Technology has made it dangerously easy to alter photographs. People can use computer programs to remove, add, or move elements in a photograph without detection. Although some of these alterations may seem harmless, when communicators cross the line of changing content even slightly, they are jeopardizing their readers’ trust. A photograph is perceived as an accurate recording of an event.
The creation and use of photographs
The following is University Communications’ policy related to the creation and use of photographs:
In any instance when a question arises about such issues, consult the University Communications staff. The following information provides more specific guidelines about the acceptable and unacceptable use of photographs.
Photo illustrations differ from news photos in content, creation, and purpose. They are staged or produced and are manufactured situations. They often are set up in a studio and are used for fashion, food, and product promotion. When an existing photograph is altered for artistic purposes, such as by adding or deleting content, it also is considered a photo illustration. Environmental portraits shot on location are not considered photo illustrations.
Use caution when creating a digital illustration on a computer that uses a photo as its base material. The final image should not be so photorealistic that a reader could perceive it as being real.
When publishing a photo illustration, it should be made clear to readers that the image does not represent a real situation. In all cases, photo illustrations should be labeled as such. Any permitted alteration changing the original content of an image must be labeled as a “photo illustration.” The credit line should read: “Photo illustration; original photo by XX.” Artistic use of images, as in a collage, is permitted.
Remember, however, that no amount of captioning can balance a visual lie. Carefully consider any consequences, including jeopardizing credibility with readers, before creating a photo illustration.
Copyrighted materials cannot be altered without written permission of the copyright holder (generally the creator or source of the original photo). Photographs (UW–Madison images and those from freelancers) should be considered to be copyrighted materials.
Photographs supplied to University Communications from other UW–Madison offices or from non-university entities cannot be altered without written permission from the copyright holder, even if the image belongs to UW–Madison.
Written permission is required for photos or videos of children, patients in health care settings or laboratories, research participants, and for photos or videos of individuals being featured in advertisements or promotional materials in which a person’s name, image and/or likeness are being used.
If you are part of the UW–Madison Health Care Component, your use of photos may also be subject to HIPAA regulations, policies, or accreditation standards unique to your area of campus. (Contact the HIPAA Privacy Officer for more guidance.) Therefore, if you are part of the UW–Madison Health Care Component, you must contact UW–Madison’s HIPAA Privacy Officer for a release.
In situations where University Communications is photographing a university preschool facility or a K–12 school classroom, we confirm with that administrative entity that parents or guardians have given permission for their children to be photographed. In these cases, the administrative entity most often maintains its own photo policy records and provides permission.
University Communications does not regularly use model releases nor seek written permission for most other photography or videos created for both internal and broader university use. Written permission is not required when making photographs or videos of individuals in public settings or using the resulting photographs or videos in news and editorial contexts. However, care should be exercised in subsequent use. Make certain that the published context and the caption do not imply details about an individual that are not known to be true.
Care should also be taken to address any permission issues when taking photos or videos at non-UW facilities which host community-based events that allow opportunities for program promotion or community outreach. Those facilities may have their own guidelines about the capture and use of photos and videos, including limitations about use of the photos or videos on websites or social media.
Whenever possible, University Communications photographers identify themselves and seek verbal permission when taking photos. They inform subjects about the potential uses of the photo, such as providing information for a story and/or creating images to more broadly describe the campus, both now and in the future. In instances when an individual asks to not be photographed, University Communications photographers comply with those wishes.
When photos are supplied by a client, permission to use them is implied, but check with the client to make sure permission has been granted by the creator and the subjects, and that appropriate photo credits are published.
Photography and recording in some laboratory spaces is not permitted unless specifically authorized. Examples include areas where animals are housed or used in research as well as areas such as the Influenza Research Institute where serious pathogens are studied. Care should also be taken to ensure there are no location restrictions in areas of the UW–Madison Health Component or at facilities hosting community-based events.
Photographs created by staff photographers are for the news and editorial needs of the university. News media may use any of the images in the online photo library for news or editorial content, both print and electronic, related to UW–Madison. UW–Madison departments, faculty, staff, students, and alumni may use any of the images in the library for noncommercial communication pieces about UW–Madison. The images are not available for generic use unrelated to UW–Madison.
University Communications limits the length of time most images remain in the general photo library, especially those that feature time-sensitive content of people and views of the physical campus. The goal is to primarily feature contemporary images (i.e., those created within the last five years). This helps to ensure that outdated images aren’t inadvertently used in campus communications beyond their relevance. Staff will continue to internally archive and manage older photo content. If you have a need for an archived photo, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For university-related commercial uses—including textbooks, commercial products, or advertising—please contact Bryce Richter, photographer, University Communications, 608-262-7411.
Published photos must include a credit (“photographer’s name/University of Wisconsin–Madison” or “courtesy of …”). The specific credit and other details are also embedded in the digital file, which can be viewed by using Photoshop and choosing “File Info…” under the File menu.
None of the images may be modified, altered, or used in any way that changes or misrepresents the photograph’s content or overall context.
Other campus sources for photographs related to UW–Madison include:
When hiring freelancers or using work created by freelancers, you are often commissioning the right to use that work, you are not buying ownership of the work. For freelance work that you anticipate using one time only, consider the following policies used by the editorial team of On Wisconsin, the alumni magazine.
However, if you intend to use the work in multiple instances, we strongly recommend buying all rights. In general, the university expects to maintain the rights to any campus images, and does not support selling or giving those rights to freelancers.