Wikipedia contains millions of illustrative images and other electronic media. This page gives a very brief overview of how images are used in Wikipedia; for more information, see Image use policy and see Help:Files on how to upload and include an image.

Choosing images


Pertinence and encyclopedic nature

This is not the best photograph to show what a helicopter is nor what the Sydney Opera House looks like.

Images must be relevant to the article that they appear in and be significantly and directly related to the article's topic. Because the Wikipedia project is in a position to offer multimedia learning to its audience, images are an important part of any article's presentation. Effort should therefore be made to improve quality and choice of images or captions in articles rather than favoring their removal, especially on pages that have few visuals.

Images are primarily meant to inform readers by providing visual information. Consequently, images should look like what they are meant to illustrate, even if they are not provably authentic images. For example, a photograph of a trompe-l'œil painting of a cupcake may be an acceptable image for Cupcake, but a real cupcake that has been decorated to look like something else entirely is less appropriate. Similarly, an image of an unidentified cell under a light microscope might be useful on multiple articles, as long as there are no visible differences between the cell in the image and the typical appearance of the cell being illustrated.

Articles that use more than one image should present a variety of material near relevant text. If the article is about a general subject for which a large number of good quality images are available, (e.g., Running), editors are encouraged to seek a reasonable level of variety in the age, gender, and race of any people depicted. Adding multiple images with very similar content is less useful. For example, three formal portraits of a general wearing his military uniform may be excessive; substituting two of the portraits with a map of a battle and a picture of its aftermath may provide more information to readers. You should always be watchful not to overwhelm an article with images by adding more just because you can.

Poor quality images (too dark, blurry, etc.) or where the subject in the image is too small, hidden in clutter, ambiguous or otherwise not obvious, should not be used. Contributors should be judicious in deciding which images are the most suitable for the subject matter in an article. For example:

  • An image of a white-tailed eagle is useless if the bird appears as a speck in the sky.
  • Gloria Steinem looks best as a portrait photograph of herself alone, not with other individuals.
  • A suitable picture of a hammerhead shark would show its distinctive hammer-like head, to distinguish it from other species of shark.
  • A map of Moldova should show its frontiers with Romania and Ukraine, so people may know where the country is located in relation to its neighbors.
  • Rice is best represented with an image of plain rice, not fried rice.
  • Intangible concepts can be illustrated; for example, a cat with its claws out portrays aggression.

Avoid entering textual information as images


Do not use images to express textual information in place of real text. See Avoid entering textual information as images for more.

Offensive images


Including information about offensive material is part of Wikipedia's encyclopedic mission. Wikipedia is not censored. However, images that can be considered offensive should not be included unless they are treated in an encyclopedic manner. Material that would be considered vulgar or obscene by typical Wikipedia readers[nb 1] should be used if and only if its omission would cause the article to be less informative, relevant, or accurate, and no equally suitable alternative is available. Per the Foundation, controversial images should follow the principle of 'least astonishment': we should choose images that respect the conventional expectations of readers for a given topic as much as is possible without sacrificing the quality of the article. Avoid images that contain irrelevant or extraneous elements that might seem offensive or harassing to readers. For example, photographs taken in a pornographic context would normally be inappropriate for articles about human anatomy.

Images for the lead


It is very common to use an appropriate representative image for the lead of an article, often as part of an infobox. The image helps to provide a visual association for the topic, and allows readers to quickly assess if they have arrived at the right page. For most topics, the selection of a lead image is plainly obvious: a photograph or artistic work of a person, photographs of a city, or a cover of a book or album, to name a few.

Image selection for other topics may be more difficult and several possible choices could be made. While Wikipedia is not censored, as outlined in the above section on offensive images, the selection of the lead image should be made with some care with respect to this advice. Lead images are loaded and shown upon navigating to the page, and are one of the first things that readers will see. Editors should avoid using images that readers would not have expected to see when navigating to the page. Unlike other content on a page that falls below the lead, the lead image should be chosen with these considerations in mind.

Advice on selecting a lead image includes the following:

  1. Lead images should be images that are natural and appropriate visual representations of the topic; they not only should be illustrating the topic specifically, but should also be the type of image that is used for similar purposes in high-quality reference works, and therefore what our readers will expect to see. Lead images are not required, and not having a lead image may be the best solution if there is no easy representation of the topic.
  2. Lead images should be selected to be of least shock value; if an alternative image exists that still is an accurate representation of the topic but without shock value, it should always be preferred. For example, using an image of deportees being subjected to selection as the lead image at this version of Holocaust is far preferable to the appropriate images that appear later in the article that show the treatment of the prisoners or corpses from the camps.
  3. Sometimes it is impossible to avoid the use of a lead image with perceived shock value if the topic itself is of that nature, for example in articles on various parts of human genitalia. It should be anticipated, through Wikipedia:Content disclaimer, that readers will be aware they will be exposed to potentially shocking images when navigating to articles on such topics.
  4. Articles about ethnic groups or similarly large human populations should not be illustrated by a gallery of images of group members, because selecting them is normally original research, and often contentious (see the corresponding discussion).

The first image in an article, regardless of whether it is placed in the lead, will be enlarged and displayed at the top of all articles viewed in the Android mobile app. For example, if the first image in an article about Theft is a person, then that person's picture will be displayed as if it were the lead image, even if the image displays at the end of the article in the desktop view. When selecting images for the article, consider whether the order of the images may inadvertently produce a non-neutral, unfair, or otherwise poor educational experience for readers who use mobile devices.

Life cycles of images


Eventually, some of the images reach the end of their life cycle. They may be superseded or replaced by an image with a friendlier copyright policy. If you come across an image that needs to be removed due to copyright, invasion of privacy, or other serious reasons, then list it on Files for discussion. However, superseded images should be kept to preserve Wikipedia's historical record. The history of articles can be difficult to assess if images and templates have been deleted over the years.

Conversely, if you have contributed or found an image that stands out from the crowd, you are invited to nominate it for inclusion on the Featured pictures list.

How to place an image

A Siberian Husky used as a pack animal

Basic example (producing the image at right):

[[File:Siberian Husky pho.jpg|thumb|alt=A white dog in a harness playfully nuzzles a young boy |A [[Siberian Husky]] used as a pack animal]]

  • File:Siberian Husky pho.jpg The file (image) name must be exact, including capitalization, punctuation and spacing, and must include .jpg, .png or other extension. (Image: and File: work the same.) If Wikipedia and Commons[further explanation needed] both have an image with the specified name, the Wikipedia version is used.
  • thumb is required in most cases
  • alt=A white dog in a harness playfully nuzzles a young boy Alt text is meant for those who cannot see the image; unlike the caption, it summarizes the image's appearance.
  • A [[Siberian Husky]] used as a pack animal The caption comes last, and gives the meaning or significance of the image.

See WP:Extended image syntax for further features and options. If the image does not display after you have carefully checked the syntax, it may have been blacklisted.[further explanation needed]

A Siberian Husky used as a pack animal

Horizontal placement

  • In most cases, images should be right justified on pages, which is the default placement. If an exception to the general rule is warranted, |left can be used:
[[File:Siberian Husky pho.jpg|thumb|left|alt=A white dog in a harness playfully nuzzles a young boy |A [[Siberian Husky]] used as a pack animal]]
  • Multiple images in the same article can be staggered right-and-left. However, avoid sandwiching text between two images that face each other, or between an image and infobox, navigation template, or similar. If multiple related images are being placed on the right, then the {{multiple image}} template may be useful.
  • In a few web browsers, bulleted lists overlap with left-aligned images. It may be preferable to avoid placing a left-aligned image near lists.

It is often preferable to place images of people so that they "look" toward the text. (Do not achieve this by reversing the image, which creates a false presentation e.g. by reversing the location of scars or other features.)

Vertical placement


An image should generally be placed in the most relevant article section. Avoid referring to images as being to the left/right, or above/below, because image placement varies with platform, and is meaningless to people using screen readers; instead, use captions to identify images.

It is not possible to place a thumb image within a paragraph, as the occurrence of such an image causes a paragraph break; i.e. the current paragraph ends and and a new one is begun.

  • An image's size is controlled by changing its width – after which software automatically adjusts height to maintain aspect ratio. (Most references to an image's "size" really mean its width.)
  • Each user has a "base" image width. For unregistered users ("IPs"), this is always 220 pixels. For registered users, the base width is initially 220px (when the user account is created) but this can be changed via Preferences.[1]
Image using upright=0.5
  • Only where a smaller or larger image is appropriate, use |upright=scaling factor, which expands or contracts the image by a factor relative to the user's base width.
    • For example:
      • upright=1.3 might be used for an image with fine detail (e.g. a map or diagram) to render it "30% larger than this user generally wants".
      • upright=0.60 might be used for an image with little detail (e.g. a simple drawing or flag) which can be adequately displayed "40% smaller than this user generally wants".
    • "Landscape" images (short and wide) often call for upright of 1 or greater; "portrait" images (tall and narrow) may look best with upright of 1 or less.
    • When specifying upright= values greater than 1, take care to balance the need to reveal detail against the danger of overwhelming surrounding article text.
      • Images in which a small region of detail is important (but cropping to that region is unacceptable) may need to be larger than normal, but upright=1.8 should usually be the largest value for images floated beside text.
      • Lead images should usually use upright=1.35 at most.
    • Images within an article, especially those vertically proximate to one another, may be more appealing if presented at the same width.
    • Warning: upright alone, with no =scaling factor (e.g. [[File:Dog.jpg|thumb|upright|A big dog]]) is equivalent to upright=0.75.
  • Where absolutely necessary, a fixed width in pixels (e.g. 17px) may be specified. This, however, ignores the user's base width preference, so upright=scaling factor is preferred whenever possible. As a general rule, images should not be set to a larger fixed width than 220px (the initial default width), and if an exception to this general rule is warranted, the resulting image should usually be no more than 400px wide (300px for lead images) and 500px tall, for comfortable display on the smallest devices "in common use" (though this may still cause viewing difficulties on some unusual displays).
  • To present images larger than the guidelines above (e.g. panoramas), use thumb|center or thumb|none, so that the image stands alone; or use {{wide image}} or {{tall image}} to present a very large image in a scrollable box.
  1. If you work a lot with image layouts, consider leaving your preference at 220px to match the "reader experience" of most readers.

Inline images

  • Substituting frameless for thumb produces an "inline" image. For example,
This [[File:Flag of Japan.svg|frameless|30px]] is an inline image.
This   is an inline image.
  • Inline images do not typically use upright, nor do they have captions.
  • A one-pixel border may be added via |border. For example,
This [[File:Flag of Japan.svg|frameless|30px|border]] is an inline image with a border.
This   is an inline image with a border.

  • Do not confuse an inline image with inline linking ("Hotlinking") of an image stored on an external site, causing it to be fetched from that site for display on Wikipedia. Hotlinking is disabled, because it makes unfair use of the external site's resources, and the image may not be appropriately licensed for reuse in this way. If you find an image on another site which you wish to use in a Wikipedia article, you must upload it to Wikipedia or to Commons, but only if it is appropriately licensed. Error: no text specified (help).

Making images available


Images uploaded to Wikipedia are automatically placed into the file namespace, formerly known as the image namespace. This means that names of image pages start with the prefix "File:".

Obtaining images


All images must comply with Wikipedia's image use policy: in general, they must be free for reuse, including commercial use and use after alteration, though some "fair use" of non-free content is allowed in limited circumstances—​see Wikipedia:Non-free content.

Finding images already uploaded


Search for existing files through:

Making images yourself


You may upload photographs, drawings, or other graphics created with a camera, scanner, graphics software, and so on. When photographing or scanning potentially copyrighted works, or creating depictions of persons other than yourself, be sure to respect copyright and privacy restrictions.[further explanation needed]

In order to maximize images' usefulness in all languages, avoid including text within them. Instead, add text, links, references, etc, to images using Template:Annotated image or Template:Annotated image 4, which can also be used to expand the area around an image or crop and enlarge part of an image—​all without the need for uploading a new, modified image.

Finding images on the Internet


An extensive list of free image resources by topic can be found at: Public domain image resources. In addition to Wikimedia Commons, the Wikimedia Toolserver has a Free Image Search Tool (FIST), which automatically culls free images from the Wikimedia sister projects, Flickr and a few other sites. Several other useful, general purpose image search engines include: Google Image Search, Picsearch and Pixsta. Creative Commons licensed images with Attribution and Attribution-ShareAlike as their license may be used on Wikipedia. Images with any license restricting commercial use or the creation of derivative works may not be used on Wikipedia.

The Creative Commons site has a search page that can be used as a starting point to find suitably licensed images; make sure you check both the checkboxes "use for commercial purposes" and "modify, adapt, or build upon".

If you find an image on the Internet that is not available freely, you can email the copyright owner and ask for their permission to release it under a suitable license, adapting the boilerplate request for permission. If you cannot find a suitable image, you may also list your request at Wikipedia:Requested pictures, so that another contributor may find or create a suitable image.

Requesting images from others



Editing images

In this pseudocolor image of the moon, red tints represent the highest elevations, purple the lowest; this is not the coloring a viewer of the moon would actually see, and this should be clear in the caption, lest the reader be misled.

An image's utility or quality may be improved by cropping (to focus on the relevant portion), cleaning up scanning artifacts, correcting color balance, removing red-eye effect, or other adjustments. The caption of an image should mention such edits (e.g. introduction of false color or pseudocolor) if a reader needs to know about them to properly interpret the image.

Edits that improve the presentation without materially altering the content need not be mentioned in the caption e.g. rotation to correct a slightly crooked image, improvement to the contrast of a scan, or blurring a background to make the main subject more prominent. (However, all such changes should be noted on the image's description page.)

Images should not be changed in ways that materially mislead the viewer. For example, images showing artworks, faces, identifiable places or buildings, or text should not be reversed (although those showing soap bubbles or bacteria might be). Do not change color integral to the subject, such as in images of animals. It is usually appropriate to de-speckle or remove scratches from images, though that might be inappropriate for historical photographs.

For assistance in editing images, try WP:Graphics Lab.

Uploading images


Logged in users with autoconfirmed accounts (meaning at least four days old and at least ten edits) can upload media to Wikipedia. It is recommended that only free licensed media, not fair use media, be uploaded to Wikimedia Commons. Media on Wikimedia Commons can be linked to in the same way as media of the same name on Wikipedia. To upload media to the English Wikipedia, go to special:upload and for Wikimedia Commons, go to commons:special:upload. For preferred file formats, see: Preparing images for upload.

Image description pages


Each image has a corresponding description page, which documents the image's source, author and copyright status; descriptive (who, what, when, where, why) information; and technical (equipment, software, etc.) data useful to readers and later editors.

To maximize the utility and educational value of an image, please describe its contents as fully as possible on the image's description page. For example, photographs of artwork benefit from documentation of the artist, title, location, dates, museum identification numbers, and so on. Images that are described only in vague terms (for example, "a cuneiform tablet" or "a medieval manuscript") are often less useful for Wikipedia and less informative to our readers.

Reliable sources, if any, may be listed on the image's description page. Generally, Wikipedia assumes in good faith that image creators are correctly identifying the contents of photographs they have taken. If such sources are available, it is helpful to provide them. This is particularly important for technical drawings, as someone may want to verify that the image is accurate.

Description pages for images are rediscovered by editors using the search engine and the categories. To help editors find precise images, please remember to document the image description page accordingly. Well-categorized and well-described images are more likely to be used.

Consideration of image download size


When an article is downloaded images can greatly increase the bandwidth consumed, which is a significant consideration for readers on slow or expensive connections. Download performance is assisted by the fact that articles carry thumbnails instead of full images, but this doesn't provide significant file-size reduction in all image file formats. (In most browsers you can obtain a thumbnail's size by right-clicking for its "Properties".)

If one image's file size is disproportionate to those of others in the same article, you may want to reduce it by selecting a different file format:

  • GIF images with a frame size larger than 12.5 million pixels (measured as pixel height × pixel width × number of frames in the animation) cannot currently be displayed in thumbnail form in Wikipedia articles. A thumbnail of a GIF image can be considerably larger in kilobytes than the original image file. For the best results, try to upload GIF images in the framesize that you intend to use in the article.
  • Animated GIF images have a few additional restrictions. Images larger than 12.5 million pixels (measured as pixel height × pixel width × number of frames in the animation) currently will only show the first frame of the animation in a thumbnail. When not using a GIF animation at its original frame size, consider creating an Ogg Theora movie of the animation.
  • The PNG format is useful for storing graphics that contain text, line art, or other images with sharp transitions. It can achieve the same graphical results as a GIF file, and in many cases do so with a higher rate of file compression. For this reason, PNG format files are usually preferred to the GIF format. (However, for certain types of images, PNG thumbnailing is not as efficient as GIF thumbnailing, when Wikimedia GIF thumbnailing is enabled.) For images with substantial editing, or for which further editing may be warranted, uploading a PNG as well as a JPEG is common (PNG is lossless compression, so repeatedly saving edits on a PNG will not result in loss of quality.)
  • A JPEG or other compressed image format can be much smaller than a comparable GIF or PNG format file. When there is no apparent difference in quality, such as with a photograph that has no sharp graphical transitions, a compressed image format such as JPEG may be preferable for reasons of download performance. Wikipedia is often able to achieve much better compression of JPEG photograph thumbnails than comparable PNG images, and with little perceptible loss of quality. Repeatedly loading and resaving an image as JPEG will result in loss of quality, however, as will using low settings for the JPEG; as such, if you've made edits, it can be helpful to save a PNG or TIFF copy before closing the image editor and upload that as well; this copy can then be used to generate a new JPEG after further editing.
  • Where an image consists solely of line art, charts text and simple graphics, an SVG file can be significantly smaller than other graphics formats. This is because the data is encoded as a series of drawing commands, rather than as raster graphics. There are open source applications available for rendering graphics in SVG format. However, SVG thumbnails are rendered as PNGs.
  • Rather than including an image gallery on an article, which could add significantly to the download size, consider creating a gallery/category on the Wikimedia Commons instead.
  1. Here a "typical Wikipedia reader" is defined by the cultural beliefs of the majority of the website readers (not active editors) that are literate in an article's language. Clarifying this viewpoint may require a broad spectrum of input and discussion, as cultural views can differ widely.