Using Creative Commons images in presentations

Creative Commons image

Presentations and lectures are improved by having interesting and engaging images in them – they make ideas and concepts more memorable and easier to understand. Provocative or humorous images can create a reaction and lift a presentation.

The challenge is to find good quality images that can be used without breaching copyright. Just because an image is easily accessible on the internet does not mean that it is in the public domain as far as copyright is concerned.

Fortunately there are a lot of images, and videos, licensed under Creative Commons licences. With these licences, copyright owners allow others to copy, distribute, and make some uses of their work – within the terms of the three levels of CC licences.

Creative Commons Licences

All of the CC licences require that users attribute the creator of the work (BY); then there is an option for the creator to stipulate whether or not the material can be changed in any way, if not it will have a non-derivative (ND) licence; there are various levels of licence relating to the commercial use of material, but most people use a non-commercial licence (NC) meaning that users cannot publish the work for profit; and when the option to alter the work is included, most people add the requirement that the resulting work is then ‘shared alike’ using the same licence (SA).

So you will often see a Creative Commons licence referred to as something like: CC BY-NC SA where BY= attribution; NC= non-commercial; SA=share alike. This YouTube video explains the Six Creative Commons licences: video.

Using the SA licensed material does not mean that you need to make your presentation publicly available. The CC-SA applies to modified CC material only and not to your original work.

Where can I find Creative Commons images?

You can use Advanced Search or Advanced Image Search in Google to find images that are licensed for reuse and Creative Commons Search lets you search across a range of CC licensed resources (images and media) provided by various organisations including Flickr and Wikimedia Commons.

There are also a number of more discipline-specific sites such as ARTStor and Wellcome images. Whenever the TEL team find new sources of images we add them to our collection of bookmarks.

How should I attribute Creative Commons images?

The Creative Commons website includes guidance on best practices for attribution and the Using Creative Commons images in your teaching web page on the TEL website shows an example of using and attributing a Creative Commons image from Flickr.

If you are using Flickr there is now a bookmarklet you can add to your browser that will produce the attribution of images for you.

If you would like to discuss using Creative Commons images in your teaching, or have found some interesting CC licensed materials you would like to share with others please contact the Technology Enhanced Learning team at


creative commons licensed (BY-NC-SA) flickr photo by Funchye:

Tagged with: ,
Posted in Images and Copyright
2 comments on “Using Creative Commons images in presentations
  1. Anne Hole says:

    Another great option is which offers:
    ‘Automatic Citation – Downloaded images automatically cite the author and the image license terms.
    Creative Commons – All photos shown are, to the best of our (and Flickr’s) knowledge, licensed by Creative Commons for public use’

  2. Simon says: offers CC0 images and a free api to use in your own search page. Recommended.

About our blog

We are the Educational Enhancement team at the University of Sussex. We publish posts each week on using technology to support teaching and learning. Read more about us.

Subscribe to the Blog

Enter your email address to receive notifications of new posts by email.