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Visual Literacy: Find images

This guide outlines basic visual literacy skills including how to find, evaluate, and use images.

Images & copyright

Copyright means that the owner of the creative work has the exclusive rights over how their work is communicated or reproduced. In order to ethically communicate or reproduce their work you need permission, either directly or through a license.

Are there exceptions? Yes!

  • The work is in the Public Domain (out of copyright)
  • The author has outlined the usage rights through Creative Commons Licensing
  • Use of the work is permitted under one of the exceptions in the Copyright Act (Fair Dealing for study or research).

Students are encouraged to find and use Creative Commons &  Public Domain resources. The Copyright exception for study only allows for a small amount of a work to be reproduced. It is also good practice for when you are no longer studying.

Understanding creative commons

Find & Identify Images

Any image you use for study, research, or for presentations need to be critically evaluated like any information resource.

The below questions will help you to


What kind of images do I need?

  • What should it look like?
  • What does it need to communicate?
  • What is its purpose and how does it support my project?


Where do I find images?


How you use the image will impact where you look. It’s recommended that you use images that are under a Creative Commons license. See the suggested links in the box below.

How do I find images?

  • What terms would I use to describe it?

Images are often not catalogued in the same way as books or articles. This is particularly true online as information is generally found through full-text searches. This is a feature that is not available for visuals. Think about the descriptions, captions, tags that accompany the visuals you find and adapt your search terms accordingly.

Adapted from University of California Irvine, Visual Literacy: Evaluate ImagesUniversity of Washington Tacoma, Images: Evaluating Images

Creative commons & public domain images

Public domain & creative commons image databases:

Google Images:
You can filter Google image results by usage rights. Google also allows reverse image searching - upload an image and Google will find similar images.

Screenshot of Google images and the usage rights dropdown menu. The "Labeled for reuse" option has been selected.

Search for Australian & Victorian images:
The State Library Victoria and the National Library of Australia have significant digital image collections, many which are out of copyright. Many of the images in these collections will not appear in a Google search.