Finding and Using Images

Working with images resources, whether digital or in print, has much in common with text-based research, but with some key differences. This guide serves as an introduction to finding and using images, and to citation and copyright concerns. For more information on image research and use in any subject area, contact a subject librarian. You might also check out the Primary Sources research guide for more sources that contain images.

Questions about this guide? Contact

Library Catalog

Library records for books with illustrations contain the word "illustrations" so you can target illustrated works in an Advanced Search of the Library catalog by entering "illus*" or "illustrations", “pictorial works”, “plates”, or “color plates” in one keyword field and your topical search term(s) in the field(s) below. For example, looking for images of birds? Do an Advanced Search for birds AND illustrations, or birds AND “color plates”.

The Library Catalog uses Library of Congress subject headings that can also help you identify illustrated books on a desired subject.

One subject heading construction is in the form of "X in art" -- for example,
     • “birds in art”
     • “food in art”
     • “saints in art”
     • “gardens in art”
Try seeing if your topic might exist in this subject form.  Put your search in quotation marks to search as a phrase.

 Another subject heading construction incorporates an ending of "pictorial works." For example,
     • Birds--pictorial works
Enter [your term] AND "pictorial works” in the Advanced Search as keywords, or try the same search in Subject keyword fields.


    Image databases
    Amherst College subscribes to several image databases. These have many features in addition to image searching, including subject guides, articles, timelines, and more. There are also images to be found in full-text databases.

    • ACDC (Amherst College Digital Collections) - images, texts, videos, and more from the Amherst College Archives & Special Collections and Art & Architecture Collection.
    • Five College Compass (digital collections) - digital scholarship and cultural and historical materials from Hampshire, Mount Holyoke, and Smith colleges.
    • ARTstor - Curated collections of digital images, associated data, and presentation tools for educational use. Over 1 million images of architecture, painting, sculpture, photography, decorative arts, and design, as well as performance and other forms of visual culture.
    • Bridgeman Education - A visual resource offering digital images of art, history, and culture from museums, galleries, private collections, and contemporary artists.
    • Oxford Art Online - Searchable access to Grove Art Online, The Oxford Companion to Western Art, Encyclopedia of Aesthetics, The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Art Terms, and more.


    "Hidden" images in full-text databases
    Many indexes and multidisciplinary databases will allow you to limit your search search to articles containing images, photographs, or illustrations. You can also find images in these resources by using keywords such as "illustration" in your search. A few databases that have specific search options for images include:

      Web Resources

      There are many online, free image resources. Some of the most robust include:

        Citing Images

        Images and illustrations need to have proper citations. Images, artwork, or photographs used in publications or papers should also be accompanied by a caption. Captions go directly under images and describe the image and give contextual information, but do not contain full citation information. Image citations should be compiled into a list of illustrations or an appendix. It is appropriate to include information about both the image and the source of the image in captions or notes and lists of illustrations or bibliographies. Images from print sources and electronic resources have different citation forms. Always consult a style manual for formatting guidelines. Check with your professor or advisor to determine which style your department requires.

        Some citation examples (using Chicago Manual of Style)

        Image downloaded from museum website:
        Caravaggio, The Denial of Saint Peter. Early 15th century. Oil on canvas, 94 x 125.4 cm. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. From: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, (accessed September 29, 2009).

        Image scanned from a book:
        Alice Neel, Nancy and the Rubber Plant. 1975, Oil on canvas, 203.2 x 91.4 cm. The Estate of Alice Neel. From: Ann Temkin et al. Alice Neel. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2000. Plate 64.

        Image downloaded from ARTstor:
        Rogier van der Weyden, Saint Catherine of Alexandria. 1430-1432, Diptych panel, 18.5 x 12 cm. Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria. Available from: ARTstor, (accessed September 30. 2009).

        Image downloaded from Flickr Commons:
        Thomas Eakins, William Rudolf O'Donovan. 1981, Black and white photographic print, 6 x 8 cm. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC. Available from: Flickr Commons, (accessed September 29, 2009).

        Appendix or List of Images

        Images and figures are usually compiled into an Appendix, Bibliography, or List of Figures. Check with your advisor for specific requirements.

        You will usually need the following information about the image and its source to cite a work of art properly:

        • Creator/artist name, if known
        • Title of the work, if known. If not, describe the image.
        • Date
        • Repository (if it comes from an museum or archive) or owner of work
        • Location of repository or work
        • Dimensions of the work (for artworks, such as paintings, drawings, sculptures, art photography, etc.)
        • Materials or medium (for artworks, such as oil on canvas, marble, found objects, etc.)
        • Institution granting permission for use (if needed; often owner or published source)
        • Author, title, publisher information, date, and page, figure or plate number of the reproduction if the image is from a book
        • Electronic resource or web site name if applicable, address (URL), and the date you retrieved the image

        For more on general citations, see the Citation research guide.

          Copyright & Image Use

          Digital images in ACDC, ARTstor, Bridgeman Education, and Oxford Art Online are provided for members of the Amherst academic community for use in teaching, study, and research. Amherst College students, faculty, and staff may use these images for in-class presentations, as well as papers, assignments, and some senior theses without obtaining permission. Some images provided by online sources, such as the Getty Open Content Images database are free to use as well. Images should always be cited (see above). Unless an image is in the public domain, inclusion in a published or commercial work or a non-Amherst-password-protected website may require permission from the copyright holder.

          Use of images is sometimes covered by the right of "Fair Use." See the College Art Association's page on Intellectual Property and The Arts for more information.

          Use of Images in Senior Theses
          Senior honors theses are considered publications. Use of images in theses is sometimes covered by the right of "Fair Use." See the College Art Association's page on Intellectual Property and The Arts for more information, or contact the Library with questions.  

          Many of Amherst's digital images available through the library may be printed in your thesis without requiring any special permission from the publisher:

          Look for the "Rights Information" at the bottom each record in the Art & Architecture Collection, or the "Access and Use" information in the Archives & Special Collections and Emily Dickinson Collection.

          There are many images in ACDC that you may use in your thesis without requesting permission:

          • If the rights information or access and use statement says "public domain" or "out of copyright," the image may be freely used in senior theses. It is not necessary to request permission to use these images, but be sure to properly cite the image(s).
          • All images that list “ “ as the rights holder may be freely used in senior theses.

          For other images in ACDC, you may need to request permission from the publisher or copyright holder to reproduce/print the image, unless you determine that your use of the image meets"Fair Use" exception to U.S. copyright law.

          All images in ARTstor may be freely used in senior theses. It is not necessary to request permission to use these images, but be sure to properly cite the image(s).

          Bridgeman Education
          Images in Bridgman Education may be freely used in senior theses. It is not necessary to request permission to use these images, but be sure to properly cite the image(s).

          Oxford Art Online
          You must request permission from the publisher or copyright holder to reproduce/print images from Oxford Art Online in your thesis.

          If you need additional help determining whether or not an image is copyrighted or in the public domain, or seeking permission to use a copyrighted image, contact a subject librarian, or make aresearch appointment. More more on proper use and permissions, see the Academic Honesty and Plagarism page.