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FLEET LIBRARY | Research Guides

Rhode Island School of Design

Photography Research Guide

This guide is meant to assist Photography students in their research.

Welcome to the Photography Research Guide

Welcome to the Photography Research Guide. This guide covers a wide range of available resources such as useful books, links, and digital resources to complete assignments and conduct research.

This guide will help you begin your research. Keep in mind that research is an iterative process; it will build on itself and is often better accomplished in multiple small steps. Art is often an interdisciplinary area of study so some resources might seem more relevant than others. This guide cannot list all possible resources, but it is a good place to start. If you have more questions or need additional help, just ask! There are librarians available to help you find answers.

Access LinkedIn Learning

As a member of the RISD community you have access to, where you can watch tutorials on all kinds of topics. To create a LinkedIn Learning account follow this link.

The Art of Browsing

Here are some helpful tips:

Books in the RISD Fleet Library are organized by topic using Library of Congress classification system. Photography is under the letters TR. You can browse the collection digitally by clicking on this link. If you are interested in browsing the shelves, you can use this map and these call number ranges as a guide:

TR 1-1050 Photography

TR 250-265 Cameras

TR 287-500 Photographic processing and darkroom technique

TR 504-508 Transparencies and Diapositives

TR 510-545 Color photography

TR 550-581 Studio and laboratory

TR 590-620 Lighting

TR 624-835 Applied photography, including artistic, commercial, medical photography, photocopying processes

TR 845-899 Cinematography and motion pictures

TR 925-1050 Photomechanical processes

For SUBJECT searches try:




Photography, Abstract.


Portrait photography.

Still Life Photography.

For KEYWORD searches, you can either use add terms or use phrases. An example: when searching for photographic criticism try photographic AND criticism or "photographic criticism" as searches and see what you can find.

Image Search

Here you will find resources that help you find photographs both through online resources and the Picture Collection at RISD.

Google Image Search

Google is an easy way to search for photographs and photographers. There are advanced search features that let you search for specific aspect ratios, restrict the color, specify the image size and much more. Try Google's Advanced Image Search.

Types of usage rights

Understanding rights is helpful if you want to use a photograph you found online. Copyright can be complicated, if you are unsure about the rights of an image ask for help. Google allows you to limit your search by certain rights and licenses.

This info graphic is from the Technology Enhanced Learning Blog, and helps to explain Creative Commons Licenses.


RISD's Picture Collection

Students, faculty, and researchers have access to the Picture Collection which contains almost 500,000 hardcopy images of people, places and things. The images are searchable by Subject and Art File. You may check out up to 200 images at one time. Contact Alecia Underhill with questions.

Online Image Databases

There are many databases which contain images, but here is a short list of helpful databases which focus on photographic images.

The Library of Congress: Prints & Photographs

The Prints and Photographs Online Catalog (PPOC) contains catalog records and digital images representing a rich cross-section of still pictures held by the Prints & Photographs Division and, in some cases, other units of the Library of Congress. The Library of Congress offers broad public access to these materials as a contribution to education and scholarship.

The Center for Creative Photography

This site is an access point for viewing the Center's fine print collection catalog. What you will find here are records and images of a portion of the Center's collection of over 100,000 art objects. This is a work in progress; our ultimate goal is to present a complete, searchable database for the entire fine print collection, with the caveat that images will not accompany every record, due to copyright restrictions.

The LIFE Picture Collection- Getty Images

The collection documents past cultural and political events, as well as the celebrities who helped shape our modern world – perfect for creating retrospectives and adding respected historical reference to your coverage.

International Center for Photography- Collections

ICP's permanent collection contains more than 200,000 prints and related materials that range from the earliest forms of photography to contemporary work. For all rights and reproductions inquiries, please contact

The New York Public Library- Photography Collection

The Photography Collection was created in 1980, when images culled from other NYPL departments and branches were brought together to form a new division that now comprises approximately 500,000 photographs by 6,000 photographers. The Photography Collection encompasses the broadest range of the medium, including images made for commercial, industrial, and scientific application as well as images for the press and other print media, the vernacular of amateur snapshot photography and original works intended for exhibition and/or the art market.