Skip to Main Content

Data Sources & Repositories

Issues to Consider

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. Try specialized image databases for higher-quality images.

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.

Even without a creative commons license, for students' purposes (course projects) you are generally permitted to use images under a law known as "fair use," meaning that you are using them for educational purposes. However, there are a few rules of thumb for legal and ethical use of images:

DO provide a caption for the image, and an entry in your bibliography — you must cite an image just as you would cite a book or journal article

DON'T use more than 5 images by any one artist/photographer, and not more than 10% or 15 images from any one published collective work

DON'T disseminate your work by placing it on the web, or by publishing it (earning a profit from it), without first approaching the creators of the images to obtain permission. You will need to be even more aware of this when you become a practicing professionals, because your work will no longer fall under "fair use" law.

Image Searching, Databases & Resources

Image Citation Examples (APA Format)

Here is an example of a caption and bibliography entry for an image retrieved from an online database (in this case, the Library of Congress American Memory Project)

Caption Example:
Figure 1. Golden Gate Park, San Francisco (1903-1906?). Source: American Memory from the Library of Congress (Image owner: Western History/Genealogy Department, Denver Public Library), photo by Joseph Collier.

Bibliographic Citation Example:
Collier. J. (Photographer). (1903-1906?). [Golden Gate Park, San Francisco], [Online Image]. Western History/Genealogy Department, Denver Public Library. Retrieved October 15, 2007 from The Library of Congress' American Memory website.

Further examples:

An image from a website

Caption Example:
Figure 2. Golden Gate Park Map, San Francisco (2001). Note: Copyright Lee W. Nelson, 2001-2007.

Bibliographic Citation Example:
Nelson, L. (Artist). (2001). Golden Gate Park Map, [Online Image]. Retrieved October 15, 2007 from Lee Nelson Internet Tours.

An image from a website (artist known, no title or date)

Caption Example:
Figure 3. Photograph of Golden Gate Park, San Francisco (n.d.). Note: Copyright Liam Quinn.

Bibliographic Citation Example:
Quinn, L. (Photographer). (n.d.) [Photograph of Golden Gate Park, San Francisco], [Online Image]. Retrieved October 15, 2007, from Liam Quinn’s Home Page.

An image from a website (artist and date unknown)

Caption Example:
Figure 4. The Conservatory of Flowers at Golden Gate Park, San Francisco (n.d.).     Source:

Bibliographic Citation Example:
Conservatory of Flowers – Golden Gate Park [Online Image]. (n.d.). Retrieved October 15, 2007, from

An image from a book – give the image a caption, & cite the book in which the image appears

Caption Example:
Figure 5. Golden Gate Park. Source: Harnik, p. 17 (2000).

Bibliographic Citation Example:
Harnik, P. (2000). Inside city parks. Washington, DC: Urban Land Institute.

An image from a journal article – give the image a caption, & cite the article in which the image appears

Caption Example:
Figure 6. Site plan of the De Young Museum, in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, showing formal gardens (scale approx 1:2500). Source: Gregory, p. 47 (2005).

Bibliographic Citation Example:
Gregory, R. (2005). Full metal jacket: the de Young Museum may appear tough and impenetrable, but in reality exploring its interiors is a delight; just like a wall in the park. The Architectural Review, 218(1304), 46-61.

Citing Images - The Basics

Giving proper credit for images has two parts: a caption with the image itself, and an entry in your bibliography. 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.