Do you ever find yourself wanting to use an image in your learning materials, but feel unsure about whether you can use it legally? It may be tempting to simply do a Google image search, find something you like, and use it. But this can run the risk of copyright infringement. When searching online for images to re-use, it is good practise to assume that you don’t have the automatic right to use them – instead, we suggest you try the following, to see if you can:

  1. Check for signs of ownership – these are usually quite obvious visual indications:
    • A caption that states who owns the image / where it came from, along with any licensing information
    • Copyright symbol ©
    • Watermarks in the image itself
  2. Check the source – copy and paste the image URL (web address) in to Google Image search, to see if the image appears elsewhere. If it does, there may already be ambiguity as to who owns it. Be mindful of the fact that even if a Google image search indicates that an image appears to be free to use, this isn’t necessarily the case – images can be re-used improperly, or be tagged with incorrect meta-data.
  3. Ask! If it is clear who owns an image that you want to use, but you aren’t sure whether it is OK for you to use it, look for the contact details of the person / organisation in question, and ask them directly.

Image sources:

If the above is too daunting (or plain unnecessary) the following are great sources of images that are either in the public domain, or free to use with correct attribution:

  • – searches 20 stock image agencies for free-to-use images.
  • – has a “Give Credit” function to easily allow you to add a text based caption crediting the photographer of any image you download.
  • – this site adds attribution to an image automatically when you download it, so you know for sure it is correctly and fully attributed.

We will cover image licensing, including Creative Commons, in a future post.

Phillip Pierce
Learning Technologist
Learning and Teaching Support Unit (LTSU)
School of Arts & Humanities – Nottingham Trent University MAE012 | 0115 84 83017