A Guide to Proper Image Use on HubPages

Updated on May 21, 2018

A Crash Course on Proper Image Use

It is impossible for us to have the right image for everything we write about, so sometimes it is best to turn to an external source.

This guide provides information on finding and using images from external sources in a manner that respects copyright law and specifically addresses:

The Gist

  1. Do not use others' images unless they have a Creative Commons (CC) or Public Domain license
  2. When citing others' images, include author name, license type, and source in the source bar of the Photo Capsule (e.g. Bob Smith, CC-BY, via flickr or Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons).
  3. Also be sure to link to the image's source page in the URL bar in the Photo Capsule

Sound Image Practices

Though it is best to use one's own photos and images on HubPages (doing so can add extra authority, originality, usefulness, and flair to an article), there are times when we lack the time and resources to take photos or create images to cover all topics and subjects on which we write.

Luckily, HubPages makes it easy to import images from elsewhere online that have been created by other people. Though all you have to do is insert an image URL into the Photo Capsule to import an image, the process of LEGALLY using others' images online is more complicated than that.

To use a photo or image created by someone else on your own articles, you must have the right to do so. Not every image you see online is up for grabs. So let us take a look at what is not OK to use, and then we'll delve into various resources for images that are OK to use!

The Use of Dividers in Your Article

Many Hubbers like to use image dividers to break up their Text Capsules. While we realize that your article is your domain of creative expression, we advise against using this practice. Online readers prefer a consistent design from page to page and dividers detract from that experience.

Instead of using page breaks, we recommend breaking up text by inserting photos that help illustrate your article and additional Text Capsules with clear subtitles.

Don't forget to use images legally!
Don't forget to use images legally! | Source

It is NOT OK to...

On HubPages, it is not OK to...

  • Use an image with a watermark. Watermarks detract from an article's overall appearance. If you own the photo, we recommend attributing your photo to yourself in the attribution box. All photos are legally copyrighted to the owner even if they are not watermarked or attributed. If you would like to purchase digital watermarks for your images and track who uses your images, you can do so at www.digimarc.com. You can also use the free service tineye.com to find out if any of your images are being used around the web.
  • Use an image that you have just found on Google Images. Many people search on Google Images and just credit "Google Images" for their photos. This is incorrect. Google Images did not create that image, nor does it host it. Google Images helps you find images, but it is not the best tool for finding images to use, as not all of those images are licensed to be used by other people.
  • Use an image that you found on a random website. Unless it comes with a Creative Commons license that allows for commercial use (does not include "Non-Commercial" in the license stipulations)
  • Use an "Attribution" image and not attribute the author. Many Creative Commons images come with an "Attribution" license, which means that you can use the image, but only if you credit the author. If you do not credit the author, you are not using the image legally. Crediting an author requires both a name and a URL, both of which can be entered into the Photo Capsule.
  • Use a "Non-Commercial" image if you have ads turned on for your article. If you are earning money from your article, it is commercial, and you can therefore not use images that have been designated for only non-commercial use.

There are some other scenarios in which it is not OK to use another person's image, but these are the most common mistakes Hubbers make.

It IS OK to...

There are three primary ways to obtain images that you legally have the right to use:

  • Use your own images
  • Use Public Domain images
  • Purchase images from stock images sites
  • Use legally downloaded royalty-free photos when you follow their license guidelines
  • Use images that are Attribution Only, Attribution, No Derivatives, or Attribution, Share-Alike so long as you conform with the stipulations set out in those licenses

You can purchase relatively inexpensive images from sites such as iStockphoto, which has a huge library of both photos and graphics. That said, there are many great sites online where you can find images that you can legally use for free. Let us have a closer look at those.

What Correct Image Attribution Looks Like

We've made it pretty easy to correctly attribute images on HubPages by providing a space for you to list the author, license, and source of each image, as well as to put the source URL (in addition to, of course, your caption, should you choose to add one).

Here is how you should enter the information:

  • In the first text box for each image, put: IMAGE AUTHOR NAME, LICENSE, via SOURCE SITE (e.g. Betty Sue, CC-BY, via flickr)
  • In the second box, put the URL of the page where the image came from
  • In the final box, put any caption you might want to add

Check out the images below to get an idea of what proper attribution should look like.

What a cute kitten!  Daaawwww!!
What a cute kitten! Daaawwww!! | Source
Hungry? | Source

What do the various Creative Commons licenses mean?

If you're wondering what the various Creative Commons licenses mean, here is the explanation from the Creative Commons website:

  • Attribution: CC BY:This license lets others distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon your work, even commercially, as long as they credit you for the original creation. This is the most accommodating of licenses offered. Recommended for maximum dissemination and use of licensed materials
  • Attribution-ShareAlike: CC: BY-SA:This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work even for commercial purposes, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms. This license is often compared to “copyleft” free and open source software licenses. All new works based on yours will carry the same license, so any derivatives will also allow commercial use. This is the license used by Wikipedia, and is recommended for materials that would benefit from incorporating content from Wikipedia and similarly-licensed projects.
  • Attribution-NoDerivs: CC BY:ND:This license allows for redistribution, commercial and non-commercial, as long as it is passed along unchanged and in-whole, with credit to you.
  • Attribution-NonCommercial: CC BY-NC:This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, and although their new works must also acknowledge you and be non-commercial, they don’t have to license their derivative works on the same terms
  • Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike: CC BY-NC-SA: This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms.
  • Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs: CC BY-NC-ND: This license is the most restrictive of the six main licenses, only allowing others to download your works and share them with others as long as they credit you, but they can’t change them in any way or use them commercially.

For even more information and explanation, visit the Creative Commons website by visiting the link to your right.

As you can see from the license descriptions above, not all Creative Commons images are free for you to use. Only Attribution, Attribution-ShareAlike, and Attribution-NoDerivs licenses are available for your use on HubPages (so long as your articles are considered commercial) as you stand to earn from your work.

Ready to Test Yourself? Take This Photo Attribution Quiz!

Here are 8 different image links. How would attribution look for each of these? Please note that the links are sometimes wrong, and some of these images can not be used legally.

Answers are at the bottom of this tutorial.

Finding Creative Commons-Licensed Images

So long as images are in the public domain or have a Creative Commons license that permits your using them, you can get images from anywhere. Two of the most popular sources for photos with Creative Commons licenses and public domain images are Wikimedia Commons and Flickr.

Choosing What to Link to When Citing Creative Commons Images

With regard to citation, Creative Commons offers the following tips:

  • If the work itself contains any copyright notices placed there by the copyright holder, you must leave those notices intact, or reproduce them in a way that is reasonable to the medium in which you are re-publishing the work.
  • Cite the author's name, screen name, user identification, etc. It is nice to link that name to the person's profile page, if such a page exists.
  • Cite the work's title or name, if such a thing exists. It is nice to link the name or title directly to the original work.
  • Cite the specific CC license the work is under, and link to the specific CC license, ie. for CC Attribution you would link to http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0.
  • If you are making a derivative work or adaptation, in addition to the above, you need to identify that your work is a derivative work i.e., “This is a Finnish translation of the [original work] by [author].” or “Screenplay based on [original work] by [author].”

So technically, it's best if you link to:

  1. The author's profile
  2. The work's page
  3. The license page

When working with more flexible formats, we recommend including all those links, however, on HubPages, you can only link back to one thing, and we prefer that you link back to the photo's source.

Why? If other Hubbers want to use that image, they can more easily find it. What's more, HubPages team members seeking to award you with contest prizes cannot easily verify that you have properly used your images if you do not link back to the source.

An image on Wikipedia Commons
An image on Wikipedia Commons
Click the "Use this file on the web" link to get all of the needed URLs and attribution information in one place
Click the "Use this file on the web" link to get all of the needed URLs and attribution information in one place

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons is where you can find many of the public domain and Creative Commons images that are used in Wikipedia articles. This is a great resource for educational images, graphs, and diagrams, as well as all sorts of photos.

To find and use a photo on Wikimedia Commons...

  1. Type a keyword in the search bar
  2. Browse the resulting images
  3. When you've found one you like, click through to its page
  4. Click on the "Use this file on the web" link above the image
  5. Navigate to your HubTool in another tab or window and add/open a Photo Capsule
  6. Go back to the image's page, copy the File URL, and enter that into the box under the import section of the Photo Capsule in the HubTool, then import the image
  7. Go back to the image's page, copy the Attribution information, and paste that into the Name of Source section
  8. Go back to the image's page, copy the Page URL information, and paste that into the Source URL section
  9. Write in any description you might like to add
  10. Click save

Make sure to check these two boxes in an advanced search on Flickr
Make sure to check these two boxes in an advanced search on Flickr

Flickr Creative Commons

While not every image on flickr is there for you to use as you please, some images have been given Creative Commons licenses that you are free to utilize.

To find these images, go to Flickr Creative Commons and click the "see more" link associated with photos with an:

  • Attribution License
  • Attribution-NoDerivs License
  • Attribution-ShareAlike License

Alternately, you can do an advanced search on flickr by going to the Advanced Search page and checking the "Only search within Creative Commons-licensed content" and "Find content to use commercially" boxes.

So long as you provide attribution and conform with the other stipulations of these licenses, you're free to use these images in your articles. Be sure to include both the username of the author and the author's URL in your attribution; ideally you would include the license information as well.

How to Give Your Photos a Creative Commons License

If you use others' images in your work, a great way to 'give back' (and also get your name out there) is by giving some of your images Creative Commons licenses that enable others to use them.

To clearly mark content or images on your articles as having a certain Creative Commons license:

  1. Visit the Creative Commons license creation tool
  2. Fill out the fields and check the radio buttons to customize your license
  3. Copy the written text that appears in the bottom right box (not the HTML, not the image- we don't support those formats at this time)
  4. Paste the text (hyperlinks and all) into a Text Capsule in your article (probably near the end)

Most images that have a Creative Commons license are not only given the license visually (e.g. through a badge somewhere on the page, or written text as we recommend above), but also tagged with metadata making those images easier to find through special search engines designed to find Creative Commons-licensed content.

Because HubPages does not currently support the ability to add license metadata to original photos via the Photo Capsule, we recommend:

  1. Using the Creative Commons license creation tool to create a license for your image or content
  2. Posting that image and/or content on your own website where you can also include the special HTML the creation tool generates in response to your input


  1. Uploading your original images to Flickr
  2. Applying a Creative Commons license of your choosing to those images (e.g. CC-BY-SA, or CC-BY)
  3. Citing your images in your own articles just as you would cite CC images made by other people (you obviously don't need to, but this can be another means by which people discover your work)

Finding and Using Public Domain or Royalty Free Images

Public Domain images, as well as those from many royalty free image sites, do not require attribution, so you are free to use them in your articles without citing or linking back to your sources. Note: Some royalty-free image sites do have special stipulations, so be sure to follow the requirements of any licenses they apply to their content.

There are many great resources where you can find and download images that are in the Public Domain or do not require attribution.

You Might Still Want to Cite Those Royalty-Free and Public Domain Images!

When participating in contests, you must cite back to any and all images from external sources (naming the image creator, license type, and source in your source box).

This is the only way we can be sure that you have legally used all the images in your articles.

Pixabay: Free public-domain photos

Another terrific source of high-quality public domain images is Pixabay. Since these images are public domain, no attribution or source link is required to use them (N.B.: Apprentices must still attribute with a link, so we can verify). Pixabay has over 30,000 images to choose from, and their catalog is easily searched.

Making Use of US Government Photos

Photos taken by United States government employees (while on official duty) are part of the public domain. DotGovWatch offers a convenient means of searching sites that feature these photos.

Specific sites that host public domain images include:

Even though public domain photos don't require that you name the author, we still encourage you to follow the same basic image citation format of author, license, via source, in the "source" box of the Photo Capsule, and to link to the image's source in the Photo Capsule's URL bar.

A Note on Using Friends' Photos

Sometimes photos you have on your computer that you consider to be yours, were taken by other people (e.g. a wife, son, uncle, friend, etc.). Though often those photos have been given to your or taken with your camera, keep in mind that technically, whoever takes a photo retains copyright to that photo.

Therefore, even when you use your own photos, you need to ask for permission whenever using images taken or created by someone else, and establish how this person would like to be cited. Though many friends and family members will be happy to share their work, some may prefer that you make certain licensing notes (e.g. that the image is copyrighted, or CC-BY-SA). It never hurts to check!

One Final Note: Fair Use

There are some instances in which people can justify their use of copyrighted material using the Fair Use exception of United States copyright law.

Cases that are typically eligible for this exception:

  • Only use copyrighted work to contribute something important and original to the world, typically in the form of art, criticism, reviews, education, or reporting
  • Are not monetized (e.g. are not selling something, featuring ads, etc.)
  • Use a very small amount of copyrighted work (in proportion to the entire work created)
  • Do not use copyrighted work in a manner that would compromise the copyright holder's ability to earn from it

Because most articles have ads on them, they do not make very good candidates for this exception. Nevertheless, you can learn more about it in these helpful United States Government, Wikipedia and Social Media Examiner overviews.

  • Only use copyrighted content for reviews, criticism, education, or reporting that is intended to advance knowledge, or to contribute something truly original to the art world
  • Do not use copyrighted material in monetized content (e.g. content that has ads on it) or content intended for personal gain
  • Keep the proportion of copyrighted content used in one’s work to a bare minimum
  • Do not use copyrighted material in your work if doing so has the potential to hurt the ability of the copyright holder to continue to profit from his or her work

The More You Know, the Better!

While the issue of legal image use may seem overwhelming at first, it is far better to be informed and legitimate than to inadvertently steal another person's work.

We take copyright seriously and respect the legal rights that all Hubbers on HubPages have for their own work. We therefore encourage equal respect of the work—be it writing, photographs, images, or something else entirely—of those on other websites as well.

Answers to Photo Attribution Quiz

1. Barbara Samuel via Flickr, CC-BY 2.0
2. Cannot be used, since not Creative Commons, without explicit, personal permission granted by the author
3. Pascalou petit via Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-SA 3.0
4. All rights reserved, so can not be used.
5. Not a Creative Commons photo, so cannot be used.
6. Morguefile does not require attribution, but Apprentices must still attribute it as: morguefile
7. Cannot be used, since the owner specifies that the image cannot be used for commercial purposes.


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