What does a Picture Researcher do?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A picture researcher locates and acquires permission to use images by request from clients. This work can include finding images for inclusion in textbooks, newspaper and magazine articles, film and television production, and many other settings. Picture researchers need to be good at research, with a sharp eye for interesting, compelling, and useful images. They may work as freelancers, employees of publishing companies, or staff members at stock houses, where databases of images and rights are available for use.

A picture research should know how online image display works.
A picture research should know how online image display works.

The picture researcher can also generate images like charts and graphs, and may write captions. People working in online media can also be responsible for generating alt tags and meta tags to make images accessible and add value and content to the finished product. This requires a knowledge of how online image display works, so people can add relevant and useful information to the images they provide their clients.

The work of a picture researcher starts when a client approaches with a project in mind; for example, a textbook company might need a complete set of illustrations for a textbook, including chapter headings, visual demonstrations of concepts, charts, cover art, and so forth. The picture researcher meets with the client to determine the desired look and feel of the requested images, as well as to collect information about the available budget. With those details hand, the researcher then gets to work.

Picture researchers pore through databases of images to find what they want, and then acquire high resolution versions of the images so the client can integrate them into a project. Part of the work also includes collecting information about rights. The image may be open source, with no need to request permissions, or may be freely available for use as long as credit is given to the creator. With other images, the picture researcher needs to license or buy the rights, depending on the nature of the project, so the image is available for legal use.

A picture researcher may belong to a professional organization. This can confer a number of benefits, including access to exclusive databases, continuing education, and listings, making it easier for clients to locate researchers in their areas or researchers who handle subject matter of interest. Maintaining detailed records is critical, as is establishing connections with people who have access to sources. A good picture researcher has an encyclopedic knowledge of information and can start thinking about sources and avenues of pursuit almost as soon as the client starts talking about what he is looking for.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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