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Silver Spring, MD
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Stories To Tell is a full service book publishing company for independent authors. We provide editing, design, publishing, and marketing of fiction and non-fiction. We specialize in sophisticated, unique illustrated book design.

Can I Use That Image in My Book?

Stories To Tell Books BLOG

Can I Use That Image in My Book?

Biff Barnes

Acquiring just the right images to illustrate your family history book or memoir can be tricky. Completing the detective work to find a photo that’s perfect is just the beginning of the process. There are two hurdles to get over before  you’re ready to use it. The first is to make sure that you have an image of appropriate quality to use in book printing. The second is making sure that you have the right to use the image. Let’s take a look at how to do both.


Book printing requires that digital images be a minimum of 300 dpi (or more accurately 300 pixels per inch). If you want to use a physical image (photograph, drawing ,or painting) it must be scanned at 300 dpi or more. Most scanners allow you to set the image resolution. We recommend 600 or even 1,200 dpi. This will allow you to enlarge the images when you place them in your book. If you have a 2” X 3” photo which you want to appear in the book as at 4” X 6”, scan the original at 600 dpi and the enlarged version will be 300 dpi so that it looks good in print.

If you want to use an image you find on the internet make sure to check the image quality. Many online images are low resolution, only 72 dpi, and therefore unsuitable for print. You can use Adobe Acrobat or Photoshop to check the resolution of your image. Don’t make the common mistake of believing that you can improve the quality of your 72 dpi image to 300 dpi by enlarging or re-sampling it. Instead look for a higher resolution version of the image. Google Images Advance Image Search can help you to find one. Our YouTube video on Google Advanced Image Search will show you how. Click here to watch it.


Many of the images you find on the internet or nearly all of those you find in books are copyrighted. If you use one in your book without getting the permission of the copyright holder, you can get yourself into serious legal difficulties which can be very expensive to get out of. Before you use an image in your book, be very careful to check its copyright.

There are a couple of easy ways to do that. I like the infographic Can I Use That Picture?, developed by Curtis Newbold, The Visual Communications Guy. It’s a flow chart that will guide you through the intricacies of usage rights. Google Images Advanced Image Search tool can also help determine the conditions under which you can use an image. It allows you to search for images in five rights categories:

  • Not filtered by license
  • Free to share or use
  • Free to share or use, even commercially
  • Free to share or modify
  • Free to share or modify, even commercially

The Stories To Tell video on Google Advanced Image Search mentioned above will help provide guidance on how to determine usage rights.

When you determine that you must get permission to use an image the Stanford University Guide to Getting Permission will provide step-by-step guidance about what to do.