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Visual Resources Center: Using Images

The Vanderbilt University Visual Resources Center resides in the History of Art department and is your source for finding and properly using high-quality images resources for your papers, presentations, and projects.

Image Interpretation and Analysis Tools

What is Visual Literacy?

Visual literacy is a set of abilities that enables an individual to effectively find, interpret, evaluate use, and create images and visual media. Visual literacy enables a learner to understand and analyze the contextual, cultural, ethical, aesthetic, intellectual, and technical components involved in the production and use of visual materials. A visually literate individual is both a critical consumer of visual media and a component contributor to a body of shared knowledge and culture. (ACRL, Visual Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education, 2011)

Why Would I Want To Use The VRC's Resources?

Featured Tutorial

Guidelines for Selecting Images

Consider these guidelines when selecting images for a scholarly project or paper.

  • Relevance: Consider whether the image is important to your work, and avoid adding superfluous images that act as filler. 
  • Image Quality: Look for large images with high resolution which look best when displayed at various sizes, particularly for projection presentations.
  • Views and Details: Consider whether a full view of the object or a detail would be more appropriate. Start with high resolution full view images; they can easily be cropped to produce high quality details. The wide variety of perspective shots available for 3-D works such as sculpture and architectural sites should also be carefully considered.
  • Image Source: Look for images from reputable sources such as museums and academic databases. Avoid images from crowd-sourced websites such as Pinterest, which are more likely to be low quality or to have distorted colors.
  • Rights: Images from public institutions such as museums typically fall under fair use guidelines for educational purposes; images from photo sharing websites like Flickr may have different rights, so be sure to check the provided copyright info.