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Finding Free-to-Use Images

Use this guide as a starting point for finding images you can use freely. There's also information here about citing images and understanding copyright.

Image Attribution Best Practices for Open Resources (give it a TASL!)

When using media for presentations, even if it is an openly licensed resource, we still need to give proper attribution to the creator. With Creative Commons licenses, attribution is actually a requirement of use.

A commonly accepted attribution format in the open community is the TASL acronym. It's a bit less specific than APA or MLA format, but every attribution should have the following components and answer each question in italics. Where possible, link to the original components and do include any additional information if it feels relevant or useful.

Title (T) - What is the name of the material?

Author (A) - Who owns the material?

Source (S) - Where can I find it?

License (L) - How can I use it?

This image of cupcakes on a green table is often used in attribution best practice examples.

Example of Best Practices for Attribution Using TASL:

"Creative Commons 10th Birthday Celebration San Francisco" by tvol is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Title? "Creative Commons 10th Birthday Celebration San Francisco"
Author? "tvol" - linked to his profile page
Source? "Creative Commons 10th Birthday Celebration San Francisco" - linked to original Flickr page
License? "CC BY 2.0" - linked to license deed

This example is from the Best Practices for Attribution page on the Creative Commons wiki. It's used with permission thanks to a CC BY 4.0 international license.


It is also possible to use the MLA or APA format to cite content and provide appropriate attribution. Just include the license after the correct MLA or APA citation, as shown in the examples below.

APA Style References Example (7th Edition) 

Vollmer, T. (2012, December 8). Creative Commons 10th Birthday Celebration San Francisco [Photograph]. Flickr. CC BY 2.0 license.

APA Style Attribution / In-Text Example (7th Edition) 

T. Vollmer, 2012 ( CC BY 2.0.

MLA Style Works Cited Example (8th Edition)

Vollmer, Timothy. "Creative Commons 10th Birthday Celebration San Francisco." Flickr, 8 Dec. 2012, CC BY 2.0 license.

Image Attribution for an Electronic Source in APA 7

Images, diagrams and artistic works should be cited as you would cite any other type of work.

                note-taking icon            NOTE:

  • Images in text are also generally accompanied by a caption that includes copyright information and a statement of permission for use. Please check with your instructor to see if this is necessary.

You should give as much information as possible about the images that you have used, including these basics:

  • creator's name (author, artist, photographer etc.)
  • date the work was published or created
  • title of the work
  • place of publication
  • publisher
  • type of material (for photographs, charts, online images)
  • website address and access date
  • name of the institution or museum where the work is located (for artworks and museum exhibits)
  • dimensions of the work (for artworks)


In-Text Citation (Paraphrase):

(Artist Surname, Year)

In-Text Citation (Quotation):

(Artist Surname, Year)


Artist Surname, First Initial. Second Initial. (Year). Title of the artwork [Format]. Title of the Website. URL (address of web site)

References (No Author):

Title of work [Type of work]. (Year image was created). Title of the Website. URL (address of web site)

References (No Author, No Title, No Date):

[Subject and type of work]. Title of the Website. URL (address of web site)

Many images found on the Web fall under this category. Try to locate the missing information by clicking on the image, and/or looking at the bottom of the image.


In-Text Citation (Paraphrase):

(Baumel, 2010)

In-Text Citation (Quotation):

(Baumel, 2010)

References (Basic):

Baumel, A. (2010). Cholera treatment center in Haiti [Online image]. Doctors Without Borders.

References (No Author):

Flu epidemic [Online image]. (1919). History.

References (No Author, No Title, No Date):

[Untitled illustration of a sleeping dog]. Sleeping Animals. http://www.sleepinganimals/

Source: The Himmelfarb Health Sciences Library

Citing Sources in MLA and APA

It's essential to give credit when you use the work of others. This gives credibility to your work, contributes positively to the academic community, and helps you avoid plagiarism. In academic writing and research, we usually use a specific set of standard guidelines such as those developed by the Modern Language Association (MLA), the American Psychological Association (APA), or the American Medical Association (AMA).

Visit the quick guides below to get started with citing sources:

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