One of the things I do as part of my job is track down and choose images. The internet has made finding images sooooo much easier than it used to be. Hundreds, thousands … hundreds of thousands of images all are available to use. Or are they?
Sometimes I need an image of a specific person, product or being. Often, my editor will send me a link to where they saw a photo they want me to use. That’s where the problems can start. Sometimes I am lucky and there’s a photo credit, but a lot of times, there isn’t a credit at all. If that’s the case, usually I start by emailing the photo editor (if there is one) for the site/publication etc. where the image was posted. If they get back to me, great, then I most often get the info I need. If they don’t, then I have to try and find the same image used somewhere along with a credit. I feel a little like Sherlock Holmes in “The Case Of The Phantom Photographer.”
It shouldn’t be this hard. Every image that you post online on behalf of your company should have a credit; otherwise, you shouldn’t be posting it. My company has a pretty strict license agreement but one that is fairly common in this day and age. We can’t reuse images outside their original content unless they were royalty-free to begin with. But no photographer/artist/author I have ever asked refused to grant permission. It’s vital to always ask permission first, then to make sure the work is properly credited. (If you can include the photographer’s or artist’s web URL, that’s a nice way of saying thanks.)
Creative Commons is a great source for free images. I have found all kinds of hard-to-find celebrity images there that I was unable to source elsewhere. But I have been careful to credit the images as required—even though some of the sources names make you wonder what they were thinking—so as not to violate the terms of the license.
It’s not only a best practice to correctly credit the images you use online or in print; it’s practicing good karma. One day you might be really glad someone credited the photo or media that you took and posted.
Alison Fulton recently moved into emedia as a senior content specialist at Advanstar Communications following 20+ years as an art director there.