The photos that we use at Oregon State should represent our setting, our students, our faculty and our culture. Highlight candid, authentic moments that are not overly posed or staged.

Remember that a stock photo you find could easily have been used in the marketing materials of several other universities. Our photography – like our work and culture – distinguishes us from our peers.


Avoid using photos where the focus is on a person or a group who are not part of the Oregon State community (unless they are defined as such in the messaging). This can lead to mistrust in our brand and a feeling that the images are inauthentic. Overly joyous, exaggerated gestures are all signs of a staged photo.

Staged objects

There is a trend in stock photography for showing objects arranged on a minimal background. While some of these photos can be very striking, they do not show an authentic moment and should be avoided.


Stock photography often has an added lens flare or ‘glow’ which does not look realistic. Instagram style filters are also popular, giving a photo a vintage look that is not appropriate for university use (outside of Instagram.) Photos that have added vignettes or blurring in post-processing should also be avoided.

The subject of a photograph should not be cut-out and placed on another image or blank background.

AI Generated/AI Assisted Photography

AI Generated images have come a long way in recent years with programs such as Midjourney, Stable Diffusion, and DALL-E. While some examples are impressive in their realism, they are not considered authentic and should be avoided. 

For tools such as 'Generative Expand' in Photoshop, it would be acceptable to extend the sky, grass, or ground in an existing image, but it shouldn't be used to insert things that otherwise weren't in the original photo (people, buildings, legs if the photo originally was just a torso, etc.)

Guidelines will continue to evolve as we navigate the complexities around use of AI in photography.

When is it okay to use stock photos?

Stock photography should only be used when completely necessary.


Detail shots can be generic enough to allow the use stock photography. Hands, natural elements, tools, supplies.


Beauty shots from around the world that follow our photography style.