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Photography is a key visual tool for our brand. It allows us to showcase our people, places and impact to connect with audiences far and wide. Capturing human reactions and emotions helps us paint the UC San Diego story.

UC San Diego maintains a comprehensive media gallery that is available for use by the campus community. For more information, see the Media Gallery page.

Subject Matter

When sourcing, creating and selecting photography, here are a few things to keep in mind.


Include a diverse mix of students, faculty and staff comprehensive of various ages, genders, ethnicities and abilities. We want to portray the real UC San Diego and all the people that inhabit it.


Providing variety in photography creates visual interest. Mix macro and micro examinations of details, portraits of our people and landscapes that give a sense of place.

People in Action

Through candid in-the-moment shots, we can tell the fuller story of the passion and spirit of UC San Diego, whether its STEM, humanities, student life or research. Be sure that photos selected feel authentic and not staged. Image selection should reflect the entirety of UC San Diego, balancing academics, athletics, community and culture. Seek action shots showing the consequential work being done and group photos embracing collaboration.


We want to tell personal stories but not formal or fabricated ones. When capturing portraits, showcase the subject’s unique personality and avoid anything that feels overly posed. Look for moments of joy and excitement as well as moments of serious introspection and determination.


While we want to prioritize photos of people first and foremost, we can use the campus as an entryway into those stories. Wherever possible, capture verité moments — the candid realism of the bustle between buildings, as well as the nooks and unknown angles of the familiar buildings themselves. Additionally, the city, the beach and the entire environment is part of the fuller story of UC San Diego. Whenever the opportunity arises, look to capture the insider world of how San Diegans experience their home: the arts, the culture, the food and the fun of San Diego.


The style of UC San Diego photography allows us to visually bring the brand tone to life. The following tips can ensure that our subjects are being represented as courageous, sincere, consequential, agile and collective.

Agile Angles

Angles do more than draw the eye: they symbolize UC San Diego’s upward trajectory, active dexterity to problems and forward momentum. Look for diagonals in photos that create motion throughout photography while still emphasizing the subject.

photography examples of agile angles

Collective Harmony

Detail is at the core of the UC San Diego brand. We capture harmony between subject and background to create polished, yet candid, compositions that represent the collective harmony of the work we do.

photography examples of collective harmony

Courageous Scale

UC San Diego is a campus full of individuals who go against the grain and forge their own path. Embrace macro- and micro-photography of textures, campus, people and the world to create the feeling of consequential action.

photography examples of corageous scale


With a location like San Diego, capturing the radiance of our environment is essential. Use natural lighting as much as possible. Incorporating backlighting in photography provides a captivating nod to the brilliance of our campus while symbolizing the bright futures of our people.

photography examples of backlighting

Highlighting Form

Showcasing our campus in the ultimate light is always the goal. Capture unique architectural perspectives by emphasizing angles, symmetry, scale and non-linear structure to highlight the form and function of locations.

photography examples of highlighting form

Gradient Mapping Effect

UC San Diego’s gradient mapping effect is a daring element of the brand. Gradient-mapped photography creates the illusion of a different view on images — a view that inspires us to think further about what we can achieve with the work being done at UC San Diego. Gradient mapping can be put into practice in two distinct ways.

Show a Different Side of the Image

In this practice, gradient-mapped images can be situated alongside their original photo to create a seamless transition. This creates the effect of another dimension coming to reality. When using this approach, be sure to keep the subject’s face or any key focal points in the non-gradient-mapped section of the photo.

UC San gradient mapping sample

Go All In

Using a photo that is completely gradient mapped introduces a new textural moment to layouts and can reflect the bold nature of our community. Ensure any important information in the photography is easily distinguished, if necessary.

UC San gradient mapping sample

Gradient Mapping How-To

There are two gradient overlay options that are recommended for the gradient-mapping effect. These gradients should always be used in these color successions but can be reversed based on the photo application.

UC San gradient mapping sample

While the gradient-mapping effect may look complex, it is simple to achieve. Follow these steps to achieve the ultimate gradient-mapping overlay for photos.

  1. Open your image in Photoshop. Any editing, retouching or adjustments should be made now. Be sure to have your image’s color set to the appropriate mode based on whether you are creating for print or digital.
  2. Under Layer > New Adjustment Layer, click Gradient Map.
  3. With your Gradient Map layer selected, in the Properties panel, click on the gradient. This will open the Gradient Editor.
  4. In the Gradient Editor, use the gradient creator to create one of UC San Diego’s recommended gradients. Ensure that all color stops are equidistant. Use the correct color codes for print or digital.
  5. With your colors added to the gradient bar, experiment with the placement of the color stops along the bar until you achieve the look you desire.
  6. Apply the gradient map by selecting “OK.”
  7. For finer color control, add a curves adjustment layer between the photo and gradient map layers to adjust the tonal range of the photo.
  8. Save and use!

Download pre-made gradient map