Monday, April 16, 2018

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

I’m working on choosing final images that will go in my book Buried Lives: The Enslaved People of George Washington’s Mount Vernon.  Images are critical for a nonfiction book like this.  

One part of the book includes a chapter about the archaeological dig that is taking place in the Slave Cemetery at Mount Vernon.  I want to include photos of volunteers working there and there are some great images to choose from.  But each photo needs to meet a list of factors for it to work for the book.  

This is a photo of me working the sifter during the dig.  While it does fit the text of the book it is more important to use images of other volunteers.

I took this photo, but it isn't the right choice to be in the book.  Other images are better and will carry more weight.

Here are a few details I look for when choosing a photo for my book: 

Is it needed?  Photos take up a lot of real estate in a book, so each image must carry it’s weight and be worth the space.  

It must compliment the text. The photo needs to either add a deeper understanding to what I’ve written or give a platform to use more information in the caption to get across information that didn’t fit within the text.    

It matters what is in the background of the pic.  Does what is behind or beside the subject add to the photo?  Or can it be cropped?

Is it blurry?

Is the photo hi res enough for publication?  Some images must be deleted because they aren’t good enough for print.  


—you must have written permission to use 
every photo you publish.    

And finally for me at least, I want to make sure I have permission from the people who are in the photos (if they are recognizable).  I’m working on this part right now.  While the photos I want to use technically belong to Mount Vernon, the people in the photos are volunteers.  So I want each one of them to tell me it is acceptable for me to use the photo in my book.   To ask for permission, I’ve got to communicate with them.  Sometimes that is harder than it sounds.  At times I’ve had to be a real bloodhound to find people. It is all part of the research. Just this morning I sent out another round of emails seeking permission from people in the pics I want to use.  I hope to hear from them very soon because the book is with the book designer now.  If I don’t hear from them giving me permission, the pic won’t be in the book. 

Got to go now—maybe the people I’m looking for sent me an email . . . I hope so.   

Carla Killough McClafferty 


Carmela Martino said...

Thanks for sharing your process with us, Carla. Good luck tracking down those permissions!

Carla Killough McClafferty said...

Thanks, Carmela.

Unknown said...

I just so ridiculously excited for this book to come to publication. As always thank you for making us your fans part of the journey to completion.

Carla Killough McClafferty said...

Thank you, Brenda. And thank you for keeping history alive in such a wonderful way. The book is slowly crawling toward publication ;-) The designer is working on the cover and I have no idea what that might look like. I pushed (strongly suggested to my editor and sent lots of photos ;-) for YOU to be on the cover. We will see!! I will keep you posted!

Suzanne Lieurance said...

Interesting article. I've often wondered how other authors decide which photos to include in their books. I love photos with people in them but sometimes getting those kinds of photos (and permission to use them) can be tricky.

Can't wait to read this book! What a fascinating topic.

Carla Killough McClafferty said...

Thank you, Suzanne. You know how tricky it can be. I still need to track down a couple of people and I'm running out of time to get it done. In the end, I do as much as I can to make it happen-then that is all I can do. It has been fascinating research.