How to Find, Use, and Cite Images Online

Even when you have permission to use an image, you should cite the original source, creator and/or copyright owner. Many websites will have a statement of usage or terms of use listed for their images – this is their guidelines for permission they give you to use their photos and they rules they want you to follow.

It is best practice to find credible images in collections that allow you to use their images; this means they have licenses that allow their use.

The library does have some image resources listed under Multimedia on the library homepage.  Keep in mind, that even with library image resources, you need to make sure you have permission to use the images and you always need to cite when you use anything from in the online library.

There are many Creative Commons cites that allow you to do this. Some examples of sites like this:

Many of you are probably used to using Google to search for images. One very important thing that you want to keep in mind when doing this is that Google Image Search is just a search, it is not the website that the image is on and it is not the original home of that image.  To find the actual source of that image, which is what you need to cite if you use it, you need to click on the image in Google Image Search and then click the “Visit Page” button on the right side of the image.

An example of a Google Image Search for panda bear images


Click the “Visit Page” button to see the original source of this image to find info you need to cite the image. (“National Geographic Kids Giant Panda Facts and Pictures”, 2015)

This is the original source for this image. I need to use this URL address as my retrieved from link in my citation. I also need to make sure this site gives permission to use this image.

(“National Geographic Kids Giant Panda Facts and Pictures”, 2015)

Once you get to the original website the image was found on, you want to look for source information for the image.  See if you can spot the information on the copyright owner or photographer (author), the date, the name of the website, the title for the image.  This is all information you need to cite the image.  You also want to make sure this site allows you to use this image. Look for some mention of terms of use on the webpage.

The example website I used, National Geographic Kids, calls this “terms of service.” Click on this to see their permission information if it is not listed with the actual image on the page. When I get to their Terms of Use page, there is a lot of information but eventually there is a section called “Limited Content License” that talks about using information, images, text, etc. from their website.

(“National Geographic Kids Terms of Use”, 2017)

(“National Geographic Kids Terms of Use”, 2017)

This can get a bit complicated, so you can see why it is often much easier to use one of the creative commons image sites that already gives you permission and information to cite is fairly easy to locate. Either way, always cite the original source, if you are able to find it.

How to cite images in your assignment and resources list:

On the library website, we link to citation style guides that will give you all of the information on how to cite many types of resources. Direct links are below.




Reference List:

National Geographic Kids Giant Panda Facts and Pictures. (2015, February 17). Retrieved July 20, 2017, from
National Geographic Kids Terms of Use. (2017, July 11). Retrieved July 20, 2017, from