Sourcing Images for publication

I’m well advanced with writing Portsmouth’s World War Two Heroes. I’ve written about 65% of the text, and have the research in hand to base most of the rest on. So with several months to go and having the text itself well in hand, my thoughts have been turning to selecting illustrations.

Most historic illustrations that are of use for publications such as mine are held by various Museums or Archives – the Imperial War Museum, for example. Most charge a fee for authors to use their images, which is only fair enough. But many charge rather high rates, and just thinking ahead, if I used all of the images that I would LIKE to use, with reproduction fees I would be running at a loss – I would be spending more on images than I would make if every book sold. Sadly, its prohibitive, as book contracts either stipulate that the author bears the cost of reproductions, or has it deducted from his or her royalties.

I wonder if I am the only person in this position? I wonder how many fascinating images are not used simply because it costs too much to reproduce them? I guess this comes back to my old argument I have made before about Museums and Archives and charging. If fees are too high, a barrier to access is created, and history is neglected. If fees are more sensible, more people can research, and the history gets taken care of.

Aside from my rant, can anyone think of any good cheap sources of military images? Finding plenty of cheap or free images might help subsidise getting hold of more from institutions that charge. Of course, photos that you take yourself are free, and it helps if you can find photos from provate sources who are willing to let you publish them. Of course if anyone has any photographs of men or women from Portsmouth who died during the War I would be very interested to hear from them, and I would be more than happy to make a suitable donation to a relevant charity in lieu of a reproduction charge.



Filed under portsmouth heroes, World War Two

8 responses to “Sourcing Images for publication

  1. John Erickson

    I know of a number of US military photo sources. I can dig around for British and Commonwealth sources, if you need pictures of ships or other bits of technology.
    I’m not certain of this, but I believe there are two levels of photo release – one is an all-encompassing release (and more expensive), the other is a limited-use release for publishing (with proper usage annotation) that is cheaper. Don’t quote me on this, it’s been decades since I dealt with photo issues.
    Let me know what you find out, as I do have some friends up in Canada, including one in Ottawa, who could help find photo sources for you.

  2. If I need to illustrate a blog article and don’t have a suitable picture of my own I often use, the social photo networking site. Search by keywords and search for pictures licensed under “Creative commons” which is a “copyleft” agreement. There are various levels of protection from simple any use permitted but give credit to the photographer to attribution, no commercial use and no derivative works. These restrictions can be waived on contacting the photographer, an easy click on the name/pseudonym accompanying the photo. Unfortunately most of the pictures on flickr are contemporary but I have seen a couple of interesting collections of WW2 period pictures.

    Else it might mean appealing on regimental forums and websites or to local history groups.

    I will cross post this on the and see if any of our members can help or suggest someone who can

  3. Above should read post this on the SOE blog and see if any of our members can help …

    • James Daly

      Thanks for your help Rob!

    • John Erickson

      I forgot to mention there is a site called Photobucket. I don’t know much about it, but I can put you in touch with a number of acquaintances who use it and associated sites like “Shipbucket” to concoct drawings of never built warships.

  4. Interesting that the US Government recognises that the US taxpayer has paid for all its photos so the US taxpayer owns the copyright and is free to use them as he/she sees fit (as is anyone else for that matter).

    • James Daly

      Good point Rob. It’s always annoyed me how the US government can be so far-sighted yet the policy of most British museums stifles research and publication, which should be their raisin d’être. Route one heritage management, sadly. I thinks it’s morally reprehensible when you are charged to even walk through the door to carry out research.

  5. Pingback: In Pictures | In Pictures | Cool Dragonfly Photos images

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