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Finding Images: Photography: Flickr

Flickr Tips and Tricks

Flickr, owned and maintained by Yahoo!, is a social media application that hosts and shares amateur and institutional photography. Unlike Google Images, which searches all of the Web, Flickr primarily hosts amateur photography and institutional photography, much of it freely available to use. It is a great resource for finding contemporary images of people, places, buildings, and events. The main page should look something like this:

Try searching for images in the box located on the home page. Use simple, natural language.  Unnecessarily complex keyword searches won't return as many results as they would in Google. Below is a sample search for "pyramid."

There are three ways to sort your results: by the most relevant, the most recent, and the most interesting. How you decide to sort your results will depend on what you're looking for. "Interesting" will often return the best images, but you should experiment with these options to see which works best for you.

The Advanced Search Interface can be used to narrow your results and limit them only to those images with Creative Commons licenses.

Flickr Advanced Search Interface screen

At the top of the page, you can choose to search keywords as a phrase, search for all of them, or search for any of them.  More importantly, though, you can specify which keywords NOT to search. For example, you might want to find all of the images tagged with "apple," but none of those tagged "pie."

You can also choose to search for keywords either in the full text or in the tags only. This distinction is similar to that between a full-text search and a subject heading search in a database or a library catalog. A tag search is likely to return fewer results, but the results it does return are more likely to be relevant, providing that you are using the correct tag.

Here you can also limit your search to certain types of media and content.

At the bottom of the Advanced Search Interface are two additional options. The first allows you to specify a date range on which a picture was taken or posted. Many universities, libraries, and archives have Flickr accounts where they host historical photographs and images -- this limit can come in handy when trying to find them. The second option allows you to specify the type of license applied to images. By checking the box next to "Only search within Creative Commons-licensed content," you will be searching only for those images that you can freely use with appropriate citation. 

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