Finding Images for your work

Unfortunately not everyone is or has the time to be a great photographer, but nearly all of us use photos in our work and getting the correct image can have an impressive impact. Whether it be presentations, reports, website mock ups or blog articles selecting the right image can be time consuming and frustrating. Rather than relying solely on your favourite search engine to find suitable media in this article highlights some alternative resources that can make the process easier and introduces some of the legal issues that should be considered. This is not an exhaustive list so if you have any websites that you find useful leave a comment.

When searching for images online to use in your work an important consideration should be the copyright terms. Most pieces of work created fall under copyright law to protect the interests of those who created them. Unless the copyright holder grants permission only they may use, display or copy the media. You can find out more information about copyright and when you can uses media on shuspace. Important to remember is that just because a image is available on the internet does not mean the author has waived their rights to its use. It’s also worth considering if using media you didn’t create is acceptable for the task, is properly referenced when required and that it wouldn’t be classified as plagiarism.

Creative Commons is a non-profit organization that provides free legal tools in the form of easy to use copyright licenses that work along existing copyright terms. This allows the creator to license their work under clear and understandable terms, and also benefits those seeking to use the artefact by presenting guidelines over how it may be used. These licenses are generally used when a creator of a piece of work wishes to make it available to the public without cost, but wishes to retain some level of ownership. As such these licenses are very popular with content creators wishing to license media via the internet.

There are several creative commons licenses that grant varying levels of permissions to creative work, including public domain (no rights reserved) through the CC0 license which waives all rights. Licenses can be made up of several parts each with distinct restrictions, these combine to create a specific license. The two most relevant parts when searching for digital media are, Attribution: the work is free to use provided the creator is identified for their work and NonCommercial: the work cannot be used for Commercial purposes. The most commonly used licenses for digital media being Creative Commons Attribution and Attribution-NonCommercial.

Creative Commons Search

Creative Commons Search provides quick access to several popular services that allow searching via creative commons license types.


Flickrs advanced search allows you to search through its huge range of images and filter by a the creative commons license type that suits your purpose.

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia is the foundation that brings us Wikipedia and the commons site contains a large collection of searchable catalogued images, sounds and videos often released under various creative commons licenses. Each image has a specific section on licensing to make it clearly identifiable how it can be used and any restrictions that may apply. Try searching for Sheffield Hallam.


Unsplash is an interesting resource, rather than being a searchable directory of images this is a blog that releases 10 high resolution images every 10 days. While this makes it tricky to find specific images, it is great for high quality images that give an impressive impact. The images are released under a Creative Commons Public Domain license and a therefore free of copyright laws (unless otherwise stated) and can be used freely within your work (such as the image above).

Pixel Perfect Digital

Stock images that are free to use under the Creative Commons Attribution license.

Place It

place it screenshot

Place It allows you to add a image or screenshot of your work (for example an app or a website) into technology products. There is a good range of stock images for various devices which you can drag and drop your screenshot into. More advanced features require a fee but basic images are free if attributed.

Placehold It
Provides a simple box in the specified dimensions that can be used to represent the location of media content, for example images in website mock ups.

Lorem Pixel

The same concept as Placehold It only this service provides an image in the specified dimensions and can be filtered by category.

Something Fun / / /

If you need an image for a website mock up and Bill Murray, Nicolas Cage, Steven Segal or Charlie Sheen seem appropriate look no further.

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