Robert E. Kennedy Library, 216H
Cal Poly San Luis Obispo
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.
Creative Commons is a nonprofit organization that develops, supports, and stewards legal and technical infrastructure that maximizes digital creativity, sharing, and innovation. You can also find CC searches in Google Images (under the gear icon in Advanced Search) and other sites like Flickr
Flickr is a public photo-sharing site with billions of images. It is a rich resource to find images for your research (news events, places, people, etc.). Flickr users can opt to share their images with others under creative commons licenses (alternative to copyright).
ARTstor is a searchable database of digital images and associated catalog data, including locally-added Cal Poly images visible through the addition of the Shared Shelf Institutional Collections feature. ARTstor and Shared Shelf accommodate images from all time periods, cultures, and disciplines.
Statista is a statistics portal which provides direct access to quantitative data on media, business, finance, politics, and a wide variety of other areas of interest or markets. The database features unlimited downloads, source citations and direct use or export of results in PowerPoint, Excel PDF and Graphic (PNG) formats.
Users may need to disable ad blocking software on this site if search results links don't work.
WorldImages Kiosk is a searchable image database created by faculty, staff and students in the CSU system. It contains images from a wide variety of fields, is global in coverage and includes all areas of visual imagery. Images are licensed for non-profit educational use with attribution (CC BY-NC 2.5).
Digital Image Collections
The Campus Art Catalog serves as an online database of Cal Poly’s university art collection and contains searchable data for selections of the artwork. Development of the catalog is ongoing with new records being added often.
The University of California's free public gateway to a world of primary sources. More than 200,000 digitized items — including photographs, documents, newspaper pages, political cartoons, works of art, diaries, transcribed oral histories, advertising, and other unique cultural artifacts — reveal the diverse history and culture of California and its role in national and world history.
From the University of Washington Libraries, The Cities and Buildings Database is a collection of digitized images of buildings and cities drawn from across time and throughout the world, available to students, researchers and educators on the web.
This repository of digital images documenting the National Gallery of Art collections allows users to search, browse, share, and download images believed to be in the public domain. More than 20,000 open access digital images up to 3000 pixels each are available free of charge for download and use.
Provides free and open access to over 800,000 images digitized from the The New York Public Library's vast collections, including illuminated manuscripts, historical maps, vintage posters, rare prints, photographs and more.
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.
To create a citation for a table, chart, or image within the list of references, list the reference number and cite according to the format for the type of source where you found the image (e.g., image found in a journal would be cited in the journal article format).
In-text citation example:
The evolution of Harvard's RoboBee project is seen in [2, Fig. 1].
 B. M. Finio and R. J. Wood, "Open-loop roll, pitch and yaw torques for a robotic bee," 2012 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, Vilamoura, 2012, pp. 113-119. doi: 10/1109IROS.2012.6385519
Note: if you create your own figure or table, you will refer to it in the main body of the paper. You will not have a reference.
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.
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:
Art Resource (manages licensing for major art museums and archival collections)
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."