Wikipedia:Image use policy

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This page is an official policy on Wikipedia. It has wide acceptance among editors and is considered a standard that all users should follow. Feel free to update the page as needed, but make sure that changes you make to this policy really do reflect consensus, before you make them.


This page is a brief overview of the policies towards images — including format, content, and copyright issues — on the English-language edition of Wikipedia. If you have specific questions, you should go to the most specific policy page related to your question, for a prompt and accurate response.

For information on multimedia in general (images, sound files, etc.), see Wikipedia:Multimedia. For information on uploading, see Wikipedia:Uploading images, or go directly to Special:Upload.


Rules of thumb

Below this brief checklist of image use rules is the detailed reasoning behind them.

  1. Keep copyrights in mind when uploading images. When in doubt, do not upload copyrighted images.
  2. Always provide a detailed source for where the image came from, either a URL if it is from the web, or a name (or alias) and method of contact (i.e. Talk page, email, etc.) for the photographer.
  3. Use the image description page to describe an image and its copyright situation.
  4. Always tag your image with one of the image copyright tags.
  5. Use a clear, detailed title. Note that if any image with the same title has already been uploaded, it will be replaced with your new one.
  6. Upload a high-resolution version of your image whenever possible (this does NOT apply to fair use images see #Fair use considerations for details), and use the automatic thumbnailing option of the Wikipedia image markup to scale down the image. MediaWiki accepts images up to 20 MB in size. Do not scale down the image yourself, as scaled-down images may be of limited use in the future.
  7. Edit the images to show just the relevant subject.
  8. If you create an image that contains text, please upload also a version without any text. It will help Wikipedias in other languages use them (translate them).
  9. Don't put photo credits in articles or on the images themselves; put them on the description page.
  10. Use JPEG format for photographic images, and SVG format for icons, logos, drawings, maps, flags, and such, falling back to PNG when only a raster image is available. Use GIF format for inline animations, Ogg/Theora for video. Do not use Windows BMP format images; they are uncompressed and take up too much space.
  11. Add a good alternative text for images.
  12. Think carefully if shocking pictures are really necessary. If you have concerns regarding the appropriateness of an image, discuss it on the relevant article talk page. See Wikipedia:Image censorship and Wikipedia:Profanity#Shocking images.

Copyright (images)

Please note: this is not the official copyright policy — it is merely a reminder with helpful tips:

Before you upload an image, make sure that either:

  • You own the rights to the image (usually meaning that you created the image yourself).
  • You can prove that the copyright holder has licensed the image under a free license.
  • You can prove that the image is in the public domain.
  • You believe, and state, a fair use rationale for the specific use of the image that you intend.

Always note the image's copyright status on the image description page, using one of the image copyright tags, and provide specific details about the image's origin. If you created the image, for example, write image created by John Doe on Jan 1st, 2000 (replacing John Doe with your name, and Jan 1st, 2000 with the image creation date). Don't just write image created by me.

User-created images

Wikipedia highly encourages users to upload their own images and release them under a free license (such as the GFDL). Such images can include photographs which you yourself took (remember that rights to images generally lie with the photographer, not the subject), drawings or diagrams you yourself created, and other self-created work. However simply re-tracing a copyrighted image or diagram does not necessarily create a new copyright — copyright is generated only by instances of "creativity", and not by the amount of labor which went into the creation of the work. Photographs of three-dimensional objects almost always generate a new copyright — photographs of two-dimensional objects often do not (see the section on "public domain" below). If you have questions in respect to this, please ask them at Wikipedia:Copyrights.

Free licenses

For a list of possible licenses which are considered "free enough" for Wikipedia, see Wikipedia:Image copyright tags. Licenses which restrict the use of the media to non-profit or educational purposes only, or are given permission to only appear on Wikipedia, are not free enough for Wikipedia's usages or goals and will be deleted.[1] In short, Wikipedia media (with the exception of "fair use" media — see below) should be as "free" as Wikipedia's content — both to keep Wikipedia's own legal status secure as well as to allow for as much re-use of Wikipedia content as possible.

Public domain

Under United States copyright law, all images published before January 1, 1923 in the United States are now in the public domain, but this does not apply to images that were created prior to 1923 and published in 1923 or later. The year 1923 has special significance and this date will not roll forward before 2019.

Because Wikipedia pages, including non-English language pages, are currently hosted on a server in the United States, this law is particularly significant here. However, the interaction of Wikipedia, the GFDL, and international law is still under discussion.

While there are many places to acquire public domain photos at the public domain image resources, if you strongly suspect an image is a copyright infringement (for example, no copyright status exists on its image description page and you have seen it elsewhere under a copyright notice), then you should list it for deletion (see below).

Also note that in the United States, reproductions of two-dimensional artwork which is in the public domain because of age do not generate a new copyright — for example, a straight-on photograph of the Mona Lisa would not be considered copyrighted (see Bridgeman v. Corel). Scans of images alone do not generate new copyrights — they merely inherit the copyright status of the image they are reproducing. This is not true of the copyright laws of some other countries, such as the United Kingdom.

Fair use considerations

Some usage of copyrighted materials without permission of the copyright holder can qualify as fair use in the United States (but not in most other jurisdictions). For details as to Wikipedia's policy in regards to fair use, or to ask questions about a specific instance, please see the page at Wikipedia:Fair use. Improper claims of fair use constitute copyright infringement and are illegal.

As a general rule of thumb, Wikipedia allows low-resolution images of copyrighted material if they are unlikely to affect the potential market for the material, are used for the purposes of analysis or criticism, and for which there is no alternative, non- or free-copyrighted replacement available. Media which is mis-tagged as fair use or is flagrantly copyright violation can and will be deleted on sight. Frequent uploading of non-fair use copyrighted material can be justification for banning a Wikipedia user.

See also:

Editing images

Use the Upload file page to replace an image with an edited version. Make sure your file has the same name as the one being replaced.

Converting an image to another file format changes the filename, hence the new image will have an entirely separate image description page.

Deleting images

  1. Contact (through their talk page) the user who uploaded the image, telling them of your concerns. You may be able to resolve the issue at this point.
  2. Remove all uses of the image from articles — make it an orphan
  3. Add one of these notices to the image description page
    • copyvios: add the copyright infringement notice for images from Wikipedia:Copyright problems to the image description page:
    • otherwise: add the deletion notice {{ifd}} to the image description page.
  4. List the image on one of these links:
  5. The image can then be deleted after a week in the normal way — see our deletion policy.

To actually delete an image after following the above procedure, you must be an administrator. To do so, go to the image description page and click the (del) or Delete this page links. Deleted images cannot be undeleted. Therefore they are gone permanently unless someone happened to keep a backup.

Image titles and file names

Descriptive file names are also useful. A map of Africa could be called "Africa.png", but quite likely more maps of Africa will be useful in Wikipedia, so it is good to be more specific, e.g. "Africa political map.yourinitials.png", or "Africa political map with red borders.png". Check whether there are already maps of Africa in Wikipedia. Then decide whether your map should replace one (in each article that uses it) or be additional. In the first case give it exactly the same name, otherwise a suitable other name. Avoid special characters in filenames or excessively long filenames, though, as that might make it difficult for some users to download the files onto their machines. Note that names are case sensitive, "Africa.PNG" is considered different from "Africa.png". For uniformity, lower case file name extensions are recommended.

You may use the same name in the case of a different image that replaces the old one, and also if you make an improved version of the same image - perhaps a scanned image that you scanned again with a better quality scanner, or you used a better way of reducing the original in scale - then upload it with the same title as the old one. This allows people to easily compare the two images, and avoids the need to delete images or change articles. However, this is not possible if the format is changed, since then at least the extension part of the name has to be changed.

Currently there is no easy way to rename an image — they will not "Move" to new titles in the ways that articles will. The currently accepted method to rename an image is to 1. download the image to your hard disk, 2. re-upload it again with a new file name, 3. mark the old (incorrect file name) image page with a speedy deletion tag noting that the image has been replaced by an exact duplicate of the file (for example, {{deletebecause|This image has been renamed to [new filename]}}). Note that duplicates images which are not exact duplicates of the original file contents (new scans, different file formats, etc.) cannot be speedy deleted and must be listed manually at Images for deletion. Before you place the speedy deletion notice, make sure that all the articles that linked to the old image now link to the new image. A list of articles linking to an image is found at the end of the image's description page.


See Wikipedia:Image markup for recommendations on the best markup to use. For ideas and examples of how to place images, see Wikipedia:Picture tutorial.

Photo montages

There are four different approaches to photo montages that different wikipedians take. Different approaches may be suitable for different subjects, or it may be possible to set a standard. The options are:

  1. Photos at bottom of article (Erotic art in Pompeii)
  2. Photos on "images of" page (e.g. sheep, images of sheep)
  3. Photos on an image description page (e.g. cattle)
  4. No photo montages allowed — only include a limited number of relevant photos accompanying article text

No decision on photo montages has been made yet. Please discuss pros and cons of each option on the talk page.

Note that it is not recommended to use animated GIFs to display multiple photos. The method is not suitable for printing and also is not user friendly (users can not save individual images and have to wait before being able to view images while other images cycle round).

Fair use images may never be included as part of a photo montage, as their status as being "fair use" depends on their proper use in the context of an article (as part of criticism or analysis). See Wikipedia:Fair use for more details.


  • Drawings, icons, political maps, flags and other such images are preferably uploaded in SVG format as vector images. For images with large, simple, and continuous blocks of color which are not available as SVG should be in PNG format.
  • Photos and photo-like maps should be in JPEG format.
  • Inline animations should be in animated GIF format.
  • Video should be in Ogg/Theora format.

In general, if you have a good image that is in the wrong format, convert it to the correct format before uploading. However, if you find a map, flag, etc in JPEG format, only convert it to PNG if this reduces the file size without causing artifacts. For further advice on converting JPEG to PNG, see Wikipedia:How to reduce colors for saving a JPEG as PNG.

Most of the maps on the CIA World Factbook website were coded as JPEG, but are now coded as GIF. To update these photos, download the GIF picture from the CIA factbook, recode it in PNG format, and upload it to wikipedia.

Try to avoid editing JPEGs too frequently--each edit creates more loss of quality. If you can find an original of a photograph in 16-bit or 24-bit PNG or TIFF, edit that, and save as JPEG before you upload. A limited variety of edits (crops, rotation, flips) can be performed losslessly using jpegcrop (windows) or Patched jpegtran (other) try to use this where possible.

Avoid images that mix photographic and iconic content. Though CSS makes it easy to use a PNG overlay on top of a JPEG image, the Wikipedia software does not allow such a technique. Thus, both parts must be in the same file, and either the quality of one part will suffer, or the file size will be unnecessarily large.

Direct SVG support is implemented as of September 2005 (see meta:SVG image support). The SVG is dynamically rendered as a PNG at a given size when inserted into an article.

See also: Wikipedia:Preparing images for upload


Uploaded image size

Uploaded files must be smaller than 16 megabytes. The MediaWiki software Wikipedia uses can resize images automatically as of version 1.3, so it is rarely necessary to resize images yourself. Please help Wikipedia content be reused widely—including as a source for printed media—by uploading photographic images at high resolution. Use the Wikipedia image markup to resize it.

For line art, particularly that which you've drawn yourself, it may be better to manually resize the images to the right size and use them in the article. This is because the automatic resizing function can sometimes produce images that are larger in bytes than the original and/or of worse quality than the original. This is a specific case where SVG can be useful.

In the future, Mediawiki image markup may be extended to better support "manual thumbnailing"; for now, go ahead and upload a large version of a manually-scaled image and then link to the larger version in the original's image description page.

Displayed image size

In articles, if you wish to have a photo beside the text, you should generally use the "thumbnail" option available in the "Image markup", or approximately 200-250 pixels of width if you're doing it manually. Larger images should generally be a maximum of 550 pixels wide, so that they can comfortably be displayed on 800x600 monitors.

Since mediawiki dynamically scales inline images there is no need to reduce file size via scaling or quality reduction when you upload images although compression of PNGs is useful. Faster page loading can be facilitated by using smaller sizes via the image tags.

Inline animations should be used sparingly; a static image with a link to the animation is preferred unless the animation has a very small file size. Keep in mind the problems with print compatibility mentioned above.

Image queuing

Articles may get ugly and difficult to read if there are too many images crammed onto a page with relatively little text. They may even overlap.

For this reason, it is often a good idea to temporarily remove the least-important image from an article and queue it up on the article's talk page. Once there is enough text to support the image, any contributor is free to shift the image back into the article.

If a contributor believes such a queued image to be essential to the article, despite the lack of text, he or she may decide to put it back in. However, he or she should not simply revert the article to its previous state, but make an attempt to re-size the images or create some sort of gallery section in order to deal with the original problem.

It is a good idea to use the <gallery> tag for queued images.

It is important that queued images not be lost when archiving of talk pages takes place.

Revision history of articles containing images

Old versions of articles do not show corresponding old versions of images, but the latest ones, unless the file names of the images have changed.

Recommended software

These software packages have been recommended by wikipedians for use in image manipulation:

Browse Wikipedia images in the Google cache

(warning: Many of these images are subject to copyright. Seek permission before republishing.) png jpg gif

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