Using Creative Commons images when designing learning resources

More London Facade‘ by Oliver Broadbent is licensed under CC-BY-SA 4.0


The web is a fantastic source of free-to-use images for creating learning resources. This is mainly possible largely by the Creative Commons initiative, which enables creators of images to say how they want people to use them. This post contains a few tips on where to find great images and, importantly, how to credit them.

Finding images

Google Image search
My usual starting point for looking for images on the web to use in our resources is to conduct an advanced image search on Google. (Duck Duck Go, my preferred search engine, doesn’t yet to advanced image searching). Go to and choose a search term. Once the results appear, click the cog on the top right-hand side of the screen and select advanced settings. When the page of advanced settings appears, go the usage rights drop-down menu towards the bottom, and select either ‘free to use or share, even commercially’ or ‘free to use or share or modify, even commercially’, depending on what you want to do with the image. Then hit ‘advanced search’ and see what comes up.
Flickr Image search
Jack’s usual starting point for image sourcing is directly in Flickr. On the Flickr home page start your search as usual. Once the results are shown, click on the ‘Advanced’ button on the top right of the screen, which will reveal two new drop-down menus on the left-hand side. Click on the one that says ‘any licence’ and choose the appropriate Creative Commons licence. Jack says he prefers Flickr over a Google Image search as the former often gives you better photos at better resolution. The disadvantage is that is tends to be harder to find engineering-related images on Flickr.
Tip – if you bookmark this results pages showing the filtered images, you can reload this page and type in a new search term without having to go into the advanced search options again.
Other sources
There are some websites which specialise in providing images that are free-to-use. I often use It is also possible to search for images that are available for use for your purposes directly in Flickr.

Crediting images

For best practice on how to credit other people’s images, I refer to this blog from the Creative Commons organisation.

Finding the information you need to correctly attribute

Wikipedia – Most of the images I end up using in learning resources come from wikipedia. Finding the image attribution in wikipedia is easy. If it has appeared in an image search, then just click on the option to visit the page (rather than to visit the image). You can then usually see all the attribution data that you need.
Flickr – if you have found the image on Flickr, then you need to click on the profile page of the photographer in order to get their information.
If you can’t easily find the information you need for image attribution then this post on the wikihow website has some useful suggestions.

Keep the data

It is important to make sure you store the attribution data when you saw the image file. We have an in-house image database that allows us to keep these details. When I am using Apple’s ‘Photos’ to store the images, I can keep the attribution data in the ‘description’ field under each photo.