The value of a Picture Researcher

a collection of analog cameras

by Erica Martin/The Photo Collective

What’s the value of a picture researcher when you can use an offshore provider? Could the designer do it, or an editor? Using a professional Picture Researcher from your local network can access a number of advantages not just for the budget and schedule.

An experienced Picture Researcher can reduce the time taken to find the correct photograph or photographs. They have expert knowledge from years of dedicated research to know which libraries, institutions or picture agencies that represent or hold specific collections. Depending on the project, some image briefs will require clearance from multiple rights holders. For example; the supplier; photographer (if in copyright); sitter (if you require permission); property owner; the artist, designer, estate or artists agency if the works of art, decorative object, design or architecture are in copyright. This information isn’t always clear and it will take an experienced picture researcher to recognise these requirements, understand the restrictions, know copyright law for which country and clear the image rights diligently. This will in turn ensure that there is reduced risk of copyright infringement, which is fundamental in today’s changing international law.

A Picture Researcher can help reduce the reproduction fees too. They can navigate various suppliers and sources based on the client’s budget, negotiating discounts from suppliers and identify free other free sources – although supporting the licensing of images is a priority.

A Picture Researcher maintains relationships with suppliers all over the world which, can often be the ticket to acquire a ‘unseen’ image. This may mean that they have contacts with specialist archives or museums to help with the research. Picture Researchers can specialise in art direction, have great contacts with photographers and can commission shoots on the client’s behalf.

Images don’t always have complex restrictions or multiple third party rights to clear. Clients will often need a selection of beautiful and creative images that are key to marketing and will be: ‘on-brand’, authentic, diverse and original. Images hide a multitude of requirements such as those that show: no people, people not looking at camera, representative and diverse, suitable for global markets, certain age groups, studio shots, photographs without restrictions, royalty free, suitable for merchandising or exclusive. The briefs may not state all of these things but an experienced picture researcher will ask the rights questions to meet the brief – right first time. The Picture Researcher will liaise directly with authors and editors making sure that picture costs are kept to budget and aware of the time taken to research certain genres of images. Research requires knowledge and experience to know which supplier holds a certain style of photograph that the client needs quickly and to budget.

Picture Research is a skill and a profession. It’s a skill that requires an eye for detail recognising the quality of composition, light, colour, style and tone of voice. A Picture Researcher understands image trends influencing creative briefs and can handle all the administration that comes with licensing photographs and works of art including costs, fees, credit lines, license terms and restrictions. Cultural institutions, charities archives and museum’s collections have a mind-boggling number of images, and a Picture Researcher can navigate this for you, making light of an overwhelming task. It requires perseverance, organisation, time management and understanding of the brief. Images illustrate or even replaces words so it is worth the investment.

You can find helpful picture research related links on the BAPLA Media Buying Resources page.

Picture credit: ©Jane Smith