Sourcing Images

If you do not wish, or are unable, to create your own images for your modules, but would like to use images, then you will need to source images online. In this situation it’s very tempting to do a Google Image search and save the image you want to your computer. However, this is extremely likely to lead to you infringing the copyright of the creator of the image. Fortunately, it’s simple to avoid this by using a stock image website. These exist specifically to provide you with access to photography and illustration, and – as long as adhere to the terms of the licence – prevent you infringing other people’s copyright. Some sites allow you to subscribe and download a specific number of images per month, others charge royalty fees (also known as rights managed). The three types of stock image site you should use are: free, paid (royalty free) and embedded.

University of South Wales Imagery

If you wish to use images of University of South Wales campuses, buildings, events or people you should use the University of South Wales media library. The site allows you to browse or search through the university’s image catalogue. When you find an image you would like to use you will need to send an email to and provide the following information:

  1. Image ID
  2. Image Title
  3. A brief description of how you intend to use the image, e.g., in a departmental publication, internal communication, etc.

A member of the Marketing and Student Recruitment team will get back to you as soon as possible with the image(s) you have requested. Please note, requests for single images will be fulfilled within 24 hours, however bulk requests may take longer. We would advise you to plan ahead when placing your requests and allow plenty of time before images are needed.

Free Stock Image Sites

These sites provide imagery without charge. The quality of images on free sites is variable and you may need to do several searches to find one that is suitable. Unless restrictions are explicitly stated you are free to use images from these sites as you wish. Examples of such sites are:

Some niche sites provide high quality, public domain imagery, the NASA Multimedia Image Gallery is a good example of this. You can use any NASA image on this site, as long as you include the appropriate attribution; you will find details of this on the same page as the image.

The Flickr Creative Commons site allows you to use Flickr’s search tools to show you only Creative Commons licensed images. You can use these images for free, as long as you follow the stipulations of the copyright holder. Some merely require attribution, others prevent modification or require that if you modify it that you share the resulting image too. For more information on the licences available and their terms see Creative Commons licensing

The other large source of “public domain and freely-licensed educational media content (images, sound and video clips)” is Wikimedia Commons, which is part of the Wikimedia family that also includes the more famous Wikipedia. It currently has in excess of 24 million files and 115,000 media collections. All images here are licensed under Creative Commons, with varying restrictions on usage and attribution. The Reusing content outside Wikimedia page provides assistance and guidance on how to use Wikimedia Commons content without contravening the Creative Commons licence for a given image. Wikimedia Commons gives you the choice to browse images by topic, location or Creative Commons licence. You can also use the search facility, as you would on Wikipedia. To help you find higher quality images Wikimedia have a drop-down menu in each sub-category that allows you to filter the contents by 'Good images’, 'Featured Pictures’, 'Quality Images’ and 'Valued Images’.

Paid (Royalty Free) Stock Image Sites

These sites sell images for a single, one-off fee. You may use the image you have purchased wherever, whenever and as many times as you wish (this is different from traditional, royalty-based stock image libraries, on those the fee was dependent on usage – print or online, national or international audience). The quality of imagery on royalty free sites is of a higher standard than free sites. You’ll also find a larger catalogue, with images at different sizes and in different file formats to suit your needs. Where the free sites generally only carry photographs, on royalty free sites you’ll also find illustrations. These sites tend to have superior search tools, which make it easier and faster to find an appropriate image. Two of the best and most popular royalty free sites are:

To download images from these sites you will need to set up an account and purchase credits. You then use these credits to pay for images. Imagery from these sites is relatively cheap. Once you have downloaded an image there are few, if any, restrictions on your use of the image – such restrictions generally apply to what are termed 'editorial’ images, which are photos of real events, such as political protests.

Embedded Picture Services

These services provide free access to imagery, but only for embedding in a webpage. You cannot download and modify these images. In general, these sites rely upon user generated content, much of which will have been created by amateurs. Therefore, the quality of imagery will vary from excellent to poor. Also, you still need to check copyright conditions before embedding images. The most popular embedding services are:

You’ll need to create an account to search Instagram and Pinterest for images.

There is one source of high quality, embedded imagery: Getty Images Embed service. This service allows you to embed images from Getty’s extensive, high quality image library into a webpage. As with royalty free sites, this service has very good search tools. You can’t download and modify these images, but you will find a greater range of photography and illustration here. Should you need the image offline you can also purchase it. Getty provides royalty free and rights-managed imagery, the cost of the latter is dependent on use.

Specialist Image Libraries

Most image library collections contain a broad variety of images to suit many subjects. There are also specialist libraries that dedicate themselves to a particular subject. The best of these is the Science Photo Library. This library has high quality royalty free and rights managed scientific images that include ultrasound foetus scans, brain x-rays, microscopic images of cancer cells and much more.