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 use in, or for, your research.

Have you ever wondered where you can find a great image to give your research presentation or blog post the edge? Or wanted to share an image of yourself doing something amazing in the course of your research? Images are an excellent medium for communicating 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 like Instagram and Pinterest that are designed for sharing rather than storing.


It is becoming increasingly common to use sites like Flickr for photo storage, as well as photo sharing. Although other sites exist, this is 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 control who can see or download which photos, and 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. You should find that as well as individual users, Flickr can also 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 right-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 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. Finally, you’ll see information about usage and licensing as well as privacy settings.

Could you take that particular image away and use it? What might you need to do in order to do this? What information might you have to provide, as well as 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, and the download options are on the far right and look like three round dots).

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’ll look more at what this means in Thing 17.

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, however 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 and can be great both as a personal tool for remembering images and bookmarks, and as a tool for 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, however if you do, you will find that you now have access to some of the most interesting and useful tools and 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, resources that researchers have found useful in developing transferable skills such as presentation skills, or things to help you stay sane during your research.



In addition to sites that let you upload and organize your images, there are also apps and tools that are 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 (Vine also lets you share short videos). Take a look at the way American universities are using Instagram for some inspiration, explore the great things museums like the Smithsonian are doing with Instagram or think about the ways students could use Instagram to show the work they’re doing.


Exploring further

  • Flickr isn’t the only image sharing or image search tool out there. If you want to look at some others, try:
  • Flickr makes their data available so that others can build online applications using its images. Take a look at some of the tools in Flickr’s App Garden. Some to try:
    • Show where you have been on your travels by adding your holiday snaps to a map with Mappr
    • Be creative and gather photos into a mosaic using Montager


Further reading



Week 4 Blog post

Feel free to talk about all of this week’s Things in one post, as they lend themselves to comparison and discussion. How do you foresee yourself using (any, or) all of this week’s Things as a researcher? Are some of the Things more relevant than others? Relevant to what?

If you spent some time exploring tweets, pages, images and boards, were you surprised by any of the things that people shared?

How might you strategically use these things to improve your employability, or your impact?

If you choose not to use these Things in future, why not?


Remember to tag your blog ‘Thing8’, ‘Thing 9’, ‘Thing 10’.


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