As you may already know, my name’s Sandman. I’m a cat and I’m also a writer. As you can see, I’m helping my writing buddy Nancy I. Sanders with her newest project writing a nonfiction article to submit to Highlights magazine.
My writing specialty? I write nonfiction for kittens. (Did I say “kittens”? I meant kids! Nonfiction for kids!)
One of the things I’ve had to learn how to do is gather photographs for my articles and books. So I thought I’d share some tips on successful steps you can take to get great photographs, too.
Do cat yoga…until you fall asleep.
Prepare tunafish tacos and beans to eat in the middle of your writer’s day…until you fall asleep.
Play in the awesome brown paper packaging cat toy…until you fall asleep.
Hey! Wait a minute. That’s not what my writing buddy does when SHE gathers photographs to put in her articles and books. She insisted I share her tips here. (She says my tips will get you nowhere unless you’re writing a book on taking catnaps.) So here they are:
Tips from Nancy on photo research
Acquiring photographs to use in a nonfiction article or book can be very tricky to navigate through, but I think the best thing to think about is not to get too frustrated with roadblocks you’ll face, but focus on what you CAN do.
I’ve had to acquire and pay for extensive images for some of my books, too. I’ve tried asking for rights for educational purposes, but if it’s in a book that will be for sale in a bookstore or museum, most venues count that as for profit, not educational purposes.
Modern art can be tricky, too. For example, I had to research the possibility of using Picasso, and on his official website, they state that you even have to be careful about using his name. So you can see what I mean, here’s the link that clarifies info about rights regarding Picasso:
Okay, those are some of the roadblocks. Now for some of the things you CAN do:
Create a budget for your project. Within that budget, you can find most of your images for free, a number of them for low-cost, and then choose 1 or 2 expensive images that are must-haves for your book.
Look in LOTS of other books on your topic and find the page where it lists photograph or image credits. Look for places they got images that have the potential of being free or inexpensive. Skip over the expensive places. Contact the potential places for free or inexpensive images. This method has really helped me a lot.
Instead of having the actual image itself in your book if it is too costly, get photographs of public places important to the topic such as a person’s birthplace or even a landmark important to your topic. I’ve acquired these for free from Flickr (or other photo places online) by contacting people who have been to these places and posted their photos online. I offer them a link to their website in my book where I list credits for the photos (good exposure to them) for the opportunity to use their image for free.
Include a link to the image and not the image itself. You can do this either on your website or in your book.
Ask a child to draw a picture of the person or landmark or subject or to create art in the same form as a signature style pertaining to your topic. Include a photo you take of this in your book, at no cost. Be sure the child is the same age as your book’s target age.
Contact an artist himself (or representative) of a painting or sculpture you want to use if he is still alive, and explain the situation.
Here’s a letter I used to contact an artist that actually worked and the artist supplied the image for free! It was a great painting of the era I was writing about. Please feel free to copy or tweak this letter and use it however you want.
I am a children’s book author and am currently writing a book
I have been contacting a variety of historical societies and
private collectors and photographers to ask if they would be
interested in supplying free digital images to me that would be
published in my book.
I recently came across your wonderful artwork especially of the
I realize that your art is priceless and couldn’t possibly receive
adequate compensation to appear in a children’s book. However,
I was wondering if you might be interested in supplying a digital
image of a piece of art in some form of the XX to be included in the book with full credit/and or contact information to increase awareness of your work.
This book will be sold in museums across the nation and will
also be in many school and public library collections.
If this interests you, please e-mail or call me and I can supply
I thank you for the wonderful contribution to American history
you are making through your art.
And just another note…To acquire my pictures, I set up a free separate google e-mail account that I use exclusively for my research projects. I don’t want these e-mails to get lost in my general mail. For my signature at the bottom of all e-mails on this account, I use:
CONFIDENTIALITY NOTICE: This e-mail is intended only for the use of the individual to whom it is addressed. It may contain confidential information. Please do not share this information with anyone unless you have the permission of Nancy I. Sanders. Thank you.
For more tips on how to choose photographs for your project, download this pdf file: