Images can be a valuable component of just about any research project or class assignment. Here are some issues to consider when searching for and using images.

General Considerations

Scope of Database

Does the database focus on a particular subject or discipline? Is the database focused on current or historical images? Are the images taken by professionals or amateurs? You will use different image sources for different types of images.

Image Quality

You may be looking for high-quality images for use in your multimedia design projects. Images found on the web tend to be low-resolution, for speed of loading and ease of sharing. For higher-quality images, try specialized databases such as ARTstor or copyright-flexible sites such as Flickr Creative Commons.

Copyright Issues

Do not assume that just because an image is available on the web, you’re permitted to use it in any way you wish. Creators of images (photographers, artists, illustrators, etc.) own copyright just as authors of books and articles do.

Some creators of images choose to make them available via what is known as a “Creative Commons License”. This means that the individual has chosen to release some of their rights as the copyright holder to you, the user. They may specify, for example, that you may use the image for non-profit purposes as long as you credit the source. For more on image use guidelines, see our Finding Images Research Guide.

Captions and Citation

While most citation styles do not give a rigid format for citing images, there are two parts to meaningfully crediting an image: a caption with the image itself, and an entry in your bibliography. For more on how to cite images, see our Citing Images Research Guide.

Subscription Databases via Kennedy Library

Art and Architecture

  • ARTstor: The current leader and most trustworthy source of high-quality art, architecture and museum-based images.

News and Current Events

  • AP Images: An archival collection of nearly 500,000 web-quality Associated Press photographs with descriptive captions. Historical photos are available from the mid-1800s.

Databases on the Open Web

Stock Photo and Image Manipulation

  • Flickr Creative Commons: A photo-sharing site where the content is entirely user-generated. On its Creative Commons page, Flickr conveniently provides sub-databases organized by different levels of copyright permissions.

Mixed Use

  • Google Image Search: Like Google’s web-search engine, this is the untamed “Wild West” of image databases. It’s easy to start with and you may find what you’re looking for, but you may also want to double-check the accuracy of the captions and copyright permissions (if any) provided.