City of Durham Photography

Note: Please see web guidelines for staff photo guidance.

Photography is an important element for a brand’s identity. Imagery is the first and the last thing people see and remember when viewing an ad, social media post, or other marketing materials. When using photography in City communications, it's important to remember the goal of portraying Durham as a leading city in providing an excellent and sustainable quality of life.


Departments are responsible for complying with laws regarding copyright and use of photographs. This means you should not use any photo or graphic that you don’t have permission to use when creating content, including: flyers, newsletters, emails, webpages, reports, publications, videos, and other internal or external communications.

While it can be convenient to search for images online, you should not use random images from the internet without 1) confirming that you have permission and 2) making sure to follow any usage requirements like providing a credit. If you can’t confirm this, don’t use it.

If you have questions about available images, contact the Communications Department.

Below are several sources where you can find images:

Free graphics/icon sites:



Photos captured and used by the City of Durham should be lifestyle photographs, if possible, that capture people and places in natural situations and real-life events in an artistic manner.

  • The images captured should be compelling and reflective of the energy that drives the city.
  • Photographs of the city should feel natural and unstaged.
  •  All images should reflect real-life scenarios that depict people in Durham going about their everyday lives, or places in Durham how they naturally occur.

Exciting, vibrant, creative, friendly

View Our Photography Tips Playlist on YouTube


Shooting everyday situations or places with an artful approach is a great way to elevate the quality of your images.
Finding interesting angles and vantage points will bring creativity to your images. These same guidelines should be followed when reusing or reposting images not specifically shot by a photographer approved by the City of Durham.

  •    Photographs of people should be captured naturally and with real-life Durham residents, not models. Ideally, these images will show interactions that reflect actual relationships, and experiences. People should look positive, approachable, and natural with an appropriate mix of age, race, and gender to reflect Durham’s population accurately.
  •    Simple, direct, and honest images are the best way to express the essence of life in Durham. Photographs should be free of background or foreground noise and clutter.
  •    Avoid posing subjects. Let them move around, perform their job, and get comfortable.
  •    Strive for a feeling of vibrancy.
  •    One way to achieve a strong look is to use single-focus compositions that hold the foreground or subject in sharp focus, while allowing the background to go soft or out-of-focus. This can be accomplished by shooting at a low aperture with a DSLR camera to ensure a shallow depth of field, or by using the ‘portrait’ mode with iPhones model 7 and newer.
  •    Try for a natural feeling, as if the subject is unaware of the camera.
  •    Be aware of all the essential components of an image before shooting or using them in City of Durham communications. Avoid using images that are busy, too complicated, out-of-focus, low resolution, or too darkly lit. Images should be shot using bright natural light where possible.
  •    When photographing City events, take images that provide an overall feel of the atmosphere & space and avoid busy/cluttered images.
  •    When capturing groups of people, be sure to reduce clutter in the background and avoiding cutting off subjects at the edges of the frame. Instead, focus on getting a clear, straight shot that includes all of each person in the photo.


Understanding the Rule of Thirds

Images can be captured with a variety of compositions, but keep in mind the rule of thirds which is applied by aligning a subject with the guide lines and their intersection points, placing the horizon on the top or bottom line, or allowing linear features in the image to flow from section to section. An easy way to use the rule of thirds when using an iPhone is to turn on the ‘Grid’ option in your camera settings.

Social Media Sharing

When people visit your Instagram page or other social media accounts, they see not just one snap shot, but a collection of images that should draw them in. It’s important to keep in mind the appearance of your entire account/page and the importance of posting images that support adjacent images for a cohesive, clean, and consistent look.

  •    Avoid posting collaged images, and instead use the carousel feature on Instagram when posting more than one image. If the carousel feature is cutting off too much of the image, then consider using a collage post.
  •    Keep in mind color choices and subject matter when posting photos next to each other. To ensure variety and a cohesive theme, it’s important to space out subject matter so there aren’t constant repetitions.
See below for inspirational Instagram accounts.


All photographs captured should be at high-resolution in order to provide the highest-quality image.
  •    If with a DSLR or other camera with high-res capabilities, use the large JPG setting
  •    When posting on social media and/or across web-based media, be sure to resize the images appropriately in order to avoid pixilation
       » Images should be in the .JPG format in at least 72 dpi for proper web quality
  •    When using for print media, be sure to resize images appropriately in order to avoid pixilation
       » Images should be in the .JPG format in at least 300 dpi for proper print quality


Capturing and sharing natural color images is important to meet our mood goals, and black-and-white photos should not be used, if possible.

Images should be edited with little affect and no ‘filters’ should be used when posting on social media. Adding brightness and contrast are easy ways to improve an image without adding effects that will alter the image.

Editing should be done only to enhance the image and create the most true-to-life image.

Inspirational Examples

See below for inspirational Instagram accounts and examples of successful images.