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Images and Data Visualization

How to find, create, cite, and use in papers and presentations

Finding Images - Best Places to Look

Image Search Engines

Google Images is a quick and easy way to find lots of images from web pages across the globe. But it only searches web content that it can find -- many images are actually hidden in databases or archives (whether freely available or in Cal Poly's subscription databases). The quality of images - size, resolution, description, usage rights - also varies considerably on the open web. Use Google, but don't rely on it for all image searches. Explore this page for more high-quality options.


Image Sharing Sites

Be sure to follow license conditions and terms of use.

NOTE: To download images from Flickr, some require a Yahoo account sign up. To workaround this, follow the directions of this video: https://youtu.be/CSNlRvsn8FU

RIGHT CLICK on View all Sizes option and then Save Link As. 


Kennedy Library Image Databases


Digital Image Collections

The following are selected digital collections that provide access to a variety of images in the public domain and under copyright. Please check the terms of use and image rights statements for more information.

Data Visualization Resources

Image Workspace Tools

Citing Images - The Basics

Giving proper credit for images has two parts: a caption with the image itself, and an entry in your bibliography/ cited references list. Where the image appears, write a descriptive caption indicating the source of the image. Then create an entry in your bibliography.

While most citation styles do not give a rigid format for citing images, you can construct informative citations based on some or all of the following elements:

  • Artist's name (if known)
  • Title of the image (if known; if not, create a description & place in square brackets)
  • Institution where the photograph or original artwork is held (if applicable)
  • If taken from a book or journal: all the usual citation information – refer to the appropriate style guide
  • If taken from an online database: aatabase name, date of access, URL (if applicable)
  • If taken from the Internet: title of website (if it has no title, create a descriptive one and place in square brackets), date of access, URL

Concentrate on creating the best citation you can given the information you can locate. The intent is not to frustrate you with intricate rules, but to give you guidelines so that you can provide your reader with enough information that they can track down the original image if they so choose.

Copyright vs. Permissions vs. Creative Commons

The guidelines offered here should be taken as suggestions, not as legal statements.

Copyright and Fair Use

The re-use of images for educational purposes (not including print or electronic publication of any kind) is generally considered acceptable under the terms of fair use. If you wish to publish images online or in print, even if for educational purposes, you will first need to determine whether or not the image is protected by copyright, then find out how to get copyright clearance.

Password-controlled web sites with access limited to the Cal Poly community generally fall within the bounds of educational fair use.


Permissions and Licenses

You may also need to obtain permission to publish from the institution that owns the image in question, whether or not the image is in the public domain. This is particularly the case for images found in licensed databases, such as ARTstor. ARTstor has a very clearly-worded permissions statement, as do other licensed databases. In most cases, you will need to write to the institution that owns the physical image (that ARTstor, for instance, includes) and request permission to publish it. There is often a fee associated with acquiring permission to publish.

Example of a museum statement on rights, terms and permissions of image use for works in its collections:

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York

Example of an image licensing company:

Art Resource (manages licensing for major art museums and archival collections)


Creative Commons

Creative Commons "provides free tools that let authors, scientists, artists, and educators easily mark their creative work with the freedoms they want it to carry." You can use CC to change your copyright terms from "All Rights Reserved" to "Some Rights Reserved." 

ENGL 149: Data Visualizations