Instant access to rare and historical collections from Los Angeles Public Library

Photo Collection Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What images are online?

All web images have been carefully selected to represent the history of the growth of Los Angeles and California as well as Southern California life. The photos include frequently requested subjects. Examples of what you will find include community names, people's names, and specific subjects such as major crimes, demonstrations, politics, and sports events. Additional images are added to the online collection monthly.

What images are NOT online?

A large percentage of the photos from the Herald Examiner collection have not been digitized, though many images in this collection originated from wire services and entertainment studios and are therefore the property of the originating source. Images relating to sports, industry, and transportation in the Security Pacific National Bank Collection are largely not digitized, along with most of the Ingersoll portrait collection.

How big is the Photo Collection and what is in it?

More than 116,000 images are available online. The Library continues to add images to the collection every month.

Can I browse the Photo Collection?

All library users can search the online database. The photo collection itself is not available for patron browsing

How can I view photos that are not online?

Patrons with specific needs beyond what is available in the online collection can discuss their project goals with a staff member to determine whether anything in the collection will complement the project. Visit the Ask a Question page and fill out the form or call the telephone number. A staff member will normally respond within 2 business days with more information.

How do I order images?

Use this [order form]. Print the form. Include the photo order number provided in each record. Include payment in advance with a check drawn on a United States bank or credit card. Mail, email, or fax the order to the address provided on the order form.

I have a tight deadline. What's the quickest way to get photographs sent to me?

Orders can be sent most promptly if the Library's order form is filled out carefully, the correct amount of money is sent, and the request is for digital images to be e-mailed to you. Extra services such as re-scanning or creation of prints will require additional time. The Photo Collection staff does not provide "rush services." Requests are filled in the order received.

How do I pay for my purchase?

Payment is made by a check drawn on a United States bank or credit card.

Can I order online?

No, although we hope to provide this option in the future. Payment by check or credit card information must accompany the order.

I'm working on a project and need to make an appointment to see photographs.

The Library requests that you first search the online database. Images that reflect frequent requests on Los Angeles history topics have been put online as an aid for researchers. Images include major landmarks, buildings, streets, communities, sports, personalities and events.

I want to hang large photographs on the wall of my business. How do I order my choices and what sizes are available?

Print and complete the Library's [order form], and include the specs you are looking for. If you are getting a digital image, The Library charges you for the "Higher Res Rescan" plus the current commercial usage fee for category "Commercial decor, per image, basic fee for one time use" per photograph. If you are getting a digital print from the library, the cost is a $30 set up fee plus 10 cents per Sq. In. of printing, plus the usage fee.

I'm ordering large prints or high-res digital images for framing. Will the photos be high quality resolution at this size? How can I be sure they won't be grainy?

The library cannot predict the quality outcome when images are printed at large sizes. Historical photographs vary in quality but because they are historic, enlarging them rarely takes away their charm and interest. Please note that some original images are very small so extreme enlargement may create a grainy effect.

I don't think I need to order a print for my project-I'll just frame the web image or use it for my book. I can just pick it off the Web and then send you the money for usage. Is that okay?

The quality of the images on the Web is not intended for reproduction, but for student use and others' use in evaluating the image for reproduction. The Library wants patrons to use the best quality images in their projects because they represent the archive and the quality of material the Library provides to the public. The only exception to this is for student usage in class assignments.

I want to talk to a real person!

Please [contact us]. A staff member will normally respond to your query within 2 business days.

I can't find what I am looking for in the online database. What information do I include in my e-mail or telephone message?

Please include the subjects or topics already checked in the Library's Photo Database. Any additional information such as date, location, subject, personalities involved, the name of the event or object will be helpful in searching. A photo collection staff member will normally respond within 2 business days.

Where does the Library get its photos?

See this page for an explanation of how the Library photo collection was developed.

Does the library accept photo donations?

We do accept donations for the collection, though are not in a position to purchase photos. We follow these parameters for accepting donations:

  • Images must fall within the scope of the LAPL Photo Collection and fill a need within our holdings.
  • For images created on film, original prints and/or negatives must be provided. Scans of images or digital prints are not accepted. At this time, the library does not accept born digital files.
  • Captions, or detailed descriptions must be provided.
  • Copyright must be transferred or shared with the understanding that LAPL makes images available for reproduction and commercial use. The donor will lay no claim to funds collected for reproductions and permissions.
  • No restrictions or stipulations are attached to the donation.

If these parameters are acceptable, samples for review along with an overview of the donation (number of prints, general subjects, dates, etc) can be emailed to so we can determine if they fit within our scope.

This site is a project of Los Angeles Public Library.