Most people do not realise (until they must go through the process) that sourcing rights and permissions for images to use in publications can be a tedious and very expensive process.
I am currently sourcing images for my book and other projects, and I recently had an email from my colleague asking where to get free or discounted images for use in publications. I decided to compile a list of the institutions and agencies who I have used to get images and my thoughts on them.
Before you read my list you must check out Hilary Davidson’s (aka FourRedShoes) blog – Free Academic Images– to search by continent for any institution that I may have missed and their terms and conditions.
I also need to point out that you must check with some of these institutions whether they consider your publisher to be non-commercial or commercial. Some will allow free image use for works published by a University Press or non-for-profit, while other well-respected academic publishers that are consider “commercial” and may incur a fee.
Also note that as I’m an early modernist, this list mainly pertains to that field and to artworks that are very much out of copyright.
FREE ACADEMIC IMAGES*
- Rijksmuseum– the very best in my opinion. Easy to use. You can download from the image/object entry page or contact their helpful image service to get 300 dpi files via transfer, can publish in anything for any reason. They have a lot of English print material.
- Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET) – also great and easy to download off the website. Can publish in anything for any reason. NOTE: Not all images are 300 dpi, so you may need to convert them in photoshop.
- Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) – Easy to use, download off the image/object entry page.
- National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) – Easy to use, download off the image/object entry page.
- National Gallery of Art, Washington DC – Easy to use, download off the image/object entry page.
- Wellcome collection – Easy to use, download off the image/object entry page.
- Getty Museum – Easy to use, download off the image/object entry page.
- The Royal Collection Trust UK– free for most academic publications, permission needs to be granted via contacting their permissions team.
- The Folger Shakespeare Library – free for online blogs and websites with a share-a-like licence. For publications with UPs and most academic journals fees are waived, “commercial” publishers incur a fee. Obtaining publication-quality versions of the images incurs a small processing fee.
- Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A)– free for publications with UPs and most academic journals, check first. Need to pay more to obtain digital rights of more than 4 years.
- Cleveland: Cleveland Museum of Art– Easy to use, download off the image/object entry page.
- Kunstmuseum Basel – Easy to use, download off the image/object entry page.
- The Clark– Easy to use, download off the image/object entry page.
- National Portrait Gallery, London (NPG) – free for most scholarly article publications under a certain run, not free for monographs. Service is easy to use, create an account and add the image to your trolley.
- Fitzwilliam Museum Cambridge – staff are very helpful, they waived the fee for me because I was a postgrad student.
Others that I’m less familiar with but colleagues have used with ease:
- Newberry Library – no permission fees, prompt and reasonably-priced photography service (thanks Paul Salzman for this recommendation)
- Art Institute of Chicago
- J. Paul Getty Museum
- The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore
- Science History Institute, Philadelphia
- Harvard Art Museum
Beinecke at Yale
- Birmingham AL Museum of Art
- Glasgow Special Collections – may waive the fees for reproduction of some images on a case by case basis (thanks to Jan Machielsen for the recommendation)
- Nationalmuseum, Stockholm
- Nivaagaard Samling, Denmark
- National Gallery of Denmark – (thanks to Erika Gaffney for these Scandinavian recommendations)
Other helpful resources:
- Apollo: Open access image libraries – a handy list
- GLAM list of institutions that offer open access policies – compiled by Douglas McCarthy and Dr. Andrea Wallace
PAID IMAGE SERVICES:
- Alamy– Good selection of varying quality, make sure the images are 300 dpi and the artwork is out of copyright. Make sure to ask for bulk discounts and to get a quote tailored to your publication for maximum savings (ie. small print journals are sometimes covered by their self-publishing licence).
- Bridgeman Images – Professional service and great quality. Can be expensive, always ask for a bulk discount!
- Photo RMN du Grand Palais – Search the database for images from French collections. Easy to use, create an account and add the image to trolley. Payment is a little annoying (no online payment service), but staff are very helpful.
- V&A Image service– Use if your publication is not covered by the free image use policy. Staff are helpful, make sure to ask for a bulk discount!
Providers that I have not used but have been recommended to me:
Other helpful resources:
I will continue to update this list as I encounter different services. Feel free to comment below with your own suggestions too!