Guidelines for using photos

Provided by the Good News Web Designers Association

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Q: What are the guidelines for using photographs on Web sites? I haven't run into any problems yet, but is there a procedure that should be followed before putting pictures of people on the Web?
~ Steve

Important question. I'm glad you asked. Yes! There are guidelines to be followed. Webmasters should adhere to the same procedures that are used by editors of magazines and newspapers. Otherwise, there is the danger of violating someone's privacy.

1. Photographs are covered by copyright law the moment they are developed in the photo lab. Do not use someone else's photos unless you have their permission, and it's always a good idea to give credit to the photographer as a courtesy.

2. When adults are featured in a photo and they are easily identifiable (i.e., they are the main or only subject of the picture), make sure you have their permission. Newspaper and magazine photographers carry with them release forms, which they ask the subjects to sign. Release forms basically say, "I give my permission for the photos taken of me on this date to be used by this magazine in any way the magazine staff chooses." A release form protects against possible law suits. You might not need it for your website; you'll have to decide if there is any risk involved.

3. When children are identifiable in a photo, do NOT use this picture without permission of their parents or guardians. Frequently, schools ask for signatures on release forms at the beginning of each school year. This can include use of photos on their websites.

4. Group shots, silhouettes, long-distance views,  and other photos that don't feature anyone in particular require no special permission for publishing on the Web.



Be artistic with your photos. Use lighting, spacing, camera angle and color to help convey a mood or feeling.

Use action pictures, not static ones where the people are staring at the camera. Show people doing what your webpage is describing.

Make bright pictures. Dimly lit pictures appear darker on the Web.

Don't use pictures that are blurry.

Crop pictures to eliminate distracting backgrounds and boring extra space. But don't always center the main subject. Imagine a tic-tac-toe board, and place the main subject at one of the intersections. This makes the picture more interesting.


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