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Organizing Images

Naming Your Image Files:

  • Rename your files (don't leave them as 920583e.jpg!)
  • Use a descriptive file name (eg. AFLCIOConvention1959_DPLA.jpg)
  • Avoid special characters in your file names: " / \ : * ? < > [ ] & $ .
  • Put your files in a single location or folder; avoid leaving everything in Downloads or the like

Connect the Image File with the Citation

Once you have your images saved, how will you know which image file corresponds to your saved citations?

You will need to connect the image file with the citation for the image. One way to do this is to keep a spreadsheet with the filename in one column and the citation for the image in the next column.

For example:

Image File Name Citation
GonzalesMarch_APImages.jpg Zalubowski, David. Gonzales March. #05041708772. April 17, 2005. Digital image. Available from: AP Images Collection (accessed July 24, 2016).
ChicanoParkDay_UCSD.jpg Chicano Park Day. 2006. Digital image. Herman Baca Papers. MSS 0649. Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego. (accessed July 29, 2016).

Tip: Grab or create the citation at the same time you download the image. Some sites offer a "Citation" button that will copy the components of a citation for you! Cite This Item button screenshot


General Creative Commons Image Sources

Creative Commons logoCreative Commons and other "Special Licenses"

There is a lot of media that has been made available for anyone to use, waiving the need to obtain direct permission from the author. For example, a very common license is an "Attribution" license, meaning that you can use the media for any purpose as long as you give credit to the creator somewhere in your work. The non-profit organization Creative Commons offers a variety of attribution licenses that creators apply to their work to make available for public use. Learn more about Creative Commons licensing. Search for works with a Creative Commons license.

Reused with permission from Georgetown University Library

Fair Use

"Fair Use" is a provision in US copyright law that imposes limits and exceptions to the exclusive rights of authors / creators.

It means that you can use copyright-protected media without asking for permission if is considered fair, such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research.

Fair Use Guidelines for student projects:

  • Always give full credit - In your citation you should include the creator, title of the work, date of publication, and URL. (Note: "" should never be cited as the creator - it is always the user or company who made the original content)
  • Only use a small amount (e.g. 5-10 seconds of video or music)
  • If shared online, consider making your project private. There are usually ways to share a project privately without making it publicly available for anyone to see -- for example, there are settings in to make videos "unlisted" so that only people with a link will ever see your video.

Learn more about Fair Use:

Reused with permission from Georgetown University Library

How to Cite Images

The same principles that apply to citing work found in printed form also apply to work found on the internet, including photos, drawings, artwork, graphs, and charts, etc.  

Citing Images (Binghamton University) 
Describes MLA, APA, Chicago and attribution best practices.

Citation Guidelines  (Univ. of Cincinnati)
Describes the required elements and examples using four different style manuals -- MLA, APA, Turabian and Chicago Manual of Style.

Citing Images (Colgate Visual Resources Library)
Describes citing images in MLA, Chicago, and APA with clear examples of each.

Citing Personal Images

You should cite all of the images you use including any unpublished photographs that you have taken personally.

Citing your own unpublished photos is similar to citing work by other authors. You will include your name as the author, the title of the photograph (this could be a short description such as "Photograph of a stray cat"), the date that the image was created, and the source of the image.

Doe, John. Photograph of a stray cat. August 2014. Unpublished photograph.