Images: Searching for Images

Tips for Searching

Your search for images is guided by a few key questions: 

1. What type of image do I need?

Deciding exactly what kind of image you’re looking for is important. Is it a map, an illustration, 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 (e.g. map, historical, illustration).

2. What subject area would include the image?

This is an important step because many image databases are subject specific. If you need an image of a patient with rheumatoid arthritis, you probably won’t find what you need in an art related database. That said, there are also large general image collections that can be useful to search as well. 

3. Is the image specific or general?

Looking for pictures of a dog is much different from looking for Giacomo Balla’s Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash. If you’re looking for a very specific image, you’ll want to use as much information about the image as possible and a subject oriented database. 

[This content is adapted from the University of Michigan Library's Images guide, authored by Rebecca Price.]

Creative Commons Image Search


Google Image search limits including Size, Color, Type, and Usage Rights. Click the Tools button to access image search limits.

Bing image search limits including Image Size, Color, Type, Layout, People, Date, and License

Yahoo image search limits including Color, Size, Type, and License

Search by Visual Qualities

Limiting Image Search by License Type

Google, Bing, YAHOO!, and other search tools permit users to filter by type of image license. 

License types include:

  • Free to share and use: Changing and editing not allowed, but using and sharing is permitted. Non-commercial use.
  • Free to share and use commercially: Changing and editing not allowed, but using and sharing is permitted. Commercial and noncommercial use allowed.
  • Free to modify, share, and use: Same as "Free to share and use" and you can also edit and modify images.
  • Free to modify, share, and use commercially: Images can be shared, used, edited for both commercial and non-commercial use.
  • Public domain: Works owned by the public. May use, share, modify, for commercial and non-commercial use.

License limit options from Bing.  License, All, All Creative Commons, Public domain, Free to share and use, Free to share and use commercially, Free to modify, share and use, Free to modify, share and use commercially, Learn more.