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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 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.