grin,” or posed group photographs. So much of what happens in the learning environment at the South Dakota Mines is visual.

Photography tips


  • Capture authentic moments
  • When possible showcase motion and energy
  • Emotive, authentic storytelling through photography
  • Bright, natural light should be used wherever possible (almost to the point of overexposure)
  • Use good lighting (or a flash when adequate light is not available)
  • Take photos from unique vantage points to offer a unique perspective or point of view
  • Capture behind-the-scenes, unseen moments
  • Use asymmetric composition with open/expansive views and lots of white-space


  • Staged photographs that have little value to external audiences
  • Group photos
  • Photos of people eating food
  • Photos of people nodding and talking
  • Photos that aren’t compelling or interesting

When You Can or Can’t Use Particular Photos

You googled your topic, clicked on the Google Images tab, and voila! there’s the perfect thing. Can you use that photo or graphic in your materials? Probably not. Most published/online images are copyrighted and there can be severe penalties for using them without permission.  You’ll need to contact the owner of that photo. Sometimes there’s a fee to use an image, sometimes the photographer will just request an attribution, sometimes they say no, sometimes there’s not even a way to inquire.  Without explicit permission, you cannot use that image.

Can you use South Dakota Mines photos that are posted on our Flickr, Instagram and Facebook accounts? You can — but still use good judgment.  If you want to use a photo taken at a football game, for example, look at it carefully. Clothing with inappropriate slogans, people with crazy expressions, or other “photobomb” or unintentional artifacts may mean that photo isn’t a great choice. If you have questions as to whether something is appropriate for your intended usage, contact us and we’ll be happy to talk it through with you.  We may have other photos that would work for you.

Photography/Media Permission

If you are photographing, filming or recording someone on campus, make sure you have permission to use photos, video, or audio recordings that feature individuals.