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Your School’s Secret Marketing Tool: Cell Phone Cameras

This article was adapted from it’s original form from the Finalsite Blog.

Your School’s Secret Marketing Tool: Cell Phone Cameras

Photography helps to fill in the gaps between words on your website, in a brochure, or on social media. It goes without saying that most school marketers know good photography is essential to your school’s brand and marketing efforts. Despite this, too often a school’s ability to have good photography or videography is hindered because of budget.

You may not have the means of hiring a professional to come in to take amazing photos, but you do have a cell phone. With a few tips and a little guidance, great photography is readily available.

Cell Phone Photography 101: It is All About Light

To begin using your cell phone for photography and marketing, it is important to first understand how a cell phone camera actually works. One of the most important basics is understanding light.

In the first photo, you’ll notice the subject is slightly overexposed because it is taken in direct sunlight. This isn’t necessarily bad, but bright light can also cause a photo to appear harsh.

The second photo is taken with the light source behind the person. This is a big photography “dont’!” The light source should always be behind the photographer, with the light hitting the subject/object of the photo. In the case of this photo, the person in the picture will seem very dark because the cell phone is reading the light behind the person.

The third photo is the most ideal. This photo is taken with “open shade”, which allows more of a softer light and makes the lighting on the person similar to the background. (So contrary to a popular belief that sunny days means better photography, cloudy days usually offer the best opportunity for taking photos everywhere on campus!)

6 Best Practices for Taking Photos Using Your Cell Phone

  1. Turn off your flash. Flash tends to be an automatic feature of your cell phone’s camera, but goes straight into the eye and doesn’t always result in the best photo. However, sometimes flash is your only option — such as when photographing in an extremely dark setting.

  2. Set your resolution to the highest setting. This is to improve the quality of your photos and will be good for printing photos if you use them in a school brochure or any print marketing. If you’re using an iPhone, there are no resolution options for photo, only video — although using HDR mode and turning off “live” mode results in better-quality images. Android devices have a resolution setting in the phone’s camera settings.

  3. Consider whether the photo will be used in a portrait or landscape setting. For example, if you are going to use a photo in your website’s homepage image slideshow, you will want to be sure all your photos are taken while the phone is landscape. However, headshots can be taken with the cell phone being held for a portrait photo.

  4. Delete or download current images from your cell phone. This is important to free up some space for taking new images on your phone. You don’t want to be in the middle of a photo shoot and run out of space.

  5. Use natural light. The most ideal scenario for this is taking photos in shaded areas. You don’t want any heavy light on faces. Clouds are the best for taking photos with your cell phone because it allows some natural light to come through without it being too bright on your subjects in your photos. When you don’t have great natural light available, you can use a reflector to reflect the light on to the individual in your photo.

  6. Use photo editing apps to enhance your photos. Some of our favorite apps include:

  7. Afterlight: This app costs $1.99 and has a lot of beautiful filters to make your photos pop! We recommend using the same 1-2 filters across all of your photos to streamline the look and feel of your site and social media.

  8. FaceTune: An app for portrait perfection! This app is also $1.99 and can be used to whiten teeth and soften skin.

  9. Retouch App: This app is a little pricier, ringing in at $2.99, and can help you delete virtually anything from the background of your photo.

  10. PS Express: If you have a Photoshop or Lightroom license, you can download their apps for free on your phone and use on-the-go.

4 Types of Great Images You Can Capture With Your Cell Phone

To tell your school’s story with the best imagery, there are four types of great images you can take with your cell phone and use on your website to convey these messages.


Wide shots of your campus are the perfect kinds of images for your website, brochures, and more because it allows the viewer to really see your school in depth, especially if they haven’t been there in person yet. You’re able to show off a larger area through a wide shot, and typically these are the best kind of images that work well on a school website.


Classroom shots are a great addition to showcase your academics and student experience at your school. Some important aspects to keep in mind for these types of images:

  1. Make sure students look engaged and are smiling

  2. Remove any clutter (such as backpacks or writing on boards) that may distract viewers from taking in what’s happening in the photo

  3. Take the photos with the light behind you, and on the faces of the students. To get the best light, consider opening window blinds in the classroom so long as the sun is not shining directly into the room


Prospective families want to know students at your school will advance to a good college/university after they finish studying at your institution. Photos behind your college counseling program should prove this. Having the students dress in their college gear is a great way to share your results!


Do you feel like every school website you see (including your own) has the yearbook-style photos of your faculty on the blue gradient background? Granted, a streamlined look is nice. But you want to know what is even nicer? Personality.

As a member of your school’s community, you are part of your school’s brand. It’s great to have other photos of you that are not your typical ‘school’ photos. This is huge for someone like a head of school or director of admissions, the image you put out there in photos of you are as important to the prospective families considering your school. They need to know who you are and be comfortable with approaching you. Having these different types of images of you can also help sell the culture of your school and give your school some personality.

Use Your Photography Assets Anywhere!

It’s obvious that the images you take can be used on your school’s website, social media, and more, but here are some other uses for your school’s marketing efforts.

  1. Create a digital eBook about your school with your photos. Keep it to about six pages. You can use Google slides to create it and turn it into a PDF — very tech savvy and easy to do!

  2. You’ll especially want to consider using the photos you take for admissions. From your Admissions page on your website, to your brochures or print collateral, photos of you, your students, and campus are critical for engaging prospective families.

  3. Use an image in your email signature. For example, with many of the event emails that go out, I include my headshot in the signature (see below):

  1. Enlist help from your students who may also have the tools to help you take the best images. Many students today have drones that are great to take area shots of your campus.

Let us know if you’re looking for some additional guidance with your school’s marketing and how to best use these photos.


As Finalsite’s Events Marketing Manager, Stephanie Griffin is passionate about sharing what’s happening at Finalsite with all school professionals. She is a co-producer for the FinalsiteFM podcast network and brings a fresh perspective for marketing with her background in social media, communications, and radio broadcasting. Stephanie enjoys helping schools stay ahead of their marketing goals by tracking new trends and developments.


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