Essential writing skills: how publishers credit photographs

Someone asked me the other day about how to credit photographs in publications. How do the professionals do it? And is there a standard?

This is MY photo. MINE. I TOOK IT. Bwahahahahaha. (This isn't how to credit a photo...)
This is MY photo. MINE. I TOOK IT. Bwahahahahaha. (This isn’t how to credit a photo…)

The answer depends on house style, the design of the pages and, to some extent, on the quantity of credit required. Terms of use imposed by the owner of the photo, or the licensing terms – such as Creative Commons – can also affect how the photo is credited. Read them. Respect them. Quantity of credit is often a major issue. Some photo libraries demand several lines of acknowledgements and references, frequently quite arcane. Others don’t. The quantity of that material helps determine where the credit goes when a book is being designed. That’s also true of material released on the internet under Creative Commons licensing. And to my mind, even if you’re using public domain material, it’s courteous to provide due credit. That said, there are three main ways publishers usually credit photographs in print books:

  1. Directly attached to the photo on the page – for example, in a small point-size font running up one side of the photo. It’s direct, up-front, and works well if the credit is short.
  2. Attached to the caption – this suits longer credit information and unmistakeably attaches the credit to the picture.
  3. In a separate page, typically as part of the back matter, with references identifying each photo through the book and crediting it. This is done often for page-design purposes in picture books – avoiding clutter – but also because it accommodates the very longest forms of credit.

These days, given the way things have swung to electronic formats, there’s also a fourth option:

  1. Hyperlinking – basically as (3), but a link associated with the photo jumps you to a separate page in the same document, which carries the credit. Care needed to ensure that, if the link fails, you aren’t breaching any terms of use.

Bottom line for the whole process is respecting the terms of use – and finding a way of presenting the credit information in a way that works for the design of the book. Copyright © Matthew Wright 2015


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