Digital Society
Published in

Digital Society

Advice: images

Finding and using them appropriately

[Image: beetle] 415H . free license

If you have had any feedback so far, you may have received comments about sourcing and attributing images correctly.

Or, you may not have used images yet, in which case you should ensure you can do it correctly.

This post is to help you develop your skills and awareness in this valuable area.

Why is it important?

Understanding issues of intellectual property will be useful in this unit, likely other areas of your studies, your career, and life. This relates to referencing, screenshots and images. It is directly relevant to learning outcome 4, and indirectly relevant to all learning outcomes. If you’re interested in a career involving communication e.g. journalism, marketing, PR, social media, technology, science communication, writing, and many, many more, this skill will be very handy. Many people learn this on the job, but having an awareness before you graduate can be a big advantage.

Learning outcome 4: Find, evaluate and share information online, understand issues of intellectual property and apply learning to other aspects of academic, personal and professional life.

How does this relate to assessment?

[Image: Plane Gauge 01] Assessment. licence

Because this is relevant to the learning outcomes of the course unit, you will be assessed on it.

You may have feedback on this through digisoc1 or digisoc2 to help you develop.

Engaging with feedback on this, and ensuring in any case that you have this skill, will help you to get it right in digisoc3.

digisoc2 // Marking criterion 2:

Understand challenges/opportunities in a ‘digital society’, apply this to an organisation or sector, present with awareness of intellectual property issues.

digisoc3 // Marking criterion 2:

Use the internet and social media to develop your communication skills, share information and develop your online profile, with a relevant understanding of issues of intellectual property.

You can show your understanding of intellectual property issues through good use of images and embedded media. Images are essential to the PechaKucha style blog post (digisoc2), and we strongly advise that you use images in your longer written post (digisoc3).

Bottom line: Without using images it will be much more difficult to show your understanding of these issues. Using images well will help you to get a higher rating on the relevant marking criteria.

How about some real examples?

Have a look at these digisoc1 posts by Hannah and Ophélie. The first image in each is an example of good image use and attribution. Note that both used a different format for their attribution but that doesn’t matter; what is important is that the right information is there.

See further down this page for a guide to what to include, to make sure you get it right. Thanks Hannah and Ophélie for letting us link to your work.

How do I find images for use online?

When most people want an image of something, they do this:

  1. go to a search engine
  2. perform a search
  3. choose an image
  4. use it

This is likely OK in a lot of cases (e.g. private educational use), but on this unit, we are learning about communicating online. When you publish something, e.g. on Medium, there are more rules to follow: you need to make sure you have permission to use images. It’s not difficult — it just requires a change in behaviour. Here’s how to make sure you have permission for the images you use:

  1. go to a search engine that allows you to filter free-to-use images
  2. perform a search adding a free-to-use filter
  3. choose an image
  4. use it with attribution

Most mainstream search engines allow you to filter for images which you are allowed to use, and there are some extra sites specifically for finding free-to-use images. The next sections have examples of how to do this.


When you are writing a blog post in Medium you can use Unsplash to add in a free image which will be correctly attributed.

  • In your medium post tap enter to write on a new line.
  • Move your mouse over the plus sign on the left and select “Add an image from Unsplash” option.
  • Search for an image that is relevant to the topic of your writing.
  • Select the image and it will insert it into your post with the correct attribution.
Photo by Evie Shaffer on Unsplash

Finding free-to-use images using Google/Bing

One way to find free-to-use images is to use the Usage rights filter in Google images. Perform a search, then click Tools > Usage rights > Labelled for reuse. This will limit your search to images you can reuse. You will still need to attribute the images when you use them (see the section later in this post).

[Animation: use the Usage rights filter in Google Image search] Image used with permission for instructional purposes.

If you use Bing Images, you can similarly click Filter > License.

Finding free-to-use images using dedicated sites

Many websites exist to provide or help you find free-to-use images. Learning about these, and finding ones you like, can strengthen your ability to write and publish online. There are a few different types of site.

Stock photo sites

Some stock photo sites offer both paid and free images. For example or Pexels (which we use for a lot of the images on this course) has a good selection of free-to-use images, but also makes money by selling images through IStock/Getty Images. If you use sites like this, make sure that you are not using paid images (unless you pay for them, of course) as if they are free, or you will likely get in trouble (e.g. you may be fined).

Open image repositories

Some sites are developed to provide free-to-use images without making money. For example, Wikimedia Commons is part of the same foundation which runs Wikipedia. People can contribute images to this project which are then searchable by usage rights. Most images used on Wikipedia are stored on Wikimedia Commons, but there are lots more image sites you can explore.

Photo sharing sites

Some sites such as Flickr allow users to specify a licence on their images. You can search Flickr for images which you are free to use, and a lot of quality photographers use Flickr.

Specialist search engines

There are some search engines aimed at searching images which are free to use. While Google and Bing now support this, you may find different results in different places. For example Creative Commons search allows you to search a lot of different sites falling into some of the above categories.

A list of some of these sites…

You can find links to sites in all of the above categories on our dedicated page:

There are also some great animated examples (like ours above) here:

Remember: finding a free-to-use image is important, but you should attribute it too. Read on for how to do this.

Attributing images: what you need to include

This is the part that scares a lot of people, but it is not that hard once you learn how to do it. Again, it is a behaviour/habit, and a very useful one.

Attributing images. Don’t be afraid. [Fear by madamepsychosis, CC BY NC-ND 2.0]

It’s not scary

You may have seen image attributions and felt it was yet another specific form of referencing to learn. Good news: it’s not! There is no official format for attributing images. All you need to do is include the right information:

  1. The author (or website if there is none specified)
  2. The licence (or terms giving you permission)
  3. A link to the source (e.g. the image or an information page for the image)

It is good practice to include the title too, if one exists.

To apply a link to text, in the caption for your image just select the title of the image, click the link icon (or press Ctrl/⌘+K) and paste the link into the box and press Enter. This looks tidier and doesn’t add to your word count

The image here has a caption with all these things. Let’s break it down:

Annotated example of our attribution for the ‘Fear’ image above (click to enlarge). Text-only version of this image. [Image: author’s own]

Now that you know what you need to include, let’s look at how to find it.

Attributing images: finding the right information

We found the example ‘fear’ image using Flickr — a photo-sharing platform which allows you to search images which are free to use. When you find an image, all the information you need is on the page.

In the diagram, you can see the link to the image’s Flickr page and title of the image highlighted in yellow, and the author is highlighted in green.

The licence information on Flickr is highlighted in purple. Click on this to see the full licence. Read the summary to see how you are allowed to use the image, and include the licence name in the attribution (the short form on the right is OK).

Annotated example of the information required for to attribute the ‘Fear’ image above (click to enlarge). Text-only version. [Image: author’s own; elements of Chrome browser, Creative Commons website, Flickr and the user’s profile image used for illustration and instructional purposes]

As you can see, once you know what to look for, you can quite easily find all the information you need to appropriately attribute an image. Make sure you include this information in any blog post or presentation in which you use images. It is common to attribute images via a small caption below the image. However, some people include attribution in the slide notes, on a final slide, or in the final slide notes. It’s up to you, as long as it’s there.

What about my images/friends’ images?

You don’t have to find your images online, and they don’t have to have a licence. Really, all a licence does is give you permission to use the image without asking, with certain conditions. If your friend gives you permission to use an image, there’s no need for it to have a licence. Just ask them, and if they say OK, say that. E.g. “Image by Dave Hirst, used with permission”. If the image is yours, say something like “Image: Author’s own”. You might choose to take a photo specifically to illustrate your post!

What about non-Creative Commons licences?

Creative Commons are a common type of licence for creative works including images. However, they are not the only one. Some sites have their own licenses, e.g. Just mention this, e.g. “ licence”. Another common one is ‘Public Domain’ which refers to images which may be very old, or for other reasons, free for anyone to use.

Try it yourself

The best way to develop this skill is to practise. There are lots of opportunities for this such as Topic comments, the Contribute activities and your assessed coursework. You can also publish on Medium outside of these areas, to share your ideas, or just to try out different things. You will automatically get feedback on your use of images in digisoc2, and we are happy to give feedback on any other areas if you ask. We expect you to be able to do this by the time you submit digisoc3.

Duncan Hull, We may hope that machines compete with men in all purely intellectual fields — Alan Turing, (CC BY 2.0)

Here is a final example which might be familiar. We found this image on Flickr showing a quote in the Alan Gilbert Learning Commons building (also known as the Ali G).

See if you can find the image yourself on Flickr, if you can’t, you can click the link in the caption (see how useful it is?)

All that you need in order to attribute this image is the author, link and licence. We have also included the title of the image.

So from the link we can find that the author is Duncan Hull, the title is We may hope that machines compete with men in all purely intellectual fields — Alan Turing and the licence is CC BY 2.0.

So whichever images you find to use in your work, ensure you have permission to use them and you attribute them properly.

Please email with any questions or problems.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store