Where do I find images for my projects?

Answered by Helena Tilley

The web has a vast array of resources we can use in our projects but it is important to understand that even if it is for a classroom purpose, we can’t just download and republish any image, video, or audio recording found online. 

This information below will give some guidelines and resources to find content that is able to be used.


Use Your Own Media

The best way to avoid any kind of copyright infringement concerns is to use media that you have created yourself. For many topics that isn’t possible so look for media that is in the public domain. If you can’t find a suitable image, video, or audio recording in the public domain then it’s time to look for media that has a Creative Commons license. Only after failing to find media that is either self-made, in the public domain, or Creative Commons licensed should you turn to making a Fair Use claim to use a copyrighted work.

Using pictures that you took, videos you recorded, or spoken words that you recorded is an almost foolproof way to avoid any copyright concerns.


What is Public Domain Media?

Public Domain media is comprised of pictures, videos, and audio that was either never covered by copyright, had the copyright expire, or was otherwise released into the public domain by the creator. Media created by an employee of a government agency as a part of that person’s job is an example of media that is immediately in the public domain. Detailed examples of how works get into the public domain can be found in Stanford University Libraries’ Copyright & Fair Use guide.


What is Creative Commons Media?

Creative Commons is voluntary licensing that artists, musicians, photographers, videographers, and writers can apply to their works. There are four conditions that can be applied to Creative Commons licenses so read the attribution requirements carefully before using a Creative Commons-licensed work. Read about the conditions of Creative Commons here on the Creative Commons website.


What is Fair Use?

Fair Use is a murky area when it comes to media use. Contrary to popular belief there are not hard and fast rules about how much of a work you can use without violating copyright. Even for academic use there are certain standards that must be met in order to make a legitimate Fair Use claim. Stanford University Libraries’ Copyright & Fair Use guide provides an excellent overview of the conditions that must be met for Fair Use.



Photos for Class

Photos for Class is a free site that helps students find Creative Commons licensed images. The images that they download from Photos for Class come with attribution information embedded into the footer of the image.



Unsplash offers a huge library of images that are in the public domain. Unsplash is makes it very clear that you don’t have to give attribution when you use the images, but they do encourage you to do so. Downloading images from Unsplash doesn’t require registration.  If you or your students are using Google Slides, the Unsplash add-on for Google Slides makes it easy to quickly take images from Unsplash and add them to your slides. 



For years Pixabay has been my go-to source of public domain images. You can search on Pixabay by using keywords or you can simply browse through the library of images. When you find an image you can download it in the size that suits your needs. Registered users do not have to enter a captcha code to download images. Users who do not register can download images, but they do have to enter a captcha code before downloading each picture. There is a safe search mode in Pixabay that you should use in classroom settings.



Pexels is much like the aforementioned Pixabay and Unsplash. On Pexels you can search for pictures according to keyword then download any of the pictures with just one click. Registration is not required in order to download images of any size. 



PikWizard is a free site that offers thousands of high quality images that you can download and re-use for free. PikWizard provides clear guidance on how you can use each picture that you find on the site. You will find that guidance posted to the right of any picture that you select from search results. PikWizard also provides clear directions on how to give credit to the photographers whose pictures you use.



Stockio is a website that offers free images to download and re-use in your own projects. According to the notices that accompany each file on Stockio, attribution is not required but is appreciated. To download an image, an icon, or a font set from Stockio you do not have to register on the site. Simply browse or search then hit the download button when you find something that you like. 


Wikipedia and the Wikimedia Commons

Wikipedia and the Wikimedia Commons can be good places to find images that are in the public domain as well as images that have Creative Common licenses. I haven’t found a great way to search for images on Wikipedia and Wikimedia so I just enter a search for a topic, person, or place and then scroll through the page to look for an image. It’s not the most efficient process, but it works for me. Just make sure that you check the licensing statement on the image before you re-use it.