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Finding and Using Online Images Ethically: Online Image Website Types

How to find images online while following copyright law, fair use guidelines, and properly citing images.

Types of Image Websites

Online images are generally found on 4 types of websites

Finding images online and using them ethically can be tricky.
Many sites, such as Pinterest or Flickr, post images without regard to copyright restrictions or reuse licenses. 
When you use an image, be sure that you know the original source and check the rights usage.
Use reverse search to help locate the source image. 

To do a reverse image search:
Drag or upload an image to or

Photo-sharing community

Usually require a membership (free or fee) to add photos and have restrictive terms of service/use.

Sample photo-sharing communities: Instagram, Flickr, Pinterest, Tumblr

Stock photos

Images sold for commercial use, but can be licensed for creative use. Professional photographers sell photos to stock photography web sites. The site may contain any of the 3 types of images below:

  1. Royalty-free: pay 1-time fee to use multiple times, in any way the terms and conditions allow
  2. Rights managed: pay based on how photo is used
  3. Public domain: can use in any way at no cost 

Sample stock photo sites: Pixaby, ShutterStock

Artist Community

Supports contribution of creative and original work. Works are usually for sale and under copyright.

Sample artist community sites: Society 6, DeviantArt, Ello

Museums and Digital Collections  (BEST CHOICE!!) 

Digitized collections of existing artwork. Rights statements are generally well-stated. Look at the Recommended Resources tab for suggested websites and databases.

For example:

  • MoMA (Modern Museum of Art)
  • ArtStor