We are currently in the thick of a the political campaign for the New Zealand general election, 2014 and at Wikipedia, our coverage continues apace, with articles for every electorate, every MP and every political party. What we are missing, by-and-large, is images to illustrate these articles.

Reference: "Ballot Boxes" by Simon Lyall, via Wikimedia Commons. Copyright: Public Domain.

Reference: “Ballot Boxes” by Simon Lyall, via Wikimedia Commons. Copyright: Public Domain.

If you’re an aspiring photojournalist, or just happen to be in the right place at the right time, we’d love for you to take political photos and upload them to Wikimedia commons.

What kinds of photos are we after? Pretty much any documentary photos: portraits of politicians (both as people and doing distinctively political things); hustings; polling stations; election-night parties; voter enrollment campaigns; election campaigns; etc. While even a poor quality image is better than no image of a subject, what we’re really after is well-composed, well-executed images of at least two megapixels. The better the quality of the image, the more options are available to users of the image going forward.

Describing and labelling your images is important—there are more than twenty million images on Wikimedia Commons and without good descriptions and labels they’ll be unfindable. You should aim to describe who, what, when and where. Who are the people (if any) in the image? What are they doing? When are they do it? Where are they doing it? Descriptions of composition (‘landscape,’ ‘three-quarters length portrait,’ etc) can also be useful.

More generally we’re after photos to illustrate the people, places, events and abstract concepts which we have Wikipedia articles on. Fun projects: include stitched panoramas from local look-out spots; photos of public art installed locally; local marae, whakairo and tukutuku; portraits of local artists or officeholders; local historical sites (Māori pā, buildings listed by the Historic Places Trust, gravestones of notable people, etc); New Zealand native plants and animals; — the list is endless. New Zealand subject matter isn’t going to be documented by anyone else, so it’s largely up to us to do this work.

While it’s possible to upload images that other people have taken, due to the complications of getting copyright clearance, it’s better if the person who took the photos uploads the images. It’s typically easier to re-take photos than jump through the hoops of copyright clearance, unless you are dealing with thousands of photos or those of particular historical significance.

Both the English and Māori language Wikipedias have access to the same pool on images on Wikimedia commons, but the English language Wikipedia, as the larger of the two, uses many more images. Commons images can also also be used in Wikibooks, Wikiversity and other members of the WikiMedia family or reused in your own projects under appropriate licenses.

Stuart Yeates is a New Zealand Wikimedian and librarian.

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