There are thousands of ideas and topics that you can use to create photo picture books. From fall foliage to sandy beach dunes, road trips and old farm equipment. Children's illustrations and stories also fall under the picture book realm. There are a couple of areas of caution that you should be aware of and these center around rights and trademarks. I am not a lawyer but have worked on a lot of productions and broadcasts. It is always best to check with a Intellectual Property or rights attorney if you have questions.
People's rights need to be respected and you need to have a release if you can identify the person. People off in the distance walking around is probably fine. You can't get releases of everyone in a beach picture. I wouldn't worry to much about people walking away and all you see are their backs. But if you can identify them or they are the focus of your photo then you need to have a release. This is called an Appearance or People Release.
Kids, Kids always need a Parent or Guardian Release, no questions. Many kids also have security concerns with custody issues. Again, some walking away down the street is probably ok but if you can see the kid you need to get permission before taking a picture.
Property Release. This is a tricky one. Many buildings are under trademark or copyright with their owners or architects. My understanding is skylines and cityscapes and streets are fine. There is a collection of buildings but individual buildings, some government buildings, buildings on the historical register, collections of museum and recreated villages like Old Sturbridge Village or Greenfield Village are under trademarks. You just have to check with the owners or on their websites. If you are doing a travel picture book and wanted to show the outside of Mystic Seaport as one of 25 places you are showing to go in Mystic CT you are probably fine. But if you start walking around taking pictures without permission you might have an issue. This is called a Property Release. Common sense plays a lot here and I would stay away from any property owned by a big corporation like Disney or Universal. Get permission.
Materials, Photos, Jewelry:
Materials Release, these are all the things that get photographed in the shot. The rooms and offices are covered by Property Releases but the box of photos, the paintings on the walls, the box of jewelry, all that stuff. If it is owned by someone and you are taking pictures of it then you need a Material Release.
Trademarks and Logos:
Trademarks and Logos. This can get people into a lot of trouble. the Nike logo on the person's t-shirt in the shot is under the license of Nike Corporation. You don't have rights for it. That is why you see them blurred out on TV. The Budweiser logo on the back of the bar wall, the Mustang logo on the close up of the car.
Personally, I find this a grey area. If you are doing a book of old gas stations across the west you are going to get Texaco logos. If you are doing Boston's Back Bay you will end up showing the famous Citgo sign. On a t-shirt, yes that is an issue, in a city scape I think not so much, it might fall under editorial but you might check. Doing a history of Texaco signs then probably yes.
This may sound like a pain in the neck and a lot of work to chase down. Sometimes you just have to shift your camera a little to the left or right or crop a little and the issue goes away. Or, just do a book on something else. As I said above there are endless topics.
Also, we are not talking about creating stock images that are going to be resold. We are talking about art and editorial usage. It is a little looser. Stock imagery has a lot of rules on photos that will be resold. Books are a little looser, but you need to be aware.
So, the important message here is to check if you are venturing into an area that has people, buildings and trademarks. Everywhere is different, usually you just have to ask and always carry your releases (yes it gets awkward but easier after a while).
If you are interested in learning more about creating your own photo picture book check out my Publishing Mastery Academy
Here are some of the other things protected with trademark rules saying that you can't take a picture of them. Intellectual Property Wiki, with Getty Images
If you want to see a good example of the rules and requirements for taking pictures at a museum site take a look at the Photography at Mystic Seaport page on their website. Mystic Seaport is a recreation of a 19th century ship building community and museum.
A good phrase to search on is "Photography Usage and Permissions for XYZ" on their website or on Google.
Stock image from Pixabay.com 15968