Finding and Using Online Images – Creative Commons

Windwärts Energie GmbH / Photographer: Mark Mühlhaus/attenzione

Windwärts Energie GmbH / Photographer: Mark Mühlhaus/attenzione

A picture is worth a thousand words. Especially when you only have 5 minutes to make a compelling presentation. Using an image to support your point can be an effective way to cut down on the text of your Powerpoint. So where can you find good quality images that are free to use?

Finding non-copyrighted images can be challenging since in the United States when you take a picture, you automatically get the copyright to that photo. We are used to searching Google for everything, but not every image on Google is under a Creative Commons (CC) license. For presentations and other non-commercial projects, you will want to find images with a Creative Commons (CC) license, which means you can use the image without seeking permission. For Coursera lectures, you’ll need to find Creative Commons images that are licensed for commercial use.

Windwärts Energie GmbH / Photographer: Mark Mühlhaus/attenzione

Below are a couple of suggestions for finding images that are under a Creative Commons license. For a more complete overview of open access images, see the Penn Libraries’ Finding Open Access Images Research Guide. Even though an image is under CC, you will still want to attribute the photo to its creator.

Flickr, the online photo management site, is a good place to find high quality images that are licensed under Creative Commons. Search within the Creative Commons filter for millions of CC licensed images. You can also view images in The Commons, which is a project to make available publicly-held photography collections.

Note that there are cases where users upload images to Flickr with a CC license even though they do not have the rights to the image. Before using any image, you will want to verify its origin. The Flickr examples here can be sourced back to the Windwarts website, where they provide a link to their Flickr album, and instructions on how to properly use their images. You can also use reverse-image searching, either with Google Images or Tin-Eye to find a picture’s original source website.

Google Images has an Advanced Search screen which allows you to filter by Usage Rights. Select one of the options like, “Free to use or share, even commercially.”

Embed from Getty Images

A very recent addition to the usable image landscape is Getty Images. Getty Images is one of the largest distributors of photographs and videos in the world. Users can now embed Getty Images on websites, blogs and social media channels (for non-commercial use) with the embed tool.

Look for the embed icon on any image. Then copy and paste the HTML code into your website, Twitter account, WordPress, etc.

Image from Library Journal

Image from Library Journal

Use the following search link to search within images that are ’embeddable.’ While this search will help filter the results, some images that cannot be embedded may make it into the results.

For more sources and explanations on finding open access images see the Penn Libraries’ guide on Finding Open Access Images.

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