Searching for images online

Check out the archive of images to help support the text and your studies.

Searching for images online

Sections 3.5, 8.3.1 and 11.3.1 in Visual Methodologies all discuss searching for images online. They raise a series of issues you should consider before working with images you have found online:

  • online images may be designed to be online, or they may have been photographed in order to appear online.  If the latter is the case, their visual and other qualities may have changed very significantly;
  • all materials in online databases are organised and tagged in particular ways, that may not be apppropriate for your research;
  • the criteria driving search engines are not visible, and may not produce straightforward results;
  • the coverage of visual materials online may be patchy, or expensive.

You can discover more about tagging images here, in a paper by Peter Enser.

'The evolution of visual information retrieval' Journal of Information Science August 2008 34(4): 531‒46 (this is a SAGE journal and there’s free access on current website)


Online image resources  

For images on web pages, go to Google Images.  The home page of Google Images allows you to do straightforward keyword searches; the 'Advanced Image Search' allows you to exclude certain keywords and look for keyword combinations.

More and more image collections are being uploaded onto open access web platforms. It's impossible to provide a full list here. For updates on new sources of open access images, keep an eye on

The Archives Hub brings together the archives of two hundred UK institutions.

The Sheffield Hallam University library provides a useful list of appropriate video, image and audio media sources, including the BFI, Creative Commons and the British Library.

Fine art images

All major art galleries – and many smaller ones – now have websites where you can search for images: here are the Louvre, the National Gallery in London, the UK Tate galleries, the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC, the Guggenheim Museum, and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. 

Museums and galleries


The National Portrait Gallery (London)

Musee du Louvre (Paris)

The National Gallery (London)

The British Museum (London)

Serpentine Gallery (London)

Tate Galleries (UK)

The British Library Online Gallery (London)

Whitechapel Gallery (London)

National Galleries of Scotland (Edinburgh)

The Royal Academy Gallery (London)

Saatchi Gallery (London)

Victoria and Albert Museum (London)

The Vatican Museums

The International Gallery (Florence)

The Uffizi Gallery (Florence)

The Rijksmuseum (Amsterdam)

Van Gogh Museum (Amsterdam)

Kunsthistorisches Museum (Vienna)

Museo Nacional del Prado (Madrid)

Museo Reina Sofia (Madrid)

Museo Picasso (Barcelona)

Acropolis Museum (Athens)

Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

The State Tretyakov Gallery (Moscow)

Musee d'Orsay (Paris)

Centre Pompidou (Paris)

The Hermitage Museum (St. Petersburg)

North America:

The National Gallery of Art (Washington D.C.)

Museum of Modern Art (New York)

Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York)

Philadelphia Museum of Art

Museum of Fine Arts (Boston)

Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

Art Institute of Chicago

Rest of the world:

National Gallery of Australia (Canberra)

National Portrait Gallery (Canberra)

National Museum of Korea (Seoul)

Gyeongju National Museum (Gyeongju)

The National Art Center (Tokyo)


Flickr Commons is a website that brings together a wide range of public photography collections.

For photographs, there are commercial image banks like Getty Images. Paul Frosh's (2003) book on image banks is an excellent critical account of how they work. 

Photogrammar is a web-based platform for organizing, searching, and visualizing the 170,000 photographs from 1935 to 1945 created by the United States Farm Security Administration and Office of War Information

Commercial image banks

Getty Images

Associated Press (AP)

National Geographic Stock


iStock Photo

There are also specialist image banks: ARKive, for example, specialises in wildlife photographs, and RIBApix specialises in photographs of architecture of all periods together with related subjects such as interior design, landscape, topography, planning, construction and the decorative arts.


There is YouTube of course, which carries a vast range of materials. 

The BBC Motion Gallery links to a range of film archives, including CBS and the Smithsonian. Public information films made by the UK government between 1945 and 2006 can now be seen online at the National Archives.

Many British films and television programmes are available at BFI Screen Online.  In the US, Hulu is the place to find recent television and some films.

The Pathe archive carries newsreel, sports footage, social history documentaries, entertainment and music stories from 1896 to 1976. 

Movieclips has a huge range of clips from movies (though the whole movie should also be watched), and there is also a site for film trailers

The UK's National Media Museum has extensive collections of images and objects relating to television, film, photography and new media.


Advertolog is an online collection of recent adverts, divided into print/outdoor and tv/film/digital.  You can search by brand, product and advertising agency. Ads of the World does a similar job, although it’s a bit less user-friendly, I found. Campaign is the advertising profession's magazine in the UK.  It carries both discussion of adverts, and a collection of all sorts of advertising too.

For collections of recent television advertisements, try the Creative Lounge, which is hosted by the UK newspaper The Guardian and has mainly ads broadcast in the UK. YouTube also carries a lot of video and film advertisements, of course.

For older advertising, Advertising Archives has a lot of print images, and some screen shots of television commercials. The History of Advertising Trust has an online gallery of UK ads, with adverts collected into themes as well as a search function; their online gallery is a taster of their physical archive which is held in Norwich, UK.


British Cartoons Archive is at

The UK's National Media Museum has extensive collections of images and objects relating to television, film, photography and new media. 

Pond5 has a collection of royalty-free images here

Lantern is a search and visualization platform for over 1.3 million pages of digitized books and magazines from the histories of film, broadcasting, and recorded sound

Various magazines have their own photograph archives online: Life magazine, National Geographic

Magazines and other publications


National Geographic

Guardian Eyewitness

New York Times images

BBC News in pictures