Best Practices for Citing Pictures with Creative Commons

Will Guy ’16Will Guy

Creative Commons, also denoted by the © symbol, is a way for authors of media to federally protect their work. For example, the average Instagram user does not have a Creative Commons license; as such, his or her photograph can be used or sold without his or her permission. Although a Creative Commons license can protect several different types of work, for this blog post, we’ll focus on some best practices for the attribution of images that are protected under a Creative Commons.

Imagine that you’re writing a research paper and you chose to include an image you found on a website of a historical document. For this scenario, we’ll be attributing an image of a king painted onto a piece of sandstone by Egyptians. When attributing any image with a Creative Commons, it’s important to include the title or caption with the image, the author, and the licensing type.  Follow the steps below to attribute this image:

Step 1: Identify the title or caption


Here, the title is “Temple Relief of King as Child Protected by Goddess”

Step 2: Identify the author

For this particular image, there is no clear author. Remember, we are concerned with attributing the image, not the text associated with it, so it’s slightly different than your in-text citation with no author.


Note here again that there is no author. The website tells us to credit the Brooklyn Museum, instead.

Step 3: Identify the licensing type

Here, it is clear that the type of license is Creative Commons. However, there are several different types of Creative Commons. Click the second link and it will bring you to a new webpage.


Once you click the link, your web browser should now have this image:


This webpage tells us that the particular image we’re using is a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0. In addition, the Creative Commons provides information on what we can and cannot do with the image.

Step 4: Format the Attribution

If you’ve followed the preceding steps, you should now have a title, an author, and a licensing type. For this image, the format is as follows:

“Temple Relief of King as Child Protected by Goddess” by the Brooklyn Museum user ________ (name of user) used under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license. Note that the “Creative Commons Attribution 3.0” is a hyperlink.


Information for this blog post was gathered from the following websites: 

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