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Using images: Home

You may want to use images in your assignments, dissertations and theses. This guide will show you  what you need to consider when using other people’s images, and where to search for online images.              
                                                                                                                                                                                    Image credits: FreeImages.com/Carlos Paes/Mira Pavlakovic/Miguel Ramos/Jean Scheijen/Thomas Mavrofides

Google images

It can be tempting to use Google Images to find images for your research and assignments, due to it's vast subject coverage and ease of use.   

However, just because something appears in the search results does not mean you have permission to include these images in your work. In almost every case, you will need to check the copyright license.

Using images legally

If you have found an image you want to use, whether it's from a website, a print publication or an online database the University subscribes to, you will need to check the copyright license attached to that particular image to determine whether you can re-use the image, and in what context. 

In the UK, all images have copyright attributed to them as soon as they are created, regardless of format. Just because something is available online, does not mean it has no copyright restrictions and can be freely used by others.  The creators decide what they will or will not allow others to do with their images.

Copyright restrictions may vary image to image, and will depend on how you want to use them. For example, some images may allow only non-commercial or personal research use, while others will allow commercial use and/or manipulation.

If you are unclear whether the copyright license allows re-use, you should ask the creator of the image, use your own images or find images from a copyright free source such as Pixabay.

Copyright is a complex subject. Further information on copyright in general can be found in the Copyright LibGuides:

The Creative Commons license system has been created so that people can easily see the copyright permissions available on particular online images, without having to ask creators for permission to use the image. Details on the different types of CC licenses can be found on the Creative Commons website here.

Be aware that not all images have CC licenses attached to them and normal copyright restrictions are likely to apply.

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Where to find images

The University of Exeter subscribes to a number of quality art image databases, some of which are listed below.

For the full list of databases that include images use the LibGuides A to Z database list and refine your database type to Images

A wide range of images can be found in our Primary Source databases, especially because, in most cases, the source materials have been digitally photographed.

Click here to search for images. You can refine your search by format, theme and more.

Most of the websites below cover multiple subjects and contain many thousands of images. However, it's important to remember that although something may be copyright free, you may still have to pay for the right to use an image. Always check the image licence!

  • Creative Commons Image Search 
    A quick way to search a number of image databases. Images will have different CC licences attached.
  • Flickr CC  
    One of the biggest and most popular free image websites. Photos with Creative Commons licences attached can easily be searched for.
  • iStockPhoto  
    An international collection of professionally shot royalty-free images. Images must be purchased.
  • Pixabay  
    High quality photos, illustrations, and vector graphics. Free for non-commercial and commercial use. CC0 licence. No attribution required.
  • Unsplash  
    Contemporary collection of photos, all of which can be used for free, for both commercial and noncommercial purposes.
  • Wikimedia Commons  
    A huge multi-media repository of images, video clips and sound recordings, all of which can be shared and reused.

This guide from Harvard will help you find and correctly attribute public domain and Creative Commons media for your project or presentation:  Finding Public Domain & Creative Commons Media  

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