I want to print this photo by John Soares: https://www.opednews.com/populum/uploadnic/noam_chomsky_cropped-jpg_11671_20170823-516.jpg

Is it customary to directly mail the photographer? Will he or she send me the photograph for free or can I get it against a reasonable price?


It never hurts to email or otherwise ask.

Them accepting is not sure and will vary greatly depending on the person. A digital image is highly valuable, so if the person taking the photo is a professional or someone interesting in photography business, they will be reluctant to offer it for free. Prints are most likely to be sold because a perfect copy or enlargement is harder to make. Although in this day and age, digital files are frequently being licensed.

The image is their property and if they trust you, some people may simply decide send you a digital file on the understanding that it will be for your personal one-time use. I know professional photographers who allow this for watermarked images.

A digital photograph these days is rarely sold but licensed. The photographer remains the owner and you get a licence to use it for a particular use. This determines the price of a licence. Since you are asking for single-time-use in private home, you are likely to get one of the lowest price. What that price is though, is entirely dependent on the photographer.

Now many images on the web are produced by non-professionals who are not interested in making money from images and those people are most likely to accept sending a high-resolution version.

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  • If you haven't, check the stock photo sites; some are expensive, some are quite cheap, and provide a legal avenue for image use if you cannot get permission otherwise. – Linwood Sep 6 '17 at 15:21

In this particular case, you will find by clicking on the photo details of that page that the image is sourced from the Wikimedia Commons, a collection of images and other media licensed by creators for sharing and collaborative reuse.

This specific images comes from this page, which includes a basic copyright statement from the photographer — in this case, "i let you use the image as you like it", interpreted to mean that the image is licensed for broad reuse in general. Note, though, that 223×334 pixels is the highest resolution available there.

In general, contacting the photographer is the right thing to do — but don't be surprised if many say no, or want to charge a significant price for their work.

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I think Ital's answer is very good. In addition, I think you need to understand that your "personal use" is exactly what a professional fine art photographer is looking to sell a picture for. I would not be surprised if the photographer of the specific image would be willing to sell you an actual print in the size you want for a price. That is how they make their living. Thinking you get the image for free is a little like figuring an orthodontist will provide you with braces for free since its for your personal use.

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As per copyright laws, the creator must be informed before making a copy of his/her work. So, it is a good practice to inform/email the photographer.

Regarding the price, nothing can be said like that. it's totally up to the photographer.

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  • I cannot, at present, find a high-resolution version online. Is it customary that photographers provide their high-quality version for personal use? – Kappie001 Sep 6 '17 at 14:10
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    @Kappie001 Basically it's all up to the photographer. He has the total authority over his work. He may provide you with anything for free or certain price or provide you with something of lower res. You can't demand your wish. – NewBee Sep 6 '17 at 14:17
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    You can't just inform the copyright holder before making a copy of a copyrighted work, but you have to get the holder's permission to do so. This answer is somewhere between confusing and blatantly wrong. – jarnbjo Sep 6 '17 at 16:20

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