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 are considered “commercial” and may incur a fee.
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.
Also: ALWAYS ASK FOR A DISCOUNT. Whether it be because you are placing a bulk order, you are a student, ECR or independent researcher, always ask! Be shameless – you’ll be surprised by how many places will give you a discount or even give you the image for free!
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.
- The Walters Art Museum – Easy to use, download off the image/object entry page.
- Art Institute of Chicago– Easy to use, download off the image/object entry page.
- New York Public Library – Many of the images in their collection are out of copyright and Open access. Under the image look for the green box with download options and “Free to use without restriction”.
- Gallica Bibliothèque – The non-commercial use of documents or in an academic or scientific publication (publication produced in the context of university research work) is open and free, provided the source is acknowledged. Download from Gallica or order higher resolution.
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)
- 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)
- Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas – free for books with a print run under 2000 copies and journals with a print run under 10k copies (so basically all academic journals). Service fees for new photography and high res files are reasonable, and you can publish your own image too. (Thanks to Aaron T. Pratt for the suggestion).
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!