Using Images in Course Materials


The photo shown above came from the site Unsplash and was edited in Picmonkey (to add the text to it and to resize it).

I feel like that might be all I need to tell you about adding photographs to course materials. If you use these two sites as your go-to resources, you almost can’t go wrong.

Unsplash provides gorgeous, high quality images for free. They are licensed under Creative Commons Zero, which means that you are free to use them however you want with no fears of copyright violations. Unsplash is the best thing that ever happened on the Internet. I see their photographs on websites and in advertisements and on book covers all the time. I just can’t even express how much I love them. I use their photographs on a regular basis in my Canvas course shells and in my classroom handouts. A great photograph can turn a blah set of instructions into something visually exciting, and sometimes that visual appeal is the little nudge that is needed to lure students in to reading the instructions.

Picmonkey is also full of awesome. It is just a basic photo editor (with pretty and creative filters), but it is very easy to use, and it is free. There is a paid version of Picmonkey, but it is very affordable, and the free version does almost everything you might need. Most often I use Picmonkey to do just what I did with the photo above. I took a large file and resized it to something more suitable for sharing in a blog post, and I added my own text to the photo in order to use it to send across a message.

Keep it weird. Keep it real.

And keep it visual.

That’s a good basic philosophy for making class materials engaging.

Other sites of interest for accessing free-to-use photographs are Morguefile, rgbstock, and Flickr Creative Commons.

It’s always better to assume that photographs we find online are copyrighted and should not be borrowed for our own purposes unless we are specifically told otherwise. These are just a few sites that do tell us when and how it is okay to download and use their images. There’s no reason we shouldn’t be borrowing the heck out of these images to bling out our courses.