Adding image credits to lecture and research talk slides

I made this page because, if you’re a typical scientist, you don’t think crediting photographers is necessary, just like teenagers don’t worry about sharing music and movie files with each other. But you should provide attribution: it’s just like citing a quote in a journal article.

It’s really not that hard to do. Here’s one way: add a black box with grey text at the bottom of your image.

Slide04
The above detail might be overkill, of course, but all that information is potentially useful to an audience member who is actually interested in the photograph. At the very least put the photographer’s full name. And, sure, the grey text is a tad hard to read, but that’s sort of the point: audience is supposed to be paying attention to you, not reading all the photo creds.

You can also tweak box color,

Slide06

and orientation:

Slide09The problem with vertical text, of course, is that it’s annoying to edit. But it’s perfect if you have images with 4 x 3 aspect ratio.

And don’t be lazy about tracking down the photographer information when you find an image that’s perfect for making your talk interesting. Use Jeffrey’s Exif viewer, Tineye Reverse Image Search, and Google Inside Search to track down the source of images you might stumble upon. Note that just because somebody else use the image without credit doesn’t mean you should do the same. If all fails, provide the URL where you found the image … though providing that won’t protect you from being sued if the photographer finds you’ve published your slide deck somewhere.

If you have a room full of impressionable students, please pause once during your lecture (or semester) to comment about your image credits and how it fits with academic honesty policy. Students might have noticed, but it doesn’t hurt to be clear. Tell them you work hard to find this information because, like quotations and charts from others, it’s important to be honest and humble about sources. They will absorb what you did and model that behavior when they give their own talks.

And regarding the strategy of an “end of talk” image credit list: don’t do that. The fleeting moment the audience might be interested in an image’s source is when the audience is looking at the image

Finally … is it OK to share slides online? The answer is almost always, “no”. Even if you had permission from a photographer to use an image in a lecture, he/she probably doesn’t want that image being shared with the world for the rest of time. If you have to post it online, make sure it’s hidden behind Blackboard or Moodle CMS. Or put the file inside a .htaccess folder on your website, to restrict to just your campus.

Useful reads:

  1.  The Educator’s Guide to Copyright, Fair Use, and Creative Commons,
  2. Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for OpenCourseWare,
  3. Washington State University Fair Use Guidelines,
  4. UCLA Drops Copyrighted Videos From Course Web Sites After Legal Threat,
  5. The TEACH Act.
  6. Cite and Attribute Your Sources.

UPDATE 02/22/2016: please also see “Image attributions in presentations“, by Catherine Scott at the Small Pond Science blog.

About Colin Purrington

PhD in evolutionary biology • twitterinstagram
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