Finding images to reuse

Learning content is often heavily text based and to provide visual interest images are frequently used. The difficulty comes when you want to find images that can be reused without infringing copyright. Below are a couple of methods you can use to find images either in Microsoft Office or on the web.

On the web

How do I know whether I can reuse an image?

A non-profit organisation has been set up which promotes the use of free easy to understand legal licenses that explain how an image or work can be reused. This is called Creative Commons.

There is now a large community of users who apply Creative Commons licences to images they post online. There are four different terms which can be used within a license and these can be combined to create up to 6 different licences. As students pay for our services it is best to look for images which can be used commercially. If you see the non-commercial logo then you should not use this image. For this reason look for the following licences:

Creative Commons Attribution Licence Attribution – reference who is the original author of the image.

Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike Licence Attribution-ShareAlike – You must attribute the author and share it under the same license (you can change and adapt the work if you need to).

Creative Commons Attribution No derivative works Licence Attribution-No Derivative Works – Attribute the work but it must remain unchanged from the original.

But how can I make sure that I am searching for images with creative commons?

A great website to use is The website searches other sites such as Google Images and Flickr but applies restrictions to help only find images that have creative commons licenses applied. You will still need to double check that the image is shared under a creative commons license but using this search method should make it easier to find images you want and can reuse.

screen shot of a website used to search for creative commons images

Microsoft Office

You may not realise that Clip Art in Microsoft Office has improved. It now draws upon thousands of images from Office Online which have minimal copyright restrictions.

According to the Microsoft Service Agreement (point 17)

You may not:

  1.  sell, license, or distribute copies of the media elements by themselves or as a product if the primary value of the product is the media elements;
  2. grant your customers rights to further license or distribute the media elements;
  3. license or distribute for commercial purposes media elements that include the representation of identifiable individuals, governments, logos, trademarks, or emblems or use these types of images in ways that could imply an endorsement or association with your product, entity or activity; or
  4. create obscene works using the media elements.

(Microsoft 2010).

It can also be useful to filter so that only photographs appear in your search. To do this, click on Insert and then Clip Art. In the Clip Art side bar, click the ‘Results should be’ dropdown menu and uncheck all the options apart from Photographs. Now when you search only photographs will appear this means you can avoid some of the cartoon animations which do not look as sharp.


Microsoft (2010) Microsoft Service Agreement [online], (accessed 15 November 2011).

4 thoughts on “Finding images to reuse

  1. There are also a range of Copyright Cleared services for educational use which the Library subscribes to for use by staff and students. There is a vast range of images both still and moving on these sites, all of which can be used on presentations etc as long as they are used within the University or to distance learners via a password protected scheme (ie on Blackboard or in classrooms). These, and many more image providers can be found from here
    The sites we subscribe to can be identified by the “UDo password” link. The non-sunbscription sites listed there also supply images for educational use. It’s always best to read the terms and conditions on any of these sites to check that you aren’t infringing Copyright.

  2. Another couple of sites that are useful, for locating images that can be re-used legally are:- which will actually attach the reference and license information to the bottom of the image

    and which searched Flickr for creative commons images.

    Videos on how to use both these services can be found at

  3. Being a photographer i am very passionate about this, for the academic and for the author. We have created a web page on finding images on LEI’s new web site which has a link to our teaching and learning Flickr site, the university’s own image Library and the sites Sally Forrest mentioned in a earlier comment.

    As a Photographer here in LEI I am also available to create bespoke images for all academics in the University.

    I am glad to see this is taken very seriously by others and hopefully stop the use of Google images

  4. As a lecturer and a photographer I totally agree. Images are key to supporting learning and if using PowerPint or keynote it is important to remember that they often need to be full screen or as large as possible! Better to have a sequence showing different aspects as large as can get them rather than 2, 3, 4 or more per screen. Only time when it is great to have 2 is comparing side by side but you can also do this with animation appear or dissolve please rather than a fancy transition.

    If want images to use for teaching a lot of my photographs are online as Creative Commons Non-Commercial Share Alike go to my website or better yet visit my slide library at

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