What Is a Photo Credit and How Do You Do It Properly?

An article illustration explaining what a photo credit is and how to do it properly, showing a sample photo credit for a food image with text 'Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash' on a gradient blue-purple background.



Do you love using free images on the web? 

We do too! 

When using images from Flickr or any other website that shares CC0 images, you may need to credit the image creator out of appreciation. 

But sometimes, this is required by the license. For instance, on Flickr, images requiring attribution will be labeled as CC-BY. If no derivatives are allowed, the image may have an additional tag CC BY-ND.

Don’t let these tags confuse you. We wrote a whole blog on how to use Creative Commons Images. 

Now then, how do you provide attribution? 

You simply need to write a photo credit. And we will gladly tell you how to write the best one: 

What Is a Photo Credit? 

A photo credit is an acknowledgment to the photographer who took the image or to the original creator. It is a crucial aspect of image usage, as it not only shows respect and appreciation for the creator’s work but also ensures compliance with copyright laws.

The credit is typically made on the same page where the image has been placed if dealing with web pages. It can appear exactly below the image in the form of a caption. Or, you may leave a byline at the bottom of the page. 

6 Reasons Why You Should Leave a Photo Credit

Sure it’s going to take a few minutes. But leaving a photo credit makes you a good guy or gal for these reasons:

Leave photo credits because it's ethical, legal, benefits photographers, enhances brand, aids discovery, and builds relationships with creators.

1. It’s Ethical

It’s morally right and of good standard and principles to acknowledge the creator of the image. You’ll be showing your due respect and acting the same way you’d want to be treated.

2. It’s Legal

The creator of an image has the discretion to determine how the image will be used and how it will be shared. For instance, they may allow personal and commercial use but require attribution. You will be breaching a couple of laws (lawsuits) by failing to adhere to the legal requirements of the image. 

3. Benefits Photographers and Artists

Life is always about give and take. Your photo credit may end up bringing more work to the photographer or creator. In turn, they will have more opportunities to share more of their work for free. 

4. Reflects Well on Your Brand Image

This is not a benefit you need to chase after. But giving proper attribution will strike a tender cord with your readers as they will hold you in high regard for being ethical, considerate, and appreciative. It’s what we like to call in the blogging world, “enhances your brand image.”

5. Helps With Discovery, Fact-Checking, and Follow-Up

Have you ever run across an image on a blog that sparked some curiosity within you? Or have you ever been hounded by editors questioning about where you sourced that image that looks too good to be true? A photo credit can help a third party determine the origin and source of the image.  

6. Builds Relationships With Creators

Proper photo credits can help build relationships between professional photographers and users. You’ll continue providing exposure for the photographer’s work and in turn, they can spotlight your blog as well. This leads to a mutually beneficial relationship. 

Common Use Cases and Scenarios Where Photo Credit is Required

Photo credits are required in various scenarios:

  • When attribution is explicitly required: Pay attention to images that require attribution. You can often find this information from the image source, where the image was posted.
  • When you have outrightly stolen the image but used it for fair use cases (for instance educational purposes): Let’s face it. There are countless situations where you may find an image on another blog that you can include in your piece to explain a concept better. Well, in such cases, it’s best to seek permission from the site owner. But if you choose to go ahead and use the image (as many do), be sure to leave a link back to the website. For one, backlinks are the fuel that drives the world of SEO. With thousands of dollars spent on outbound link building, leaving a link is appreciated and even encouraged. 
  • Personal and commercial use of free images: If the opportunity affords it, and even when attribution is not explicitly required (for instance with free stock images from Unsplash and other sites), leave an image credit because you can. You can extend this same courtesy to royalty-free images that you can use as you wish once you pay for them. 
  • If the main focus of your blog is on curating images: Does the subject of your blog revolve around the photographs? Well, it’s good practice to credit the creators as they will be providing the bulk of the content that is featured on your page. 

How to Give Photo Credits

What should you mention and what should you leave out?  This is a tough question to ask given that writing proper credit seems like an easy task. This section gives you all the digs: 

Elements of a Photo Credit

Don’t let the details confound you. The goal of leaving a photo credit is to provide enough details that can be used to identify the creator or image source.  

So, you don’t need to go on about their life history. Here are some top elements to have: 

Guide on giving photo credits, detailing elements like photographer's name, image source, copyright info, and backlink. Shows formats for blog credits like TASL method, in-image attribution, and captions

  • Photographer’s name: You can write one name and initialize the rest. 
  • The source of the image: It’s important to mention where the image is hosted.
  • A backlink: Leaving a link allows your users to easily find the source. But you know what that means: you’ll be giving an upvote to the external page. Does this harm your SEO efforts? Not exactly; only if you’re linking out to a low-quality, spammy page. Otherwise, it can improve your SEO if you’re linking out to high-quality pages. Plus you’ll be greatly helping the page rank well—doing more good for the image creator.   
  • Copyright information: The spirit of Creative Commons is grounded in sharing and making information accessible to all. So you are encouraged to include the CC label. For instance, “CC BY -NC” informs other users that the image is labeled for non-commercial use and requires attribution. 
  • Other relevant information: You may need to include other details that will be required to identify the project, creator, date, time, location, etc. 

Formats and Methods for Leaving a Photo Credit on a Blog

TASL Method

The TASL method, recommended by Creative Commons, is a straightforward way to ensure you include all necessary details in your attribution. TASL stands for:

  • Title: The title of the image.
  • Author: The name of the creator.
  • Source: The URL where the image is hosted.
  • License: The type of license the image is under.

For example:

Photographer and example of an image requiring attribution from Unsplash
“Photographer” by Hernán Piñera is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0. Flickr

In-Image attribution

To prevent attribution from being lost when images are copied, you can include the attribution text directly on the image. This method ensures that the credit remains with the image regardless of where it is shared.

Captions and alt Text

Including attribution in the image caption or alt text is another effective way to ensure proper credit is given. This method is particularly useful for web accessibility and SEO purposes.

8 Steps for Proper Attribution

Follow steps for proper attribution: identify license, ask permission, avoid unattributed images, gather details, format correctly, be detailed, maintain consistency, and make credits visible.

1. Identify the license

Determine the type of Creative Commons license the photo is under. This information is usually available on the photo’s Flickr page.

2. Always ask for permission

If you are unsure about the licensing terms or cannot find the necessary attribution information, it is best to contact the image owner for permission

3. Avoid using unattributed images

What’s more, if you cannot determine the creator or license type of an image, it is safer to find another image that you can properly attribute.

4. Gather the required details for photo credit

According to Creative Commons guidelines, you need to include the following in your attribution:

  • Title of the Work: The name of the original photo.
  • Author: The name of the photographer.
  • Source: A link to the photo on Flickr.
  • License: A link to the specific Creative Commons license.

5. Format the attribution

Ensure that the credit is clear and includes all necessary elements. Here is an example of a proper attribution with the right formatting, with the title in quotes:

“The monkeys are here!” by Librarian by Day, licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

6. Be detailed

Including extra details about the image and its creator can help ensure you are respecting the creator’s rights. When in doubt, always provide more information rather than less.

7. Maintain consistency

Predictability and consistency are both good qualities for a seamless user experience. Let users adapt to the specific way you label your images and provide credits. Do you do it at the end or do you leave credits in the caption? 

8. Make the credit highly visible

Don’t bury the credits under the user-generated comments box. If possible, always have them as close to the photo as possible, to leave a lasting impact. You can even use the phrase, “Credits.”

Top Online Tools for Generating Image Attributions

1. Creative Commons Attribution Builder

This tool by Deakin University Library, though aimed at students, doubles up as a good way to quickly come up with an attribution for your blog in the amount of detail it requires. It helps you build attribution statements that include the image, author, site, and license.

Creative commons attribution builder

2. OpenVerse

OpenVerse makes it easier to find Creative Commons and Public Domain images across online databases, providing access to over 700 million free images. 

Once you find an image you like, you can navigate down the page to see the “Credit the Creator” section. This tool captures the image title, photographer’s name, and CC license. You can copy the photo credit as Rich Text, HTML code, or plain text. 

See it in action below: 

Open verse photo crediting tool

3. ImageCodr

ImageCodr makes it easier to create attributions for Flickr images.  You only need to post the Flickr URL, and the tool will do the rest, including fetching a link to the author’s profile, linking to the license information, and providing proper attribution. 

Imagecodr tool for providing attribution for Flickr images

4. Stock photo websites

Websites like Unsplash, Getty Images, and Pixabay often provide pre-formatted attribution text for the images they host. You’ll only need to copy and paste the necessary attribution information directly into your content. 

To trigger this on Unsplash, click on “Download free” and choose your image size. You’ll see the “Say Thanks” dialog box that contains the attribution text for you to copy and paste on your website. 

Say thanks box on Unsplash for image crediting

How to Give Image Credits on Popular Platforms and Social Media Sites

Because you may end up using images from your blog for social media marketing, here are a few tips for giving credits on different platforms: 

1. Facebook

  • Tagging: You can use the “@” symbol to tag the photographer or source in your post. For example, “Photo Credit: @davidlloyd” will create a clickable link to the photographer’s profile.
  • Caption: You can include the photo credit in the caption of the image. For example, “Photo by @davidlloyd” or “Image courtesy of @davidlloyd”.

2. Instagram

  • Caption & comments: Similar to Facebook, use the @ symbol to tag the photographer in the caption. For example, “Photo by @Davidlloyd”. Additionally, you can attribute the photographer by mentioning them in the comments. Your comment will be highlighted on the top, allowing everyone to see it. 
  • In-photo tagging: Instagram allows you to tag the photographer directly on the image itself by typing @ followed by their Instagram handle. 
  • Using hashtags: You can use hashtags like #davidlloyd to attribute the image on Instagram. 

3. WordPress

When it comes to everyone’s favorite CMS, there are different ways of adding image credits, and this applies to other similar publishing platforms: 

  • Using the captions field: Add the photo credit in the caption field when uploading an image. This can be done by clicking on the image in the editor and filling in the caption field with the appropriate credit.
  • HTML Formatting: Manually add HTML code for more detailed attributions. For example:

    <p>Photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/people/username/">Author Name</a>, used under <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">CC BY 2.0</a></p>
  • Plugins: Use plugins like Image Source Control to manage and display image credits automatically.
Image source control, a plugin for sharing image credits on WordPress

4. Google

When using images from Google, don’t credit Google as the source, because most times the image originated from another website.  Instead, track down the original creator of the image and provide proper attribution, even if you are hotlinking the image. Use tools like Google Image Search to find the source.

5. Pinterest

Similar to Google, Pinterest doesn’t provide a source of images but instead catalogs them from other websites. You’ll need to find the original creator and provide proper credit. Use the image URL to search for the source and update the pin with the correct attribution.

6. Twitter

You can use two formats for giving attribution on Twitter: 

  • Tagging: Use the @username method to tag the photographer in your tweet. For example, “Photo by @MartinAstor”.
  • Retweets: When retweeting, ensure that the original tweet is credited. If adding a comment, include the original author’s handle.

Not Crediting is Stealing. Period.

The ease of accessing and sharing images has led to a common misconception that images found online are free to use without proper attribution. However, not crediting the original creator of an image is tantamount to stealing. Here’s why it’s crucial to always give credit where it’s due:

Photo Credit vs. Copyright

Copyright refers to the legal right of the creator to control the use of their work. It is a legal protection that prevents others from using the work without permission.

Photo Credit, on the other hand, is a way to acknowledge the photographer who took the image. It is a form of attribution that shows respect for the photographer’s work and ensures compliance with copyright laws.

Many images are available under specific licensing agreements, such as Creative Commons licenses, which outline how the image can be used and what kind of attribution is required. It is crucial to understand these terms and adhere to them strictly. Failing to comply with the licensing agreement can lead to legal and ethical issues.

How to Request Permission

To request permission, contact the photographer or the source of the image directly. This can often be done through the platform where the image is hosted, such as Flickr or Instagram, or via the creator’s personal website. Clearly state your intention to use the image and ask for their consent, specifying how and where the image will be used.

Consequences of Not Following the Rules

  • Legal repercussions: Using an image without proper credit can lead to serious legal consequences, including fines and lawsuits. Copyright laws protect the rights of creators, and violating these laws by not giving credit can result in significant legal trouble.
  • Ethical considerations: Beyond the legal aspects, it is an ethical responsibility to acknowledge the photographer who created the image. Creators invest time, effort, and resources into their work, and failing to credit them is a form of disrespect and exploitation.
  • Impact on reputation and trust: Not giving proper credit can severely damage your reputation. It erodes trust with your audience, who may view you as unprofessional or unethical. In the long run, this can harm your brand and diminish your credibility.


In summary, not crediting the original creator of an image is stealing, plain and simple. Always ask for permission, understand and follow licensing agreements, and give proper credit to avoid legal repercussions, uphold ethical standards, and maintain your reputation.

Respecting the rights of creators is not just a legal obligation but a moral one, ensuring that the hard work and creativity of photographers are duly recognized and appreciated.

Winston Kirimi
A graduate in chemistry by training, Winston writes about technology, software and SEO.


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