Sourcing and using images

Searching for free to use images has been made easier with the introduction of search tools and filters by search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing.

For example, once you have searched for an image in Google you'll see a new toolbar at the top of the screen - click on 'Search tools' and then 'Usage rights' and select 'Labeled for reuse'.

Gooogle search toolbar

The images displayed will have been marked for reuse, i.e. public domain or with a Creative Commons licence or similar. However, ensure that you check the provenance of any images prior to use and check also that any licence conditions work with your planned use of the image.


When you have found a suitable image, provide details of the source of the image together with a link to the appropriate licence. If the image is in the public domain, state this. Just as with text you are quoting, you should provide your readers with the opportunity to visit the original source of the image; even in the case of an image which states 'no attribution required', it's 'nice' and more professional to do so. There are examples below.

Check the CC licence each time for conditions of use. We are on version 4 now but earlier licences are in common existence and may have slightly different conditions. For example version 2 requires you to provide the title of the image if available, as I have done in images 1 and 3, and indicate if any changes have been made (image 3 has been cropped slightly).

Seeking permission to use a copyrighted image

If you come across an image which has no copyright information, you should assume that the owner has retained copyright in full. You will also see images marked as '© All rights reserved'.

If you cannot find a similar, free to use image and really must use the copyright protected image you have located, it is worth contacting the owner. Very often permission will be granted for use in educational resources. Give the owner as much information as possible regarding details and location of the image online, who you are and how you would like to use it, and ask what attribution should be included if permission is granted.

Searching by image

If you have downloaded an image previously but didn't note the copyright information, or if you've found an image online and want to check that you have located the original, try Google's 'search by image' facility.

You'll find this by clicking the camera icon in the search box from within the image search tab.

click on the camera icon in the search box
Google search by image dialog box

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If further assistance is required with accessibility matters please contact the student support section in your academic partner UHI: Accessing learner support.


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