How To Properly Search For and Attribute Creative Commons Photos

by | Feb 28, 2017

If your students are content creators (and honestly, most of them are), they already know that high-quality images make their work stand out. They can find plenty of open source images if they know where to look. Creative Commons was built to help us find some of the best open-source options out there. That’s only the first step, however. We also need to know how to properly attribute Creative Commons photos.

In this article, we’ll give you and your students some handy tools and tips to help you do safe image searches for all your project needs using Creative Commons. We’ve also got a highly informative infographic that talks about licensing and attribution. With this knowledge, your students can go forth in confidence as they find great photos for their work and practice Global Digital Citizenship at the same time.

What is Creative Commons?

Creative Commons, as explained on their website, “helps you legally share your knowledge and creativity to build a more equitable, accessible, and innovative world.” This video gives an explanation of how it works to benefit both creators and users of its content.


How to Search for Creative Commons Photos

There are lots of different ways to search for images for use on Creative Commons. It’s important to remember, though, that Creative Commons isn’t a search engine. What CC does is offer users access to search services provided by organizations with content available for sharing. The image below is of CC’s new search beta and the parameters it provides for image searching.


Always be sure to verify the results you find are actually CC licensed by following the link. And of course, if in doubt, always contact the copyright holder directly for permission.

Richard Byrne of FreeTech4Teachers takes us on tour below of how to search for Creative Commons images.

Richard also has three ways that students can search for CC licensed images on Flickr, Google, and the Creative Commons website itself.


How to Attribute Creative Commons Photos

According to Foter, the creators of the infographic below, Creative Commons attribution practices leave much to be desired:

“According to our research, more than 90% of Creative Commons photos are not attributed at all. To make matters worse, less than 10% of the photos that do credit the original work are attributed properly. This means that more than 99% of Creative Commons photos are not adequately attributed.”

The key to improving this comes with awareness. Anyone applying images to their intellectual property, and especially our students, should know how to properly attribute Creative Commons photos. Recognition and attribution of others’ work is an integral part of practicing Global Digital Citizenship.

TSAL for Proper Image Attribution

If you find some open source images you like, there’s a simple formula you can use to properly attribute them. It’s called TSAL, and here’s what it stands for:

  • Title
  • Source
  • Author
  • Location

Here’s an example of what a proper attribution might look like using the TSAL formula. This lovely image is from Wikimedia Commons. The image’s title is Echinacea purpureaBotanical GardenMunich, German.” Its author is Diego Delso.

Attribute the source by hyperlinking the title back to the page on which the image resides. It’s licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license, which is abbreviated as CC BY-SA 3.0.

If you don’t know the proper abbreviation, simply click through to the human-readable license information in the image’s original attribution and you’ll find it there. So, the proper image attribution for this reads:

Echinacea purpurea, Botanical GardenMunich, German” by Diego Delso, used under CC BY-SA 3.0.

The hyperlinks here are important. This image has a title, but not all open source images do. If yours doesn’t, simply say “Image by” instead. You can put the attribution in a photo caption, or in a footnote at the bottom of your post or page. If you put attributions for multiple photos in a footnote, list them in the order they appear.

This infographic tells you everything you and your students need to know about attributing Creative Commons photos.

Creative Commons Photos

This infographic is licensed under Creative Commons and should be attributed:
How To Attribute Creative Commons Photos by Foter


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