How to Source (Uncredited) Images, Part 1: Image Sharing Etiquette

I discovered I have a new super power: sourcing an uncredited (food) image in under 10 minutes. Boring, you say? Given the number of unsourced images–particularly food and comics– on tumblr, Facebook, and Pinterest combined with the seeming inability of users to 1. check for a source before sharing/reblogging and 2. not share uncredited images or acknowledge that they can’t find the source, apparently now I’m ready to have a cape and a comic series about myself.

Image from X-Men First Class via Empire.
Image from X-Men First Class via Empire. Probably faster than Google Image Search, too.

So welcome, students, to the I’ll Make It Myself School for Gifted Bloggers’ seminar “How to Source (Uncredited) Images on the Interwebs.” Our syllabus:

Session 1: How you can do your part to share images and credit the sources.

Session 2a: How to find the source of images that people didn’t credit.

Session 2b: How to report uncredited images.

How to Share an Image

Chrome app for sharing on Tumblr
Chrome app for sharing on Tumblr

1. Buttons, Apps, and Sharing Add-Ons

Pinterest and Tumblr both have buttons you can add to your browser to make new posts (images for Pinterest; images, quotes, links, etc., for Tumblr.) The button links the pin/post to the page source.

For Pinterest, this adds the alternate text on the photo; for example, “Rolling out the cookies | Vegan Gingerbread Cookies on Food Blog,” or, if the author hasn’t set title/alt text, “DSC_0999” or the name of the original image. (In those cases, I’d recommend typing in a description for ease of searching later.)

Winning at Pinning.
Winning at Pinning.

For tumblr, the button will add a link to the source automatically (see Advanced Settings) and add a link into post with text like “via Spooky Pumpkin Cake | I’ll Make It Myself.” You can alter this text, and while I know that there’s a tumblr preference for “Source: x” and a link to increase the visual impact, just don’t. Providing two links will not detract from the awesomeness of the image.

2. Using the source to share the image.

Share this post on all your social media. Most websites have a variation of this option.
Share this post on all your social media. Most websites have a variation of this option.

Most blogs, news sites, and magazines will have options to share the link from the site to your social media. For example, if you scroll to the bottom of one of my posts, you can choose to share it on Facebook, tumblr, LinkedIn, etc.

3. What counts as credit

It’s not enough to hashtag the author’s name on Facebook or add credit in the comments. You will need the original post with a link at the least, and the creator’s name or handle. Of course, if you’re linking from the proper website, this will not be an issue.

4. Sharing an image on your blog

Suppose you’re a content creator or writer and want that content on your blog.

WordPress: If you and the OP use WordPress, you can reblog it: this creates a link to the post and highlights some of the images; you can write a nice intro or your thoughts.

Adding a photoset? Don't forget to add a source in the advance settings and the caption!
Adding a photoset? Don’t forget to add a source in the advanced settings and the caption!

Tumblr: If you want to use a series of images (like steps to baking a cake) and therefore can’t use the “Share on Tumblr” app, upload the images, then click the gear to add a content source. For good measure, add a caption with the link, too. Best to see if the OP has already done this, though.

If it’s a single image and is sourced, just reblog it. If the post is not rebloggable, send a Fan Mail or Ask to the OP.

Round-up posts / reblogs when your blogging platform doesn’t offer a “reblog” option

Inserting the image from a URL and then adding the source so that people can click through. Next step: caption.
Inserting the image from a URL and then adding the source so that people can click through. Next step: caption with a link. (The sliver of image is from NPR’s article about yellow cheese, which is linked below.)

Say you want to do a “My 10 Favorite Pies from Other Blogs” post, or a post about an art show where you want to show 1-2 images from the creator. (Most creators are okay with 1-2 images used for publicity with proper linking and citation, but do check their “about” page or write to them for details.)

Upload the content: depending on how their site treats hotlinking, you might be able to “insert image from a url.” However, if you right-click (or control-click) to get the image URL, you might be linking to the image and not the post. In WordPress-based blogs, you can create a “custom link” to the post, not just the image.

However, you actually might want to download the image to make sure the link doesn’t break if the site has a redesign or the image is removed. In this case, linking to the post on the image and in the caption (below) is ideal.

Captions: Add a caption (in addition to the link on the image) with a link. “Via NPR. Image by A. Blake Gardener” and linking to the actual article/source/post, not just the general blog/magazine/Facebook page, is ideal. Link it again in the text about the image if you have any. (I tend to do this in Kitchen Library posts.)

5. How not to attribute posts

“Found it on Pinterest!” Then find the actual pin, and make sure it has a working link. Link to the OP or the pin.

“Via [image/meme aggregator site].” Link to the post. (If it’s a meme, crediting the meme maker and linking to their blog is usually okay, but for recipes, art, comics, link to THE ACTUAL POST.)

6. If you mess up

and a creator requests that you credit or remove the image, do it. Do not balk; do not complain. Then apologize. Even make a post apologizing and linking to the correct thing. We all mess up sometimes and reblog images we don’t realize have been stolen. If you see uncredited images, contact the creator, ask for a source, reblog with the source, send a message to the poster. Do what you can to stop uncredited images.


1. But what if I just want to share the picture, like my favorite Facebook groups/George Takei/reddit?

It depends. Does the blog/photographer have a Facebook page or a tumblr? The author might have already posted the image on their page, which you can then share from said page, linking back the OP. For example, the Facebook pages for NPR and Barack Obama actually create images like this with links to stats, articles, etc., so that Facebookers and Pinners can share something with more visual impact than a link. Creating images like this is fine; reposting them uncredited, not fine.

If not, don’t just randomly download and upload images. The image will preview (hopefully) when you share a link. You are better than these photo-aggregating meme blogs. There was a lawless time on the Internet when you downloaded images onto floppy discs to put on your blog without worrying about the source. That time has passed. The creators of art, photography, comics, drawings, quotes deserve their credit.

2. But who cares? I’m getting this badass feminist quote / awesome cake / hilarious meme some publicity!

But are you? Remember when Rosea Lake (roseaposey) posted her powerful photo Judgments on her Flickr, and then it went viral, but it was largely uncredited at first, even on Jezebel? Why was that? Because Jezebel author Laura Beck found it on Facebook group Media Watch, where it and many other images are STILL uncredited. Not only was Lake’s art uncredited, the image was shared without the artist’s statement, which is critical to being able to “read” the piece:

I took this last year, but in retrospect, I think it’s my strongest piece from high school.

Working on this project really made me examine my own opinions, preconceptions and prejudices about “slutty” women and women who choose to cover all of their skin alike. I used to assume that all women who wore Hijabs were being oppressed, slut-shame, and look down on and judge any woman who didn’t express her sexuality in a way that I found appropriate.

I’d like to think I’m more open now. (Source: RoseaPosey on Flickr and Society6)

So while the readers of Jezebel and other news sites received the image sans context or credit, I had seen it on my tumblr from the OP and was shocked at how basically no one had tried to source it. Journalists who don’t fact-check or consult with others or know how to use the Internet drive me up the wall. Bloggers and people who run social media groups, especially feminist groups, on Facebook who steal images from their fellow feminists: I don’t know what you’re trying to accomplish. You can use the Internet, so you can do a GIS. (More on that in lesson 2.)

3. But the author didn’t Pinterest-optimize their image with a watermark or URL! That’s asking for it!

Some of us are not good at Photoshop. Some of us can’t afford photo-editing software. Some of us don’t think the photos will be leaked or shared or go viral. Some people don’t think that their images will be downloaded and uploaded to other sites. Don’t blame the victim.

To the people who erase watermarks and repost (not reblog) images: you are a troll.

It takes far more effort for you to download and upload a photo than it does to share one with a link to the original post and credit to the creator. There was a time on the Internet when people might have downloaded images into folders to enjoy later, but with Tumblr, Pinterest, PinBoard, Google Bookmarks, Evernote, and all the other social media, many of which have private modes, there is absolutely no reason not to credit and source your images.

Part 2 of the seminar: how to find the source so you don’t perpetuate the cycle; how to report stolen content.


3 Comments Add yours

  1. Ana says:

    I love you for this.

    1. Leah says:

      The amount of reposting without credit I see is really alarming. It really bothers me personally, too, because if I like a photo of a cake, I want to know how I can make it or where I can buy it or who styled it. Same with art–if I like it, I want to follow that person or see more. Hopefully this will help folks post responsibly.

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