Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Images

This page gives an 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[]

Top of an unrecognizable curvy building under blue sky with a helicopter so far in the distance that it resembles a sparrow
This image of a helicopter over the Sydney Opera House shows neither adequately.

Images must be significant and relevant in the topic's context, not primarily decorative. They are often an important illustrative aid to understanding. When possible, find better images and improve captions instead of simply removing poor or inappropriate ones, especially on pages with few visuals. However, not every article needs images, and too many can be distracting.

See also Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Icons § Encyclopedic purpose (MOS:DECOR) on misuse of icons and other elements for decorative intent.

Images should look like what they are meant to illustrate, whether or not they are provably authentic. 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 a generic-looking 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.

Strive for variety. For example, in an article with numerous images of persons (e.g. Running), seek to depict a variety of ages, genders, and ethnicities. If an article on a military officer already shows its subject in uniform, then two more formal in-uniform portraits would add little interest or information, but a map of an important battle and an image of its aftermath would be more informative. Resist the temptation to overwhelm an article with images of marginal value simply because many images are available.

Articles about ethnic groups or similarly large human populations should not be illustrated by a photomontage or gallery of images of group members; see this and this thread for the most recent consensus discussion on the topic.

Image quality[]

Use the best quality images available. Poor-quality images—dark or blurry; showing the subject too small, hidden in clutter, or ambiguous; and so on—should not be used unless absolutely necessary. Think carefully about which images best illustrate the subject matter. For example:

Pages using seals, flags, banners, logos, or other symbols to represent governments, organizations, and institutions should use the version prescribed by that entity when available. These are preferable to amateur creations of similar quality, including photographs of physical representations of emblems.

Avoid presenting textual information as images[]

Scale references[]

An image sometimes includes a familiar object to communicate scale. Such fiducial markers should be as culturally universal and standardized as possible: rulers, matches, batteries, pens/pencils, soda cans, footballs (soccer balls), people and their body parts, vehicles, and famous structures such as the Eiffel Tower are good choices, but many others are possible. Such objects as coins, banknotes, and sheets of paper are less satisfactory because they are specific to given locales, but may be better than none at all since at least the general scale is still communicated.

Quantitative data, if available, should still be given in the caption or the article.

Offensive images[]

Wikipedia is not censored: its mission is to present information, including information which some may find offensive. However, a potentially offensive image—one that would be considered vulgar or obscene by typical Wikipedia readers[nb 1]—should be included only if it is treated in an encyclopedic manner i.e. only if its omission would cause the article to be less informative, relevant, or accurate, and no equally suitable alternative is available. Images should respect 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 common for an article's lead or infobox to carry a representative image—such as of a person or place, a book or album cover—to give readers visual confirmation that they've arrived at the right page.

For some topics, selecting the lead image can be difficult. While Wikipedia is not censored, lead images should be selected with care (see § Offensive images, above). The lead image is perhaps the first thing to catch the reader's eye, so avoid lead images that readers would not expect to see there. Unlike other content beyond the lead, the lead image should be chosen with these considerations in mind.

Advice on selecting a lead image includes:

How to place an image[]


A white dog in a harness playfully nuzzles a young boy
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]]

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.

VR photographs[]

To display VR photographs (aka 360-degree panoramas or photospheres), use {{PanoViewer}}.


Image using width upright=1.8, so that it is 80% wider than the Siberian Husky image above (which is at the default upright=1 width)
Image using upright=0.5; a scaling factor less than 1 contracts the image width.
This image uses |thumb|center|upright=2.5 to expand the image, center it, and clear the area on either side.


A white dog in a harness playfully nuzzles a young boy
A Siberian Husky used as a pack animal

Most images should be on the right side of the page, which is the default placement.[nb 4] Left-aligned images may disturb the layout of bulleted lists and similar structures that depend on visual uniformity, e.g. by pushing some items on such lists further inward. Hence, avoid left-aligned images near such structures. If an exception to the general rule is warranted, specify |left in the image link: [[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]].

An image should generally be placed in the most relevant article section; if this is not possible, try not to place an image "too early" i.e. far ahead of the text discussing what the image illustrates, if this could puzzle the reader. The first image of a section should be placed below the "Main article" link usually displayed by using {{Main}}, {{Further}} and {{See also}} templates. Do not place an image at the end of the previous section as this will not be visible in the appropriate section on mobile devices. An image causes a paragraph break (i.e. the current paragraph ends and a new one begins) so it is not possible to place an image within a paragraph. This applies to thumb images; small inline images are an exception (see Inline images).

... can create a distasteful text sandwich (depending on platform and window size).
Wide images opposite one another ...

Mul­ti­ple im­ages 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. As an al­ter­na­tive, con­sid­er us­ing the {{multiple image}} tem­plate, which pla­ces two im­ag­es to­geth­er on the right (but which, how­ev­er, ig­nores logged-in us­ers' se­lect­ed im­age siz­es). See WP:GALLERY for in­form­ation on the u­se of multip­le im­ages.


It is often preferable to place a portrait (image or representation of a person) so that they "look" toward the text, but do not achieve this by reversing the image, which creates a false presentation. (Faces are never truly symmetric even in the absence of scars or other features.)

References from article text[]

Don't refer to image orientation such as left, right, above, or below. Image placement varies with platform and screen size, especially mobile platforms, and is meaningless to screen readers. Instead, use captions to identify images.

Inline images[]

Making images available[]

All images used on Wikipedia must be uploaded to Wikipedia itself or Wikimedia Commons. That is, hotlinking is not supported.

Images uploaded to Wikipedia are automatically placed into the File namespace (formerly known as the Image namespace), i.e., the 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. For further information see Wikipedia:Non-free content.

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; lest the reader be misled, the caption should make clear that this is not the coloring a viewer of the Moon would actually see.

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 s (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 changes to images taken from outside sources should be noted on the image's description page. For images created by ors themselves, changes which could have been part of the image's original composition—such as rotation or minor cropping—need not be mentioned on the 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 ing images, try WP:Graphics Lab.

Uploading images[]

Logged in users with autoconfirmed accounts (meaning at least four days old and at least ten s at the English Wikipedia) can upload media to the English Wikipedia. Only free licensed media, not fair use media, may 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 ors.

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 ors using the search engine and the categories. To help ors 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[]

Images can greatly increase the bandwidth cost of viewing an article – a consideration for readers on slow or expensive connections. Articles carry reduced-size thumbnails instead of full images (which the user can view by "clicking through" the thumbnail) but in some file types a thumbnail's reduced dimensions doesn't translate into a concomitant reduction in file size. (In most browsers you can see 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:

See also[]


  1. ^ Here a "typical Wikipedia reader" is defined by the cultural beliefs of the majority of the website readers (not active ors) 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.
  2. ^ px works the same as upright for users with the usual base width setting of 220px, but works counterintuitively for readers whose base width is set to a different value (see Help:Preferences#Files). For example, an image coded 275px—presumably to make it wider than most images on a particular page—is actually rendered smaller than most images if the user has changed their base width to 300px. In contrast, upright responds gracefully to changes in the user's base width, maintaining the relative size of images in any given article by enlarging or reducing all of them proportionately.

    However, a thumbnail cannot be displayed larger than the original uploaded image. For example, if an image is coded |thumb|330px or |thumb|upright=1.5 (for a reader with the usual base width of 220px), but the original uploaded file was only 200px wide, then the article thumbnail will still be displayed at only 200px.

  3. ^ If you do much work with image layouts, consider leaving your preference at 220px to match the "reader experience" of most readers.
  4. ^ A consistent left margin creates a stable anchor for tracking through lines of text making it more readable / accessible.