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Finding and Using Images

A guide to searching for and reusing digital images for UMSL students and faculty.


There are many image collections available on the web which allow you to access, download, copy, reuse, etc. images without requesting permission from the copyright owner.  These images may be free because they have been shared with an open license by the creator or they are in the public domain.

Please explore the sections below for greater detail on each of these categories and where to find images that you can reuse worry-free.

Note: Due to academic integrity standards, you may still be required to cite your source (aka, give credit to the creator), even if you do not need to pay the copyright owner or request permission to reuse their image.

Creative Commons

Creative Commons is a nonprofit organization whose website aggregates images and other materials which have been made available for reuse by their creators.  You do not have to pay a fee or request permission from the copyright owner. The conditions under which you can reuse the image depend on the license given to the item by its creator.


Creative Commons Licenses

A CC license allows you to reuse an item under the conditions set by the creator. Depending on the license, you may have to follow different rules in order to reuse the item.  The Creative Commons website offers explanations of different CC licenses and what they mean for you, the user.

CC0 or Public DomainImages with these tags on the CC website are free to reuse in any capacity.


Search for Creative Commons images (Openverse)

Public Domain

Images in the public domain were once copyrighted, but the copyright has since expired.  These images are now free for you to reuse, adapt, etc. without paying a fee or requesting permission from the original copyright owner.

Images from 1926 or earlier are in the public domain (as of January 2022).  This group includes photographs of two-dimensional art from this time period - for example, a photograph of a painting from 1897.  This rule does not apply to photographs of three-dimensional art, such as sculptures - the copyright for these photographs belongs to the photographer.


Government Documents

Documents from US government agencies - including images - are automatically in the public domain.  You do not need to pay or request permission from the agency or photographer.  You do still need to cite where you found the image when working on an academic assignment.

A small selection of US government websites which may have images of interest:

For additional help with government resources, visit our guide to government information.

CC0 & Public Domain Art Resources