Do you have photo phobia?
If the thought of permission rights and photo archives gives you cold sweats,
If the words “author to provide photos” makes your knees shake,
If you hide under your desk when editors ask, “Do you think you could find a few pictures?”
You probably have photo phobia.
Never fear help is here! Finding the perfect picture for your project is easy if you know where to look. And it doesn’t have to cost your entire advance!
Many nonfiction publishers want the author to provide the photo images for their projects. While this may seem a bit intimidating, it also allows you as the author, to have more control over the look and feel of your book. Plus looking through old photos is downright fun!
Before you dive into the delightful rabbit hole of image research there are a few terms you need to understand.
Copyright – the protection of a person’s intellectual property that gives the creator the exclusive rights to publication, distribution, and usage rights. In the United States the creator owns the copyright throughout their life and for 70 years after their death.
Public Domain – Those works whose copyrights have expired, been forfeited, or are inapplicable.
Creative Commons – an organization that helps make creative work available for others to use and share.
Royalty-free – This does not mean FREE to use. It means paying a one-time fee to obtain the rights to the image, then you can use it as many times as you like. You do not have to pay royalties each time you use it.
When you select an image for publication use, it is important to know what rules go with the picture. If it is under copyright, you will have to pay for copyright use from the owner. This can be expensive but may be necessary to get the exact image you want. Royalty-free images are usually less costly because it is a one-time fee and attribution to the artist may or may not be necessary. Images that are in the Creative Commons are usually free but may require attribution to the original creator. Just make sure you check out the rights agreement. And finally, the lovely world of public domain is free and does not require any attribution to the original creator. But it is a nice courtesy, from one creative to another, to give credit where credit is due.
If all that legal talk just made you feverish, don’t panic! Your editor, agent, critique group, and nonfiction friends are available to help. If you aren’t sure - ask!
Here are my three favorites, courtesy of the Library of Congress.
– Thousands of images digitized and loaded onto Flickr.
Flickr Commons – public domain images from libraries and museums around the world
From Old Books – pictures, engravings and extracts from – you guessed it - old books.
Getty Open Content –public domain art images – constantly adding new images.
History Archive – public domain historical images
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs – images from the Library of Congress – now in public domain.
National Library of Medicine – images of medicine from the 15th century to the 21st. Not for the faint of heart!
New York Public Library – searchable database of items digitized from the NYPL
Public Health Image Library – some pictures require a strong stomach…but great microscopic images!
Smithsonian Open Access – 2.8 MILLION images available to download free of charge
Scienceimage - photographs and micrographs which are free to download and use as long as you give the original author credit.
United States Geological Survey -volcanoes, rocks, fossils, national parks
Unsplash – great site for modern images – good for websites.
Wikimedia Commons – millions of images that are either in the Creative Commons or public domain.
Now for the fun part! Take a look at these wonderful sites and see what inspiration you can find today. My challenge to you is to find three pictures that make you want to know more. Is there a scientific discovery behind that photo? Is there a story of bravery and courage? Is there a book waiting to be written?
And if you’re willing – share your favorite photo treasures in the blog comments or on the NF Fest page.
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