Image Resources

Basic Rules of Thumb for Photo Usage

1) You should assume that all images you find online are copyrighted unless it is explicitly stated that they are in the public domain or that the creator/owner has given permission for public usage. (More on this below.)

2) Many news organizations contract with photo agencies for online images and you will see these credits on media sites: AP, AFP, Getty, Reuters, etc. It is NOT OKAY to take these images and use them on your site unless you are paying for that option. Columbia students,  you do have access to Reuters photos through the school.

3) Most images created by federal agencies will fall into the public domain category. However, you should take care to read any disclaimers or exceptions that might be posted on individual sites.

Photos Portals

1) Unsplash

– The Commons
A growing collection of public domain photography from a range of national and international institutions, including the Library of Congress, the New York Public Library, NASA, The U.S. National Archives, Smithsonian Institution, The National Archives UK, and Bibliothèque de Toulouse.

Example: Treating influenza at a Navy hospital, 12/11/19

1903 images of the Bronx zoo

Creative Commons on Flickr offers work by members that is available for use. You can search by varying degrees of copyright.

Attribution: You let others copy, distribute, display, and perform your copyrighted work – and derivative works based upon it – but only if they give you credit.

Example: Coronavirus shopping in Singapore

Noncommercial: You let others copy, distribute, display, and perform your work – and derivative works based upon it – but for noncommercial purposes only.

Example: Search for the word “UFO”

Example: Search for “street art”

No Derivative Works: You let others copy, distribute, display, and perform only verbatim copies of your work, not derivative works based upon it.

Example: Search for “Grand Concourse”

Share Alike: You allow others to distribute derivative works only under a license identical to the license that governs your work.

Example: Search for subways around the world

Creative Commons is a nonprofit corporation dedicated to making it easier for people to share and build upon the work of others, consistent with the rules of copyright. Members include Flickr, Google, Al Jazeera,, Public Library of Science, Wikipedia.

4) Wikimedia Commons
A database of 7,306,691 freely usable media files to which anyone can contribute.

5) Pexels

New York State & City

1) New York State

2) NYC Municipal Archives Collections

Government Agencies

1) White House Flickr


2) Flickr feed
You can search for images and photos from multiple agencies at once: defense, environment, energy, agriculture, health and nutrition, history, art, culture, science and technology.

3) Department of State also has a flickr feed.

4) NYC City Hall Flickr Feed

5) EPA
The EPA has a flickr feed.

FEMA also has a multimedia archive.

6) Centers for Disease Control

7) National Park Service


8) US Fish & Wildlife Service


11) National Archives and Records Administration

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is the nation’s record keeper. Of all documents and materials created in the course of business conducted by the United States Federal government.

Example: Search for Declaration of Independence

12) National Science Foundation

13) Bureau of Land Management

14) US Geological Survey

Cultural Institutions

1) Library of Congress

Geography and Maps

Prints and Photographs

American Memory

2) The Smithsonian

3) The New York Public Library

NYPL Digital Gallery provides free and open access to over 700,000 images digitized from the The New York Public Library’s vast collections, including illuminated manuscripts, historical maps, vintage posters, rare prints, photographs and more.

4) Presidential Libraries

FDR Library

JFK Presidential Library and Museum

Ronald Reagan Presidential Library

President Reagan giving a speech at the Berlin Wall, Brandenburg Gate, Federal Republic of Germany on 6/12/87. (Ronald Reagan Presidential Library)

George Bush Presidential Library and Museum

Bill Clinton Library

George W. Bush Library

Stock photography

1) iStock
This is one of the best stock photo sites. It is not free, however images can be purchased for as little as $1.

Free stock images

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