Photography and videography

Videography and photography are powerful tools in storytelling and play a significant role in shaping people’s view and perception of issues, ideas and stories. As communicators, we have a responsibility to make thoughtful, deliberate choices to ensure we are telling equitable, diverse and inclusive stories through photo and video. The following are practical considerations to keep in mind when developing assets for your project.

Best practices

  • Pay close attention to composition, lighting and cropping that may reinforce biases or stereotypes. Consider how people are positioned in the frame; where the focus of the shot is placed; how cropping or framing prioritizes specific individuals; how main or supporting subjects are selected and portrayed. For example, ensure that racialized or gendered people are not smaller, or behind others from dominant groups in a way that reinforces bias or stereotypes.
  • Consider whether anyone is being tokenized (i.e., selecting individuals from an equity deserving group in a symbolic effort to appear diverse). Using a single image/clip repeatedly for varied projects when attempting to demonstrate diversity, can also be considered tokenizing.
  • Avoid attributing heroic or pitiful characteristics in storytelling and scripting. Highlight independence, success and ability rather than the perspective of a helping hand.
  • Avoid “othering” in visual storytelling and scripting - framing an individual as being different, or not belonging.
  • If selecting images, symbols or props, consider their historical, cultural and personal significance to the subject and story. Consult with the subject, or other subject matter experts if unsure.
  • When featuring people, avoid the use of stock photography as much as possible and instead include representatives of our campus community (e.g., current students, professors, staff, alumni). If the use of stock is unavoidable, ensure that images authentically represent the individual or group you are attempting to portray.
  • Here are a few examples of stock image banks featuring individuals from diverse backgrounds:
  • Consider providing the option for speakers to include their pronouns, when introducing themselves.

  • Consider hiring people of diverse backgrounds to create photo and video assets.

Accessibility considerations

  • Use subtitles and closed captions in video.
  • Consider the placement of text in videos in combination with captioning to ensure legibility.
  • Consider providing captions for live synchronized audio-video content. The University of Waterloo has access to vendors to complete this work.
  • While described video is not required, it is considered a best practice. The University of Waterloo has access to vendors to complete this work.
  • Be aware of the quality and clarity of audio to ensure it is clear for assistive devices to accurately transcribe. Where possible, avoid background music or sounds that distract from important information being communicated. If there are ongoing background sounds, set them 20 dB lower than the foreground speech content. If you wish to include background sounds that are typically louder than this, you should give the user the ability to turn off these sounds.
  • Create text-only versions at the time of creating visual information. This can act as an alternate format on its own and will also be easier to convert to other alternate formats if needed (e.g., Braille, enlarged text, screen read-readers, etc.).