Sunday, November 18, 2012

Finding free images in a Google Image search

by Alan Regan

Google Images: Finding Photos You Can Freely Use

There are millions of photos and graphics available on the web. Some of these images we can use freely in our presentations or materials, others we can't because they are covered by copyright restrictions. How do we find the images we can freely use?

One way is by using the advanced features in Google Image search.


  1. Visit and click Images in the top menu. (You may also visit
  2. Enter your search term, e.g. "desert."
  3. On the listings page, click the gear icon (Options) at the top right.
  4. Select Advanced Search.
  5. Scroll down to the "Usage rights" option.
  6. Select "Free to use or share" or "Free to use or share, even commercially," depending on your needs.
  7. Click Advanced Search.
  8. The results will be filtered by images listed under Creative Commons licenses.

Other Sources:


Of course, you still need to do your homework. Don't assume each image is automatically free to use. Visit the site and view the page for information on the Creative Commons license used and/or any other notice the copyright owner may have added to the page.

Just as we cite sources in our academic writing, we must also cite our use of images. Be sure to place a "Photo By" credit near the image and place the full citation on your works cited page or slide. Although MLA doesn't seem to require it, I always like to place the web address (URL) in the citation.

Finally, many of these images, especially from Google searches, will come from third-party websites.  Use normal caution when browsing unknown websites. Be sure your anti-virus software is enabled and up-to-date. Also, read the pages carefully. Some advertisements are deceptive and you may accidentally click on an ad rather than the view or download button for a photo. When in doubt, close the window or cancel the download.

I hope this information helps you find images you can freely use in instruction or speaking events!