Sarah, thanks so much for sharing your knowledge and experience with us.
Hey Melissa! Happy to be back. I love talking about image research!
Authors, it can be a shock to learn that you are responsible for your own image research and rights clearance. And—horrors—that you are expected to pay for the pictures, too.
But don’t despair! Finding great, print-quality images that are free or low-cost has gotten easier in the last few years. Plus copyright holders can be quite understanding if you explain that you’re an author with a limited budget.
For some basic tips about photo research, please read this Q & A post intended to help young writers working on reports. If you’re a professional writer with a book contract in hand, here are a few more things you’ll need to know.
In addition to the public domain photo sources listed on the edtechteacher website, here are some that I use a lot as a history writer.
When you’re selecting images for a book, remember that they need to be print-quality, or of a high-enough resolution that they will look good when published.
To determine if an image is print-quality, check the file size. For instance, here are some images of Marie Curie from Wikimedia Commons.
This image is just 15 KB (kilobytes). In print, an image with such a small file size would look pixelated, so it’s not a good choice.
This image is 3.19 megabytes. It’s a much larger file, which means it contains more detail and would probably look just fine on a printed page.
If in doubt, your publisher’s art department can help you figure out if an image is high enough in quality for printing.
What if you find the perfect public domain image, but it’s not print-quality? You may be able to find a high-resolution version through a museum or image house, though you’ll probably have to pay a usage fee (even if the image is in the public domain).
Some image houses, also called stock houses, charge fairly reasonable usage fees. Others are more expensive. The upside is that all stock house images come with the assurance that rights are cleared and the quality will be high.
Most image houses will negotiate with authors once they learn you’re paying for the images yourself. Here are some image houses I’ve used a lot.
Of these, Getty is most expensive, but sometimes you don’t have a lot of flexibility when you need that perfect picture.
Once you know what images you want to order, be prepared to give a stock house this info:
· Size of the image (ie ¼ page, ½ page, etc.)
· Black and white or color
· Print run of your book (you probably have to estimate this)
· Cover or interior page
· Language(s) the book be published in
· Countries where it will be distributed
· Do you need e-rights?
I recommend clearing all-world, all-languages, e-rights from the get-go. It can be more expensive, but it means you won’t have to go back to all your image sources if your book gets sold in a foreign country.
|Library of Congress|
Sometimes you can find your own, original images. The Library of Congress in Washington D.C. has a super-cool machine that takes print-quality photos of an open book. (Other big libraries may have this technology, but I love that LOC lets researchers do it themselves!)
Recently, I spent a day in the New York Public Library’s microfilm room, learning to brighten/sharpen images from old newspapers and save them to a thumb drive as PDFs that are of good enough quality to use in a book.
Need a specific image? Sometimes, all you have to do is ask. I’ve written to photographers and requested permission to use their images, and they’ve almost always said yes. A few asked for a small fee. Others requested a copy of the published book.
I know I’ve thrown a lot of information at you, but there’s one more thing that I think it’s important to say: image research is really, really fun. It’s one of my favorite stages of working on a book!
Disclaimer: I am not a copyright attorney. Copyright law is full of ambiguity. The information I’ve shared is what I believe to be correct. Please feel free to comment if you see something that you think is inaccurate.