Reference photos and licenced images

Photograph of two kaka morphing into an ink sketch artwork
Commissioned artwork "Manaaki kākā" based on a reference photo.

Licencing images

I am often approached by artists to use my photos (and sometimes even my artworks) as reference images for their own art. I provide a number of options:
  • I have donated many wildlife images to Wikimedia Commons. These images are free to use, even for commercial use, under a CC-BY-4.0 licence. The only requirement is that I'm credited with providing the reference.
  • I sell reference photographs to artists, with discounts for bulk purchases. Please get in touch to discuss options, as prices vary based on the type of licence you need.
  • If you are looking for stock photos, I have hundreds of images in the Excio Photo Library. Check the usage rights closely (they cannot be used for artistic photo references).
  • If you are a not-for-profit wildlife or conservation organisation, educator, or author, I may provide images for free (with photo credit) or for a reasonable fee depending on the circumstances. Please get in touch. I'm happy to support these sorts of causes.

I do not give permission to copy artworks that I release as limited edition prints. This is to protect the integrity and value of the limited editions. I do often have similar photos, so please do contact me to see what the options are.

Thoughts and advice on copying art

"All art is theft" they say. There are some out there who think it is fine to copy anything they find on the internet, and even sell it. This is simply not true and not legal. New Zealand intellectual property and copyright law is quite strict and there are no "fair use" provisions. Word also gets round in the art community about unethical artists who copy other's works. You don't want to be "that" artist.

But I'm inspired by this piece and must create art! My advice? Always ask the artist or photographer FIRST. Do not create the piece and then ask (or worse, not ask at all). It's important to know under what conditions you can use the reference before you begin. The worst that will happen is the creator will say no. But many creators are more than happy for you to use their work. You might even make a friend in the process!

"But I'm just using the image for practice, I'm not selling it!" My advice? Plan for success. You may create the most awesome piece of art ever and find you want to sell your creation. If you've sorted the usage rights beforehand, you're sweet!

"My client gave me the image to reproduce." If you are an artist and have a client commissioning a piece based on their image, you must check that they have the rights to that image. Many will have just found something they like on the internet and they don't realise they need to get permission from the creator for reproduction. It will potentially save you and the client a lot of unhappiness. You're the professional, and it's your reputation to protect.

"But I purchased your print so that gives me the right to copy it." Nope - all my physical and digital artworks have "All rights reserved" and may not be copied without my express permission.

Final thoughts

I do hope this advice is helpful. I put so much time, money, and effort into creating my images, and a significant part of my livelihood comes from the income I get from selling prints. My work has been copied onto everything from duvet covers to feather art. Copied artworks have even appeared in art magazines. To have my images stolen is distressing, annoying, and so unnecessary! But to end on a positive note, it's been an absolute pleasure to work with other creatives who have used my photos with permission. I love seeing what you create!


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