A mug with coffee standing between a bunch of polaroids.

So, you’re moving your teaching online; have you thought about what images you will be using? You might be looking for a range of pictures to break up a lot of text in your Blackboard course, or you might need a particular image and are unable to go out and take it yourself as you would normally. Of course, we recommend that you follow the Library’s guidance on good practice when it comes to copyright; no scraping them straight from a search in your web browser, uploading poor quality images… and using watermarked images is definitely not correct copyright attribution!

There are a plethora of sources of copyright-free images (that doesn’t necessarily mean no attribution required) but knowing where to start can be a bit overwhelming. In this blog post, we will signpost some of the most common websites we use, why we like them, how to attribute the source, and also highlight some more niche sources if you need specific teaching content.

Images that you find using a Creative Commons image search online will have Creative Commons licences, which make it possible to use them in a variety of ways. This browser extension will also allow you to easily find images that you can reuse.

Some of our favourite sources of copyright-free images:


Photo by Filip Mroz on Unsplash

Unsplash has over 1.5 million images and makes it very easy to copy and paste the correct attribution. Even though attribution isn’t required, Unsplash photographers appreciate a credit as it provides exposure to their work and encourages them to continue sharing. You don’t need to sign up to be able to use the site.


Image by wal_172619 from Pixabay

Another great site which is very similar to Unsplash in terms of access, attribution and layout.

Pixabay is simple to use and has a good range of high quality images.

Anna Ruff, Digital Learning Team


No attribution required for this image; check the license small print for each image when using Pexels.

Pexels is a great website, it has both high quality still photos as well as videos.

Sofy Bazzini, Digital Learning Team

Wikimedia Commons

By Charles J Sharp – Own work, from Sharp Photography, sharpphotography, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=39773301

More likely than the previous sites to have more specific content for your teaching, but getting the attribution data takes a few extra clicks. It’s helpful to familiarise yourself with the different types of Creative Commons licenses.


Image credit Jeff Youngstrom via Flickr

Make sure you select the Creative Commons filter when you search Flikr. The content is very variable; there are professional photographers who post their work here, but it can take longer to search through and find good quality images.

Discipline-specific sources

The following sites might be helpful for particular disciplines.

What else do you use?

If you know of other sources that we haven’t mentioned here, please share them in our Digital Learning Online Community; we will be happy to update this post with your recommendations (and any feedback on the sources listed here)!

Sources of images to use in online learning

Post navigation

What do you think? Leave us a comment to share your thoughts...