You’d be hard pressed to find a season as beautiful (and busy) as fall. 

Admissions counselors are traversing the country, students are gearing up for winter exams, and enrollment managers are reviewing early decision applicants. Plus we can’t forget the breathtaking foliage accompanying us all. 

We’ve had the privilege of capturing a multitude of campuses this autumn. After 35 years of leading campus photoshoots, we’ve come to a few conclusions on how to best plan for your photography sessions.

Good photography will endure multiple enrollment cycles, and admissions officers can lead the charge to set a photoshoot up for success. 

Here are what you can (and can’t) control. 

What You Can Control: 

Organization and Pre-Planning  

Creating an in-depth plan for your photographer’s visit will ensure the operation runs smoothly. 

Make sure to communicate arrival instructions for your photographer. This includes meeting times and places, as well as specific parking instructions (especially for those larger campuses with multiple lots and garages). 

As a member of your campus community, you know your school best. Take time pre-shoot to brainstorm what shots you want.

Do you have a favorite spot on campus? Is there an area that’s filled with students at a particular time of day? When you think of your school, what physical pinpoints come to mind? 

This applies to locations both inside and outside buildings. The campus exteriors can be a great place to show the overall sense of community, while the inside offers prospects a look into where they’d spend a majority of their time. 

Additionally, if there are any programs unique to your school, make sure to highlight this! With many highschool seniors wanting more information on specific programs and majors, this can serve as a visual companion to their research and nurture that interest. 

And most importantly, let the campus community know that The Parish Group photographers will be on campus to capture the unique community spirit and traditions that makes your school awesome.

Time It Right

Identify the optimal times to capture your school. Are there special events your institution hosts throughout the year? Is your homecoming celebration out of this world? 

A great example comes from our partner school Fayetteville State University.

FSU hosts a Bronco Week every year, which includes a White Party where students throw a fashion show in the dining hall. The university recognized the uniqueness of this event and scheduled our photographers to capture the festivities. 

This helps negate a common complaint prospects have in the college search journey—that every college sounds the same.

Recognizing the events which showcase your school’s community engagement and ensuring professional photographers are there to capture it will give your marketing team more material to differentiate your school from the rest. 

Of course we cannot talk about optimal times without highlighting the best times of year to shoot. 

With rankings out there such as Best Campuses During Fall, you can capitalize on the beautiful atmosphere during autumn, which will give your outdoor shots an extra oomph of wow!

Alternatively, a spring photoshoot could highlight the breathtaking blooms and senior excitement as graduation nears. 

On the flipside, avoid scheduling photoshoots during low energy times, such as summer. Though the weather might be nice, there won’t be as many students on campus to fill the space. 

There are some exceptions to this rule. There might be a specific summer program you wish to highlight or perhaps your school offers early move-in days for freshmen at this time. 

Student Participation 

Another way to optimize your campus photoshoot is to get students excited and involved. 

Mention on your social channels that you’ll have a photographer coming to campus to drum up student energy, like Concord University did for our fall 2022 photoshoot. 

Start with your student tour guides, student government, Greek life and organizations. Let them know when photographers will be on campus and let them suggest activities and times that work for them. You may want to include some food and community service incentives for well rounded and engaged participation.

And of course, encourage students to wear your school’s merch!

What You Can’t Control:

Whether the Weather will Weather the Storm 

Obviously, no one can predict mother nature’s every move. Keep up-to-date on the latest weather reports leading up to the shoot date. 

You can also consider looking at annual weather patterns for your area to make an educated guess on the most ideal week to shoot. 

Rain and overcast skies can suck the energy out of even the most stunning campuses. Besides the lack of outdoor congregations during rainy weather, no one likes getting their photo taken with frizzy hair. 

Stay diligent on weather patterns and adjust schedules accordingly. Bad weather outside presents opportunities inside, so alternate planning is a must. 

Student Outcome 

Students, again? Yes, we know. They’re a doozy!

While you can certainly energize your student population to participate, you cannot force anyone to smile, look studious, or not photobomb. 

And as much as you can encourage students to rock your schools’ clothing (and not another college or university’s) and wear attire appropriate for marketing purposes, you can’t barr crop tops, shirts with expletives, or hats with political affiliations. 

You’ll need to trust the expertise of your photographer to find those photogenic students with school spirit, and be able to curate and edit out anything unwanted from the shoot. 

When in doubt, remember… 

Great higher ed photography has three goals: 

  1. To CREATE a positive impression of the campus, programs, facilities, and student opportunities. 
  2. To ENGAGE students in the programs and services your institution offers.
  3. To STIMULATE students to visit, make an application, and choose your school.  

Maintaining engaging visual elements to your marketing strategy is imperative. We’re in the era of short attention spans, thus the age-old saying still rings true: a picture is worth a thousand words. 

In fact, a recent survey from Niche found that “the most common things that caught students’ eyes about digital marketing were the relevance of programs or majors highlighted, the quality of pictures of campus, and whether or not students looked happy and were having fun.”

Capturing Your Campus with The Parish Group 

Our photographers have three decades of experience capturing campuses across the nation. From large public institutions to small private schools, we know how to find the best angle for any school. 

We are currently scheduling Spring and Fall 2023 photoshoots.  If you’re interested in learning more about campus photography or want to book a session with The Parish Group, reach out to or call our office at 828-505-3000.