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Images--How to Find, Use and Cite

Where Can I Find Images That Can Be Used Without Permission?

Some websites allow you to search specifically for images that have been licensed for reuse or that are in the public domain. There are some excellent resources for finding these types of images, including:

  • Pixabay is copyright free, no attribution required for most images
  • Wikimedia Commons  is a media file repository making available public domain and freely-licensed educational media content (images, sound and video clips) to everyone. Unlike traditional media repositories, Wikimedia Commons is free. Everyone is allowed to copy, use and modify any files here freely as long as they follow the terms specified by the author; this often means crediting the source and author(s) appropriately and releasing copies/improvements under the same freedom to others. The license conditions of each individual media file can be found on their description page. To find any specific instructions for reusing or attributing images, check the "licensing" section on the image page.
  • Creative Commons Search: this creative Commons site offers convenient access to search services provided by other independent organizations, including Google Images, Fotopedia, Europeana, etc. Click on the service you want. eg. Fotopedia-before entering your search terms.  Important:  Do not assume that the results displayed in this search portal are under a CC license. You should always verify that the work is actually under a CC license by following the link.  For more details on permitted uses see About Creative Commons.


  • Flickr Commons A joint venture of Flickr and the Library of Congress. Contains collections from a variety of libraries, archives and museums including the Library of Congress, NASA, the Getty Research Institute, the Museum of Photographic Arts, the Biodiversity Heritage Library, the Smithsonian, the New York Public Library, the Royal Library of Denmark and many more. .

    • Many Flickr users have chosen to offer their work under a Creative Commons license, and you can browse or search through content under each type of license. Search and use hundreds of images with little or no copyright restrictions.  To review the explicit rights statement for any image, please click on the relevant link under "participating institutions" or on the "no known copyright restrictions" link associated with the image in the Commons.  

    • One way to search for openly licensed images is to run a Creative Commons search on Flickr. To do this, type your search terms into the search box located in the upper right corner of the page. Click the magnifying glass icon to search. Then, click the “Advanced Search” button that appears beneath the search box.

      This will take you to the Advanced Search page. Scroll down to find the Creative Commons section. Check the boxes to select from several search options, including content that can be used commercially, content that can be modified or adapted, or both. Click “Search” to run your Creative Commons Flickr search.

Wikipedia Commons

  • Freely usable media files (images, audio, video). Check the image summary for details on permitted use.

Can I Find Images Using Search Engines?

Image Search Engines

  • Google Image Search: Google's huge database will help you find pretty much any image on any topic that you can think of.   Google>>Images>>Advanced Image Search and enter the topic you are looking for.

          Copyright Statement: “The images identified by the Google Image Search service may be protected by copyrights. Although you can locate  and access the images through our service, we cannot grant you any rights to use them for any purpose other than viewing them on the web. Accordingly, if you would like to use any images you have found through our service, we advise you to contact the site owner to obtain the requisite permissions.”

            If you use Google Image Search to look for Creative Commons licensed photographs, filter by Creative Commons  license:  from the “Search Tools” menu on the search results page,  choose 'Usage rights' , and select one of the  'filtered for.......'. choices from the drop down menu.   Even with this it is still recommended to double check the original site as there have been reports of inaccurate labeling.

  • Yahoo Image Search:   Use the Licence drop down arrow to limit to images that are in the Public Domain; free to share and use; free to share and use commercially; free to modify, share and use and free to modify, share and use commercially


Which Library Subscription Databases are Good Sources of Images?

ARTstor: KPU has a subscription to ARTstor which provides access to over a million high-resolution digital images from the areas of architecture, painting, sculpture, photography, decorative arts and design as well as presentation creation tools for teaching.   Available from the Research Databases link on the Library website,

Permitted uses for ARTstor images include: classroom handouts, presentations, research and student assignments, password protected course websites and display in seminars and lectures. For a detailed list of permitted and non-permitted uses, see

Oxford Art Online: A virtual art reference library, with biographies, subject entries and images, on all aspects of visual arts. (also called Grove Art Online) Primal Pictures Online anatomy reference featuring more than 6,500 highly accurate 3-D anatomy models. Modules focus on individual organs, regions and systems.

Note: Images from subscription databases should not be posted on a public website.

What Sites Provide Good Sources of Images?

The following resources are a good place to start when looking for images to use in presentation slides, portfolio material, course website or teaching materials:.

Check the terms of use for each resource, as some have restrictions (e.g. non-commercial, attribution) or terms may change without notice. Where use is permitted you should always include a statement of attribution (source of image, photographer, owner of work as appropriate) with the image.

Art Images for College Teaching (AICT)  Images of art and architectural works that you can browse by time period and/or geographic location. Licensed for non-commercial, educational use - see details on the permissions page.

The Artefacts Canada database contains close to 4 million object records and approximately 800,000 images from Canadian museums. Includes a Humanities and a Natural Sciences database.

Bigfoto is a royalty-free photo agency that offers free downloads of pictures in a massive collection.

Chronicling America  is a website providing access to information about historic U.S. newspapers and select digitized newspaper pages, and is produced by the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP). NDNP, a partnership between the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the Library of Congress (LC), is a long-term effort to develop an Internet-based, searchable database of U.S. newspapers with descriptive information and select digitization of historic pages.

Compfight  An image search engine tailored to efficiently locate images for blogs, comps, inspiration, and research. They use a Flickr™ API, but aren't affiliated with Flickr. When you run a search, click Creative Commons from the left-side menu.

EOL Encyclopedia of Life  Includes over 1 million images. Focus is on the biological sciences. Each image carries its own terms of use and attribution details.

Earth Science World Image Bank  Geoscience images from the American Geosciences Institute, which can be used for educational non-commercial purposes. Citation requirements are provided on the Image Use section of the site.

Free Images UK is an archive of stock photography for use in websites, printed materials and products. Images are provided free of charge for both commercial and personal use under an attribution license.   All images in the collection are free to use on websites, printed materials and anywhere you need photos for illustration and design use. Check Terms of image.

Google's Art Project is a collaboration between Google and 151 acclaimed art partners from across 40 countries.  Allows users to explore museums from around the world online, discover and view hundreds of artworks at brushstroke levels, and create and share their own collections. Over 30,000 works of art from sculpture to architecture and drawings presented in high resolution imagery. Artworks featured on the art project site are owned by the museums, and these images may be subject to copyright laws around the world.  The Art Project encourages classroom use, but states that users may not print the images, except for the educational materials provided.

IAN Image and Video Library  Particularly good for science topics. Includes custom made vector symbols designed specifically for enhancing science topics. Cost-free for any use, with attribution, except redistribution or sales.

The Image Gallery of the Virtual Museum of Canada showcases thousands of artefacts, photos, paintings and objects from Canadian museums. Amongst others, it contains the works of the Group of Seven, Marc-Aurèle Fortin, Emily Carr and many other great artists. The terms of use allow non-commercial, educational and personal use of the images granted you cite the Virtual Museum of Canada as the source institution and if possible, link to the page containing the information.

Images Canada  Search the collections of participating archives, libraries, museums and universities from across Canada. Host sites allow for images to be used for non-commercial purposes. Citation requirements are stated on the Images Canada site.

Imaggeo is an online open access geosciences image repository of the European Geosciences Union. Images posted here have a personalised Copyright under the Creative Commons Attribution - NonCommercial - ShareAlike Licence. Cite as follows: Image by: Author, distributed by EGU under a Creative Commons licence.

Luna Commons is a repository of images freely available to anyone over the Web.

morgueFile Free Photo Archive  Stock photos that require no fees and no attribution. See permissions details on the morgueFile license page.

National Gallery of Art Images  Over 25,000 open access digital images from the US National Gallery of Art, with many famus works included. NGA's Open Access Policy encourages wide use and provides details on permissions.

Pics4Learning  Copyright-friendly image library for teachers and students. For details see P4L's image use policy.

US Fish and Wildlife Service National Digital Library  Most of the images in this searchable database are in the public domain; those that are not specify permitted uses and attribution.

World Digital Library (created by UNESCO) makes available on the Internet, free of charge and in multilingual format, significant primary materials from countries and cultures around the world. The WDL aims to promote international and intercultural understanding; expand the volume and variety of cultural content on the Internet; provide resources for educators, scholars, and general audiences; and build capacity in partner institutions to narrow the digital divide between countries.