CalPhotos: Frequently Asked Questions   




People & Culture

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See also: FAQ for Photographers    
Questions about using the photos
Questions about the photos

  • Can I have permission to use one of your photos?

    If your use falls under the Fair Use provisions of the U. S. Copyright laws, you do not need permission before using one of the thumbnail photos in CalPhotos. However, most other uses require permission, and some uses may also require a licensing fee. In all cases, you must include the proper citation and copyright information with the photo. Please see Using the Photos in CalPhotos for information about whether your use requires permission.

  • How do I download one of your photos to my computer?

    If you are making a web page, you can just create a link to one or more of our photos using a URL. See How to Link to the Photos.

    If you want to download a photo to your own computer for personal use, please check this page first to make sure that your use does not require permission from the copyright holder: Using the Photos in CalPhotos.

    Assuming that your use is OK, you can use your web browser to download the image using the following instructions. (However, please don't do this if you need a large number of images for research. Instead, see the instructions below.)

    on a PC: right-click on the image; choose "Save image as ..." and then save it to your hard drive. (Firefox and Internet Explorer are similar)

    on a Mac: hold the mouse button down over the image for a few seconds. You'll see a window pop up. Choose "Save image as.." or "Download image to disk" depending on whether you're using Netscape or Internet Explorer.

    If you just want to print out the image, not save it, you can use the "Print" function in Netscape's/IE's File menu (on a PC). First get the photo into its own webpage: right-click on the image and choose "View Image". Then print it.

  • How can I get permission to use a photo for a commercial project?

    Commercial projects such as textbooks, journals, magazines, websites and similar publications require permission from the photographer and/or organization that contributed the photo and may also require a licensing fee. Each of our photos has different usage restrictions, depending on who contributed the photo. Some CalPhotos photographers charge a standard licensing fee, while others ask only to be reimbused for reproduction and mailing costs. You can find out about usage for a specific photo, and contact information for permission to use it, by checking the "photo details" page. See How can I contact the photographer who took this photo?

  • Is there a charge for using one of your photos?

    If your use falls under the Fair Use provisions of the U. S. Copyright laws, there is no charge. If Fair Use does not apply to your situation, you may still be able to use the photo without charge but you need to first check the contributor's usage policy on the photo's Detail page. For commercial uses, most of our contributing photographers do charge a usage fee. See How can I get permission to use a photo for a commercial project?

  • Are enlargements available for the photos?

    Most of our photos do have enlargements, though a few photographers allow only thumbnails to be viewed. To see the enlargement for a photo, click on the thumbnail. Most enlargements are roughly 500 by 700 pixels in size. If you need a larger size than this, you will have to contact the photographer. See How can I contact the photographer who took this photo?

  • I need a slide, not a digital photo.

    An increasing number of photos in the collection were taken with digital cameras, but most of our photos were digitized from slides or prints, so a slide may be available. However, CalPhotos has digital images only, and can only supply what you see online. Therefore, you will need to contact individual photographers. Most will charge for slide duplication and mailing. See How can I contact the photographer who took this photo?

  • How can I get a list of plant/animal names you have photos for?

    See CalPhotos: Lists for the lists that are available.

    The list of plant names is available here: It includes over 6,000 scientific names along with the number of photos we have for that species. This text file is in delimited format so that it can be parsed by a program or loaded into a speadsheet or database. It is updated nightly.

  • How can I contact the photographer who took this photo?

    The photographer's name is displayed with each thumbnail and enlargement (for a few of our photos, the photographer is unknown.) Every photo has usage information as well as an email address for contacting either the photographer or someone at the organization that contributed the photo. You can view this information by checking the "photo details" page: click on the "more information" link under the photo (or just above it, in the case of enlargements) to get to the photo details page. Here is an example of a photo details page.

    You can also look up biographical information about a CalPhotos photographer, including a portrait if it's available, by clicking on the photographer's name on the photo details page, or by querying the Photographer Database.

  • How do I cite CalPhotos in a reference for a journal or paper?

    CalPhotos: A database of photos of plants, animals, habitats and other natural history subjects [web application]. BSCIT, University of California, Berkeley. Available: (Accessed: [include access date here]).

  • Can you help me identify a plant, insect, animal, etc?

    We do not have staff at CalPhotos that can identify plants and animals, but we do keep a list of resources that might be helpful. Please see Identifying Plants and Animals for resources you can use to identify plants, insects, and other creatures.

  • What kind of image database are you using?

    The system we use requires some high-level programming knowledge. We use a relational database, MySQL, along with our own customized programs and storage system. You can read about our image retrieval system here: Our programs are freely available to other developers who want to build similar systems. The page above contains instructions on how to do that.

    There are several commercial image databases. Here are two that are used by some of the organizations we collaborate with:

    * 4D (website: The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (FAMSF) provides web access to more than 100,000 digital images and data using a modified version of 4D, which is available free for academic and non-profit use. The FAMSF Thinker ImageBase is here: (The Berkeley Digital Library Project provides high resolution versions of the FAMSF images for zooming on our server.)
    * Cumulus (website: The California Academy of Sciences uses Cumulus for internal management of its slide collection. (Online access is provided via CalPhotos.)
    * Other image databases we have heard of: Extensis Portfolio (no experience for that one)

  • I have a question about one of your photos - whom should I ask?

    There are several email addresses you can use, depending on whether your question is about the web server and database, or a question about a specific plant or animal, or a more general question about natural science. If you have a question or comment about a specific photo, please contact the photographer. See How can I contact the photographer who took this photo? Otherwise, please check our "Questions and Comments" page for the correct email address to use.

  • I think the plant in this photo is incorrectly identified.

    Please read the page About Plant Identifications for information about the accuracy of the names on the photos, and how to let us know about possible mis-identification. Experts can register to be CalPhotos reviewers, which allows them to correct or comment on identifications. See Annotations and Corrections for more information.

  • How can I contribute my own photos to CalPhotos?

    We do accept photos from people who want to contribute to the online collection. For information about how to do this, please read Contributing Photos to CalPhotos.

  • What's the difference between CalPhotos and Calflora?

    CalPhotos and Calflora are often confused because of the similarity of their names and because they both resided for a time on Digital Library Project servers. However they are two different databases maintained by two different organizations.

    CalPhotos is a photo database developed by the UC Berkeley Digital Library Project. It was originally developed to provide a testbed of digital images for computer science researchers to study digital image retrieval techniques and is still used for this purpose. You can read about the history of CalPhotos here. CalPhotos includes photos of world-wide plants, animals, landscapes, and other natural history subjects. Photos were contributed by a variety of individuals and organizations, the two largest being St. Mary's College (Brousseau photos) and the California Academy of Sciences.

    Calflora is a database of information about California vascular plants. The data in Calflora was originally developed by Ann Dennis, and is based on contributions from a variety of other organizations. The Digital Library Project developed the online query system for Calflora and housed the database and web server until early 2003 when moved to another server. The history of Calflora is here.

  • CalPhotos is a project of BNHM   University of California, Berkeley

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    this page last updated: Jun 5, 2024