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Images--How to Find, Use and Cite

Using Images in Student Portfolios

Adding images to a portfolio can accomplish two purposes:

  • contribute to the content by illustrating a theme or concept
  • add to the aesthetics

Images can be copyright free or copyright protected.   If the image is copyright protected, steps must be taken to ensure that the use is permissible in an educational setting.

Click here for answers to questions such as:  Can I use images from the Internet?  Can I use Google Images?

Posting Portfolios on a Publically Accessible Website

Once a student graduates they may wish to use these portfolios in a job search or post on an open website.  When making works that contain copyright protected material (including images)  publicly accessible, it is vital to ensure that the use of images is permissible on an open website!

Fair Dealing: When using images under the Fair Dealing exception it is more likely to be considered fair if the work is distributed only to students in the class or on a password protected site.  If copying is for wide or external distribution, permission from the copyright holder would likely be required. 

Library Subscription Databases:

If using images from Library subscription databases, these cannot be posted on the open web.


Mash-Ups and Student Portfolios

The 'Mash-up' or Non-commercial User-Generated Content exception in the Copyright Act allows users to incorporate existing copyrighted material in the creation of new works.  Images, tables, videos, music, text, etc can all be used in the creation of a new work and the new work can be in any form including video, slides or documents. The derivative work must be transformative.

Use of student portfolios could fall under the Mash-Up exception if the following conditions apply:

  • the intended use is non-commercial
  • the original source of the copyright-protected material is mentioned
  • the original copyright-protected work was acquired legally
  • the intended use of the portfolio would NOT have a "substantial adverse effect" on the market for the original work

Copyright FAQs for Students

Best Practices for Using Images

  • Create your own images
  • Use images that are copyright free
  • Use copyright protected images where the use falls under the Fair Dealing exception in the Copyright Act
  • When using images from the internet check the terms and conditions
  • Ensure all images used are lawful images ie. did the person who posted the image have the right to post?
  • Ask for permission from the copyright holder if unsure whether your proposed use is permissible
  • Use images that contribute to the content of the work and reinforce the information
  • Cite/Attribute each image

How To Find Images

Sources of Images:

  • Personal Original Images
  • Images held under a Creative Commons Licence
  • Public Domain Images
  • Images available on the Internet
  • Images available under a licence or subscription

To find images we suggest you carry out your search in the following order:

  1. Search for images through  a Creative Commons search
  2. Search for images in the Public Domain
  3. Search the Internet
  4. Search Licenced Databases

Click here to go to the Tab How/Where Can I Find Images

Citing/Attributing Your Images

If including the full reference directly under the image is not appropriate for the project, it is possible to include a short attribution under the image with a full citation or attribution statement in a reference page at the end of the work..

For the purposes of a portfolio, include a short attribution under or as close to the image as possible,  in conjunction with a full citation in the Reference List.


Creator or Title (whichever will lead you to the Reference item); Date; Retrieval Statement

For examples of citations from the UBC Citation Guide, click here.

Some helpful examples from SFU's citation guide.

For more information on citing refer to the 'How Do I Cite"  tab.