Design Resources

Photo Guidelines

You might need to find photographs, vector graphics or other images for use in publications, social media, websites and marketing materials. Or you might need to advise or approve photo selections from vendors such as graphic designers. Although NAMI can’t offer legal advice on copyright and fair use issues, here are some tips to keep in mind when selecting images.


Photo Copyright and Terms of Use

As a general rule, you can’t use an image you don’t own without the owner’s explicit permission. It’s not enough to give credit to the owner or cite the source. Individuals and organizations may be subject to legal liability if you use an image inappropriately. Here are some usage guidelines to consider:

  1. Terms of Use and Licenses — If you purchase a stock photo, you obtain the rights to use that photo for specific purposes. Terms vary from site to site and from image to image. Review all usage and licensing information carefully for each image you want to use. If in doubt, don’t use the photo.
  2. Editorial Only — Stock photos that say “Editorial Only” may not be used to promote commercial items like conventions or products. The terms of use are often much stricter and should be carefully reviewed.
  3. Creative Commons — Creative Commons is a convenient, centralized location to search for photos from a number of independent organizations. However, they have no control over the results that are returned. Do not assume that the work you find through Creative Commons may be used freely for any purpose. Always review the actual terms of use for the specific work you wish to use. If in doubt, contact the copyright holder directly or try to contact the site where you found the content.
  4. Product Endorsements/Unflattering Representations — Avoid using a photo that depicts a person to endorse a product or to represent a disease. Use discretion when choosing photos related to potentially unflattering or damaging subject matter (e.g., STDs, obesity) and consider using photos featuring inanimate objects instead.
  5. Google Images — Never use pictures found through Google Image Search or other Internet search. These photos are probably copyright protected and would not be high-enough resolution for printing.

Finding Stock Photos

You can search for a photo at one of these sites, but be sure to follow all terms of use:

If you can't find an appropriate photo from a free site, try buying a stock photo or credit package from a reputable photo site such as the following:


Release Forms & Photo/Model Consents

  1. Obtaining Consent — If using a candid photo that depicts a real person (as opposed to a stock photo), follow all copyright laws. You must have the photographer’s written consent to use their photo. If the subject depicts a real person, such as a close-up where the person’s face is recognizable, you must also contain a written talent/model release. Release forms are generally not required for public events/crowd scenes, but when in doubt, try to obtain permission or don’t use the photo.
  2. Children — Don’t use candid photos of children unless you have obtained a signed talent release form from their legal parent or guardian; when in doubt, stock photos are a safer option.
  3. Talent Release Form — NAMI uses a standard release form for photos, videos and other media that you might find helpful to adapt.

Tips on Image Resolution and File Types

Any file for professional print jobs must be “press quality” or at least 300 DPI/PPI, whereas 72 DPI is the standard lower resolution for Web. In general, images with low resolution are not suitable for professional print products because they will appear jagged or blurry.

File types such as EPS and PDF are used for professional print jobs and logos, and JPG and PNG are used for Web/digital purposes.

When in doubt, try to get or take the highest resolution photo you can. You can always go from a large, high-quality image to a smaller one without losing quality, but not vice versa.


Other Tips

Quality Considerations

  • High-quality photography is usually preferred over illustrations. However, high-quality vector art may be appropriate sometimes, such as for infographics.
  • Avoid using “clip art” on websites or in external-facing publications because it often looks unprofessional.
  • Photos should represent a wide-ranging audience and not depict only one group. Choose photos of diverse people of all ages, ethnicities and backgrounds.
  • Stock photos can be helpful but can also appear contrived and cliché. You should ideally use a photo of real NAMI people and events when possible.

Photo Credits

It’s a good idea to credit the source of the photo whenever space/design aesthetic permit. Also pay attention to the terms of use of the photo — images from free sites usually require you to cite the source as part of the terms of use.

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