Why powerful photography matters
Photography is a powerful tool to help tell a story. Whether through a single shot or a series of photos, it can capture people’s attention and invoke emotion in the viewer. Photographs should show us an intriguing glimpse of life and leave us wondering what the story behind them is.
Make use of professional photographers when you can.
- We look at the world with a journalistic, non-orchestrated and investigative eye.
- Although shots may be planned, in order to retain authenticity and credibility they should appear natural rather than staged.
- Our images are: Inspiring, bold, respectful, empowering
Code of conduct
Always ensure the subject(s) fully understand(s) and freely consent(s) to being photographed, including how their image(s) may be used (they must sign a model release form – link below).
Basic principles to follow are:
- Photographs should always demonstrate respect, focusing on the dignity and agency of the subject(s).
- Photographs should not depict the subject(s) as passive or helpless victims.
- Photographs should not stereotype, sensationalise or mislead.
- Be aware of intellectual property rights that can apply to buildings, artworks, etc.
- If there are children in the picture, the parents/guardian must sign the model release form.
Getting the right shot
- Powerful photography requires skill and planning to capture the right shot. There are different types of shot, depending on what you aim to communicate – for example emotion or context
- Extreme wide shot: establishing shot showing the overall context
- Wide shot: shows the entire person / area for context
- Medium shot: subject from waist up
- Close up: Fill the frame with the object you want to photograph, losing unnecessary clutter in the background. Bear in mind some basic rules of composition
- Rule of thirds: Divide the frame into 9 rectangles, 3 across and 3 down. Place the important elements of the scene along one or more of the intersecting lines, rather than in the centre of the frame.
- Centering and symmetry: Sometimes, contrary to the basic rule of thirds, placing your subject directly in the centre of the frame can have a pleasing aesthetic effect. This is especially true given the widespread use of square photos.
- Rule of space: People should look into the frame, rather than out of it. For example, somebody on the left-hand side of the frame should be looking or facing right, into the frame, rather than out of it to the left.
- All visual material produced by or for the European Commission needs to be compliant with © European Union and meet all the requirements as stated in the EC Audiovisual library.
- All photographs produced or contracted by the EC must be published in the EC Audiovisual Library.
- If you are taking photos or using photos from partners: anyone featured in a photo must sign a model release form. In the case of a minor, both the subject and legal guardian need to sign a form (see, model release forms available in 31 languages).
- If you are using stock photos: keep a record of the photo licences and/or proof of purchase when downloading photos from stock libraries.
- If you are working with a contractor, always stipulate the legal requirements in your contract
- For the AV library, make a selection of the best photographs and add relevant information such as Description, Location, Copyright and Credit (if applicable)
- You can address all questions about content delivery to the AV library to INTPA-WEBec [dot] europa [dot] eu (INTPA-WEB[at]ec[dot]europa[dot]eu)
- IMPORTANT: If your material is not in the EC Audiovisual Library the EC cannot ensure its further use. This will also increase the visibility of your material as all EU services, journalists and interested public have access and can download and share your photos and videos.