Wikipedia:Finding images tutorial

You have a great article. Now you want an image. How do you do that? This Finding images tutorial offers a step by step guide to find images that can be licensed as public domain or under the Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike License for Wikipedia. The most important thing while looking for images is to

Be creative with your search!

For demonstration purposes, this tutorial looks for images for the Stetson hat article. This article already has a photo, and the example is used only for demonstration purposes. All text in a blue box is related to this example.

Reality check


Think about what type of image you want. Does such an image exist? Is it possible to obtain such an image for Wikipedia? A good reality check is Google Image search. If the desired image is not there, then your chances of getting an image are slim. Also, be creative and vary the search terms. In most search engines you can combine multiple search terms with uppercase OR, AND or NOT, and use * to represent any character(s).

The Stetson is known under a number of different names. A possible search would be for Stetson* OR ten-gallon OR cowboy: Google search for Stetson and related



Depending on the desired image, the copyright may be expired due to the age of the image. In the US, copyrights of images published before 1929 are expired. This also applies to many old paintings and photos. Such images can be safely used for Wikipedia even if there is a copyright notice on the page. There are also other ways around a copyright, for example fair use, but this is a legal minefield and should be avoided if possible (see Copyrights). Historic photographs are almost always grayscale, so you can speed up your search by using an advanced image search with the limitation to Return only images in grayscale.

A search for Stetson* OR ten-gallon OR cowboy returns many images. Limiting the search to grayscale, and say hello to Buffalo Bill. Buffalo Bill died in 1917, so any photo of him taken before 1929 almost certainly has its copyrights expired.

Create your own


If you have access to the desired item and a digital camera, you can easily take a photo yourself. As the copyright holder you then can release it under any license you want, for example the Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike License. However, taking a photograph of a copyrighted object such as artwork, brand labels, or even a building in some countries (see Freedom of panorama), could mean you are not the copyright holder of the image. For abstract images you may be able to create them yourself on the computer using a graphic program, as for example the image File:HowToTieBowtie VersionA.png, or File:Mad scientist caricature.png.

For a photo of a Stetson, you need:

  1. A camera
  2. A Stetson (your own, your friend's, any Stetson will do)
  3. 10 minutes or less for taking the photo

If you are skilled, you can also draw your own image of a Stetson.

Check Wikipedia


Wikipedia is already a great source of photos.

  1. Check Wikimedia Commons, where images are sorted by category, a guide on finding images is available here.
  2. Check related articles on Wikipedia.
  3. Check What links here for articles that may contain images.
  4. Check foreign language links for the article and related articles, as they may have a photo already.
    • If you find an image on a foreign language Wikipedia, you'll need to copy it and re-upload it to either English Wikipedia or (preferably) the Wikimedia Commons to use it here. If you can't read the language to determine copyright status, try using the images on the copyright templates instead to figure out what they mean.
  5. Search Wikipedia in the Image namespace and the Image talk namespace
  1. Related articles for a Stetson would be for example Cowboy, or people on the List of cowboys and cowgirls. For example, Buffalo Bill is wearing a nice hat.
  2. Check What links here for Stetson.
  3. Foreign language links related to Stetson may be DE:Cowboy, NL:Cowboy. The Italian IT:Wild Bill Hickok also wears a nice hat.
  4. Search of Wikipedia for Stetson: Stetson hat
  • If you find an image here, you do not need to upload it. However, if it is non-free, you must still add a fair-use rationale to the image description file for your specific use of the image.

Check public domain image sources


Wikipedia:Public domain image resources lists a large number of public domain image resources. Again, be creative. You can vary your search based on the articles you searched when checking Wikipedia. Remember to check the copyright status. Ideally, it should explicitly say that the image is in the public domain or under the GNU General Public License. If there is no explicit statement it does not mean that it is copyright free.

Stetsons may for example be found in the section Wikipedia:Public domain image resources#History and the Library of Congress American Memory site for example has a nice photo of Buffalo Bill with a hat.

Check government sources


Works by United States Federal Government employees as part of their official duties are in the public domain. An easy way to find such images is to search with the restriction to OR Again, be creative and vary your search terms. Not all images on the .gov or .mil sites are public domain, however: works by local state governments are not necessarily in the public domain. In case of doubt, ask. You're on the safe side if you can find a public domain notice that says something along the line of:

In general, information presented on this web site, unless otherwise indicated, is considered in the public domain. It may be distributed or copied as permitted by law.

In the case of the Stetson, there would be quite a lot of results in the search for Stetson* OR ten-gallon OR cowboy OR Of course, some are not related to hats. A nice example would be this photo. Checking the copyright status we look on the front page and find a link at the bottom Security Notice that says: Information presented on this site is considered public information and may be distributed or copied. Use of appropriate byline/photo/image credits is requested. Now you're all clear to use the photo.

Ask for permission


If you can't find a public domain photo, then you may have to ask a copyright holder for permission. Select an image from your search with a copyright holder that may be willing to give you permission to use their image as public domain or under the Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike License. In general, copyright holders that earn money by charging reproduction fees for their images are unlikely to give them away for free. For example, news agencies have an excellent image database, but will give you the rights only if you pay a hefty fee. (If you're willing to spend the money, donate it to Wikipedia instead). Asking news agencies for free images is unlikely to succeed.

Private individuals that have pictures on their homepages or online photo albums are much more likely to grant permission if asked nicely. See if there is an email address associated with the photo, or if the webmaster's e-mail address is available on the site. You also should check when the website was last updated. To do this, first go to the website in question. Then, copy "javascript:alert(document.lastModified)"(no quotes) into your address bar (this works on Internet Explorer and Google Chrome, but not all browsers) and push enter. If the time that comes up is only a few seconds old, it is probably the time the server sent it to you. Otherwise, it is the time the author updated it.

A website not updated since 2001 is probably abandoned, and the copyright holder is no longer available under the given email address. Once you have narrowed it down to one or two images with copyright holders that are available and potentially willing to release the image under a suitable license, you may write them an email and ask nicely for permission to use the image. For sample requests see Wikipedia:Boilerplate request for permission. Your request should:

  1. Introduce Wikipedia
  2. Mention which image you want to use (with link)
  3. Mention where you want to use the image (with link)
  4. Ask for permission to release the image in the public domain or under the Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike License
  5. Offer to credit the copyright holder/photographer on the image page
  6. Offer to add a link to the copyright holder website on the image page
  7. Thank the copyright holder for their time

If you receive permission, add the credits to the image page as promised, for example on Image:FremontTroll.jpg. Don't forget to thank the photographer and provide him with links to the image page and the article(s) using the image!

Searching for Stetson* OR ten-gallon OR cowboy gives many good images. A possible target contributor would be John Muir Exhibit, which was recently updated as of 2004, and has a volunteer webmaster (with email address), which may be inclined to volunteer a photo for Wikipedia.

Ask other Wikipedians


You can make a request for an image by adding {{Image requested}} to the talk page of the article, to see if other Wikipedians have access to an image. Be aware that this may take some time. Please follow the guidelines explained on Wikipedia:Requested pictures.

You can also use the images at Category:Wikipedia image placeholders as placeholders. Other Wikipedians may take this as a hint to look for such an image, although excessive use of this is not encouraged. But again, depending on the image, this may take some time.

For the Stetson, we could add the following line to the talk page

  • {{Image requested|fashion}}

Yeah! I got an image! What's next?


Well, give it a good name, make sure it is the correct format and in the largest available size, upload it, add the correct image tags, including source and description, and add it to the desired article(s). If possible upload it at the Wikimedia Commons, so the image is available also for other Wikimedia projects. (See Commons:First steps for details)

  1. Selecting the Stetson image from Fort Hood and downloading it.
  2. Converting the image from GIF to JPEG
  3. Renaming the image to "Image:StetsonHatFortHoodArmy.jpg"
  4. Uploading it as Image:StetsonHatFortHoodArmy.jpg
    1. Free images can also be uploaded to the Commons, so that they are available for all Wikipedia projects. See Commons:First steps for details
  5. Adding the image to Stetson


See also