Izel Photography / Alamy Stock Photo

How to use Google Images effectively

When you need to find an image for a project, Google Images can be a great place to start.  We’ve put together some top tips to make sure you get the most out of your search and don’t get any license complications down the line…

  1. Check it’s safe to use before you download
  2. Use the filters to search by license type
  3. If you’re not sure, don’t use it

1. Check it’s safe to use before you download

Just because an image is shown in Google Images doesn’t mean you’re free to download and use it however you want.

Google Images pulls in content from all over the internet, so when an image is displayed in your search results, don’t assume that Google owns the image rights.

Some images may have a creative commons license, meaning the image owner has given their permission for the image to be used and shared for free.

If you want to download directly from Google, read their ‘Find free-to-use images’ help page before you download anything.

If you don’t use this filter some of the images won’t have this flexibility and downloading them for your project could result in you using an image illegally, without the right licenses and permissions.

Three things to consider before you download an image are:

  • Watch out for watermarks 

Cat watermark example

Placing a watermark on an image is one of the ways image owners can protect their photos from being used illegally. Stock image libraries like Alamy place watermarks on their images to show that the image is owned and to remind people they need to license the image before they use it. It’s always safer to avoid a watermarked image and ultimately, using an image with a watermark on it won’t look professional.


  • Check the image credits

Have a look at the website the image is hosted on to gauge whether an image is available for downloading. When you click on an image in Google Images, information will be displayed to the right of the image. This will usually include the headline of the page the image is featured on, a link to the website and any image credits.

In this example, an Alamy stock photo is credited by The Telegraph:

Telegraph credit

Here you can see the details for the article the image appeared in. The bottom line shows the image caption along with the photo credits.


The information that’s displayed varies from image to image, but if you can see an obvious image credit or the host site is a stock image library, you can assume the image needs to be licensed.

  • Check the image quality

Whether the image has a watermark on it or not, another quick check you can do is look at the quality of the image. If the image appears pixelated or blurry, it’s more than likely this is a low-resolution version of an original image.

The quality of the image will also be impacted depending on the image size, and for different uses you’ll need different sized images. Check out our handy blog for some pointers on how to pick the right image size for your project.

Using low-resolution images in your projects can look unprofessional and will lower the quality of your content.

2. Use the filters to sort the images by those with a license and those without

Google Images has a number of filters that let you search for images that have been labelled for reuse. By clicking on the ‘search tools’ tab and selecting one of the below options, the images shown in these results will be filtered by the option you choose.

Google Images search tools


Although this is a really helpful tool to find images with a creative commons license, remember there aren’t any guarantees and the images could have been labelled incorrectly.


3. If you’re not sure, don’t use it

Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to use an image lies with you.  If you’re using an image without the right license and get caught, you could face a fine or even court proceedings, so if you can’t find the license information you need, it’s probably best to find another image.

Using a stock image library like Alamy is one way to make sure you have the right permissions to use an image. By purchasing the usage rights you know exactly how you can use an image and can rest assured you’re legally covered.


Want to know more about stock images? Check out these handy blogs:

How to make sure you’re legally covered to use an image

11 helpful blogs for anyone buying images online

Is it safe to use Google Images?

With over 150,000 contributors and 675 agencies from 173 countries, we’re committed to ensuring that you can find the perfect image whether it’s local or international. And with 150,000 images added everyday, many of them exclusive to the Alamy library, you’re bound to see something new. Our unedited library offers you the most diverse collection, brimming with high quality, unique, authentic imagery. With Alamy, you can always see more.