Thing 10: Exploring images online

Social media and digital tools are great for both finding and sharing images online. The images that you find and share can have multiple uses, including for your research.

Ever wondered where you can find a great image to give your presentation or blog post the edge? Or wanted to share an image of yourself doing something amazing for your research? Images can dramatically enhance communication of your research online, amongst peers, or with the public.

We’ll cover two types of image tools: online photo storing and sharing sites such as Flickr that allow you to upload lots of your own photos, and sites such as Instagram and Pinterest that are designed for sharing.


“This one is for my researcher profile page”
Photo by Elijah O’Donnell on Unsplash


It is becoming increasingly common to use sites like Flickr for photo storage, as well as sharing. Although other sites exist, (see comparisons here) this is one of the biggest, so this is where we’ll focus our attention today. People use them because they make it easy to share pictures and give you additional features for organization, such as tags and search. This has benefits for both the photo owner and those of us who want to view or use images. Access controls let you manage who can see or download which photos. Licence controls let the owner feel more secure about sharing images, while users can feel comfortable downloading them.


Before you consider creating an account and uploading photos, let’s first have a little explore of the site. You can do this without creating an account.

Go to Flickr. Use the search box or the explore option to find an image. Experiment with different search terms, and see how they change what results you get. As well as individual users, Flickr can support Groups of people with photos, or allow users to curate Galleries of images.

Note the features of a Flickr image. You’ll see the image right away. Below that on the left-hand side you’ll see the username of the photo’s owner. Sometimes the owner will have added additional information such as date or type of camera/lens. If the photo is in any groups or sets, they’ll be displayed on the bottom too. Below this, you’ll find the photo’s tags. Depending on the photo settings, these may have been added by the photo owner or by other Flickr users. Under the photo on the right hand side, you’ll see information about usage and licensing as well as privacy settings.

Could you take that particular image and use it? What might be required for you to do so? What information should you provide alongside the image for your presentation?

If you’ve managed to find an image with the correct licensing, you can download or share the image via the options at the bottom right of the image section (the share button looks like an arrow pointing right, and the download options are on the far right and look like an arrow pointing downwards).

If you want to ensure that you are only looking for images that would be available for you to use, you may wish to explore the area in Flickr known as ‘The Commons’, or look at the options in the ‘Advanced Search’. The specific option you need to tick is ‘Only search within Creative Commons-licensed content ’. We spoke about this in Thing 8 so please refer back if you need to.

If you have or want to create a Flickr account, do so now. To upload photos on Flickr, you’ll need a Yahoo, Facebook or Google account. Take some photos to upload, or upload one or two you already have – perhaps something that illustrates the work or research you do.

Upload these into your Flickr account and tag at least one of the images with ‘23 Things for Research’ (read more about Flickr tagging). Please make sure that the images you upload are your own, or that you have received proper permission to share them.


Pinterest shares some functionality with Flickr in that it offers users the ability to collect and curate collections of items, though these are not limited to images. In fact, they can be entire websites, videos, presentations or other resources. It’s essentially an online bulletin board. It can work as a personal tool for remembering images and bookmarks, and as a way of sharing links.

The collections, or ‘boards’, are generally themed. A single user can have many boards. The items or ‘pins’ they choose to add to the board can be their own uploads, or come from a third party source. Other users can ‘repin’ items from one board to their own, or choose to follow boards.



If you want to explore Pinterest, you’ll need to register. You do not need to register in order to complete this thing, but doing some will give you access to interesting and useful resources that other researchers have found during their studies. A simple search for pins on ‘research’ or ‘PhD’ might return instructional guides on research specific skills such as NVivo or LaTeX, useful resources for developing transferable skills, or things to help you stay sane during your doctorate.



In addition to sites that let you upload and organize your images, there are also apps and tools designed for ‘one off’ sharing. Instagram, for instance, lets you share photos and 15-second videos straight from your phone or tablet, edit them with filters and captions, and share immediately with your followers. Explore the great things institutions are doing with Instagram: the Smithsonian, the British Library are good examples. Or how about following some accounts for creative, inspiring or human stories? Sometimes you just want to look at pictures of Cornwall, but you might also find some great ideas for presenting your own research.

Some of the statistics behind Instagram are mind-boggling. Think about the almost inconceivable levels of interconnectedness that such sharing networks create…

Exploring further


We look forward to seeing how you have decorated and enlivened your blog with images and maybe a linked photo account. Remember to tag photos with ‘23 Things for Research’.


“This week my research lead me to exploring spongiform disintegration patterns under exposure to stainless-steel crepe spades.”
Photo by Karly Gomez on Unsplash

Author: rdpsurrey

Providing personal and professional development opportunities to researchers at the University of Surrey.

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