The earl, who was 66, died in hospital on Friday after suffering a stroke, three days after his visit to Stafford college.
Staff said he had been a loyal supporter of the college, which is just five miles from his ancestral home of Shugborough Hall, near Cannock Chase in Staffordshire.
Cathy Webb, marketing manager, said: "We're all just very, very shocked. He was a great success with the students.
"We set up the photography studio and when he went round, he sat for one of the photography students to take his picture. He was very impressed with the studios.
"The students loved him because he was so approachable. They were really on a high after meeting him. It was so sad."
In a tribute to the society photographer, the college projected some his iconic images on to the walls of the pound;5 million arts centre during the visit.
Lord Lichfield, who was a cousin of the Queen, was known for his portrayals of figures from swinging 1960s London and of royalty. Among his celebrated images was his group portrait of Roman Polanski, David Hockney and Lady Antonia Fraser.
The earl's connection with Stafford college was forged through a series of exhibitions of students' work at the Shugborough Hall estate.
The college's new building, called Broad Eye, will provide a home for photography, sculpture, fine art, fashion, illustration, graphic design and ceramics.
It includes a roof terrace where large sculptures can be built.
Art and design subjects at the college were rated "outstanding" by Ofsted.