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Visual Research Image Database

Featured Reference Photographs

aged man
female athlete wearing a hijab
a photographer takes our picture in foreground, corn field in background
children's backpacks in a line
city street on a winter night
two young adults on a basketball court face the camera
magnolia blossoms
busy day at the beach
Bell pay telephones
Thai boatman
working at home
neon lights at the Cadillac Lounge
cafe patrons
cute kid in a dinosaur costume
wavy canyon rock walls
interior cathedral architecture
candle in alcove
fall leaves
two cute dogs cuddle on blankets
Toronto, Yonge and Dundas
cowboys move cattle through trees at dawn
Egyptian hieroglyphs
a beautiful model
a father laying down lifts baby up in the air in a park
fire dancer
fishing at sunset
fog obscures highway traffic
football is life
a person with fox ears on hoodie faces city
forest path
a beautiful model in black, gold, and purples
graffiti alley
two building with graffiti
hands with henna paint
holding hands
a boy plays hopscotch
a man kayaking
mom and daughter smiling
library book shelves
a strong shaft of light from the ceiling of a large cave
a smiling woman gets a hug
a man stands on a winter street at night
ocean view
One World Trade Centre atrium
a blue retro car in front of bright pink and green homes
retro car
Rome Pantheon
rooftopper looks down at city from top of skyscraper
senior citizen couple on park bench
two besties at the beach
dewy spiderweb
stars in the night sky in the background, tipi frame in foreground
market vendor plays drum
time lapse photo of stars in desert
young woman in steampunk cosplay
Toronto skyline at sunset
travel besties hug at cliff

What Makes a Good Reference Photo?

When conducting an online search for an image to use as a reference, consider the following:

  • Lighting: Is the subject well lit? Is the photo over or under exposed? Too much shadow?
  • Focus & Detail: Was the photographer too far away? Is there not enough detail? Or, was the photographer too close and you can’t see the whole body? Is the photo too blurry or distorted?
  • Artificiality: Has the photo been altered? Are the colours realistic? Is the pose a natural position? Too staged?
  • Ownership/Plagiarism: Is the photo famous? Is it from a free image database? What Creative Commons license does it have?

And remember, if you can’t find what you are looking for online, try taking your own reference photos.

How Do I Know If a Photo is Free For Me to Use?

  • Did you take the picture yourself? Free!
  • Does the image have a watermark? If yes, this image falls under copyright protection and you should not use it.
  • Does the image have details about usage rights or the creator? 
  • Does the source specify that the image is in the public domain?
  • Did you read about the Creative Commons license details? Are there any limitations on use?
  • Did you check the image's metadata?
  • Did you try a Google reverse image search to determine ownership?

When in doubt, don't use the image.

Citation Guideline for Images

Image attribution, or giving credit to the creator of the image that you are using, should include the following details:

  • the creator/author,
  • the title of the image,
  • the source (website link or URL),
  • and the license information.  


Example in APA citation format:

Wang, J.C. (2008). Bur oak [Photograph]. Flickr


Example of Creative Commons license attribution:

"Ottawa, Parlamento," by Angel de los Rios, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.