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December 15, 2008

Starting your image search

It can be really difficult to know just where to start looking for an image. Here are some questions to ask yourself to determine just what you're trying to find:

1. What type of image do I need?
Is it a map, chart, a specific art work or a photograph of a historical event? Making this determination will help you decide which types of databases or search engines to use, but you should also consider using the type of image as part of your keyword search.

2. Into what subject would the image be classified?
You're probably not going to find images of abolitionists in the same database as images from heart surgery. Try to restrict your search to databases related to the appropriate field. You can find a few image resource subject listings here.

3. What's the time period of the image?
If it's a historical image you're after, you'll probably do best looking at museums or galleries, like the Smithsonian or the New York Public Library, but if you need a contemporary image, you might try AP images, Creative Commons, or artist websites.

4. Is it specific or general?
The work behind finding a specific image is usually determining which database is liking to have it as part of its collection. For example, if you need a contemporary artwork by a specific artist, try looking at the website of the gallery that represents him. However, if you're looking a general image like a woman walking in a sari, you will want to use larger search engines and the advanced search function. Creative Commons is a great place to start for general images.

5. How am I going to use this image?
Most images are okay to use as part of class assignments, papers, or presentations as long as you properly cite the source of the image. However, if you need the image as part of something you will publish on the web or in a book, you'll need an image with an unrestricted copyright or the copyright holders permission to do so. If you need help contacting the copyright holder or figuring out whether you can use an image, please contact the VRC staff.

6. Do you want a free image or are you willing to pay for it?
Particularly with stock images and publishing whether or not you are willing to pay for an image will have a big impact on your search. If you don't mind paying for images, there are many great stock image sites.

Above image Fort Jackson Military Library © AP/Mary Ann Chastain

Posted by hthrlowe at December 15, 2008 10:00 AM


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