Skip to main content

Research Guides

Images: Search Strategies

Guide to high-quality image databases and resources. Interdisciplinary image content, search strategies, evaluating images, & image citation guide.

Image Search Tips & Strategies

Searching for images can be trickier than searching for text. Try different keywords and databases, and read on for more tips:

Choosing an image database

  • Do you need clip art? An art print? This guide has a range of resources. Read the database descriptions to help you choose. 
  • Try searching more than one database.
  • Move beyond Google Images. 

Effectively using an image database

  • Familiarize yourself with the contents and features of the database you have chosen. Every database is structured differently, with different image content, different descriptive data, and different search functionality.
  • Every database is different. Familiarize yourself with the contents and features of the database you have chosen. 
  • Use the "About" or "Help" pages. This information can save you time and effort when you begin your search.

Search strategies

  • Start small. Try using just 1 or 2 keywords to start your search. Search results too large? Add additional keywords. Too small? You may need to try other databases.
  • What do you know about an image? Location? People? Title? Subject? Keywords from any of these categories could help.
  • Are there other ways the image might be described? You may have more success searching on place names, time periods, artist names, publishers, or dates.
  • Foreign languages. If image titles may be in a language other than English, experiment with different possible translations.
  • Artist names and place names often have more than one accepted spelling or format. If you do not find the results you expect with one spelling, try another.