Searching for a particular photo can be frustrating. I’m the graphic designer for Heart magazine, published by the Society of the Sacred Heart since 2003. Pamela Schaeffer, the editor who started the magazine, wrote “The covers, photos of hearts in nature, are symbolic of Christ’s presence at the heart of the universe.”
Each issue has a beautiful, natural heart photo, the magazine’s nameplate (also called a masthead), issue number, and a tag line that identifies the society. For many years, I have been collecting potential photos to use for covers. I have a folder of more than one hundred images.
I search the Web for hearts—Google Images, Flickr, Pinterest, and a plethora of royalty-free sites. Occasionally, people who are familiar with the magazine send the editor a photo.
The photos I find on royalty-free stock sites are low resolution (won’t print clearly) and have a watermark across them. This indicates that I have not purchased the photo. Even though images from sites like Flickr or Pinterest do not have a watermark, they might still be low resolution.
I take screen captures of the heart photos I find online to help identify the source, and if the photo is chosen for the magazine’s cover, with luck I can find it later. I will name the screen shot, such as “Flicker heart 1,” so at least I have a starting point before I start looking. If I find it, of course, I ask for permission to use the photo and give credit to the photographer.
The design process
For each issue of the magazine, the editor and I decide on three possible photos. Before we present the photos to the society’s team, which makes the final decision, I comp up the covers with the image and add the name plate information. I also alert the editor to the source of each photo, its cost, and whether I need to find the photographer to ask permission to use it.
When it gets frustrating
For the last issue of Heart, I showed Flavia Bader, the editor, my collection of natural hearts. She picked out a fern, curled in the shape of a heart. The screen shot was from Flickr. I logged on and searched without success. Google Images to the rescue—I immediately found it. The photo was taken May 29, 2006 (it is now 2021). I sent a message to the photographer to request permission to publish the image.
With a little more investigation, I realized the photographer had not posted in a very long time—since December 2016. I texted Flavia and told her the situation. She said to wait and maybe we would receive a reply. I sent two more messages, but nada!
By the way, you can often find the same photo on Pinterest. Many people pin images to their boards with no attribution. While you can use an image you find on Pinterest without attribution, I wouldn’t advise it. Ask permission, if possible, or use a stock photo.
What should we do? Weigh in on the side of caution? Find a substitute photo by searching Google Images and stock websites? That’s what we did. Fortunately, another similar heart-shaped fern was on Shutterstock.com. The editor and team agreed it was a good choice for the magazine cover; plus, I was able to attribute the photographer’s name inside the magazine. Finding that fern photo led to a happy ending.
A similar situation arose for the current issue. We selected three photos, and the favorite was from Pinterest. The caption read, “Heart Shaped Rock, Southern Down, South Wales.” It was high resolution and perfect for printing! I tried to track down the photographer, first by leaving a comment, and then messaging the person who had posted the image to their Pinterest board, but there was no original source. I also scoured Google Images but struck out again. Because there was no attribution and we could not obtain permission, we found a completely different photo on iStock.com.
Some people, including photographers, do not check their messages on Flickr or Pinterest. Perhaps they are no longer posting to those sites. The passage of time can be a frustrating detriment to finding a photo. Searching for a particular photo takes both patience and luck. Sites like Flickr or Pinterest are great for inspiration but might be troublesome when one is seeking permission. I have found that it’s better to search for photos on stock websites that have a standard license for usage plus attribution.
Thanks for reading.