If you're new to this website, these are probably ten things you may not know about images on Wikipedia. We hope this gives you a better idea of the whats and whys of illustrating the world's most popular encyclopedia. If you're more experienced with images on Wikipedia, you probably know most of these—but maybe you've never seen them written down, or you don't know where to point other people who want a quick and easy (sometimes complicated) explanation of a subject.
Most images used on Wikipedia are actually on Wikimedia Commons.
Because we want free content, ideally all images uploaded would be free for everyone, and therefore would be acceptable on our sister project, Wikimedia Commons. Images submitted to Commons are used the same way as images uploaded locally to Wikipedia and are automatically available on Wikipedia—as well as on hundreds of other Wikis run by the Wikimedia Foundation. If you have an image that meets our copyright requirements, please upload it to commons.
There is more to our images than you can see at first look.
If you click on any image on Wikipedia, you will go to a page about the image itself.
This image page will have information on the image's source, authorship, and copyright licensing, along with a more detailed description of the image.
Unless the image is very small, you'll see a larger version of the image here. Clicking on this image will take you to the full-size original version. If you want to save images from Wikipedia, be sure to save the original version of the image, which is higher-quality than the thumbnail sizes on the article and image pages, and usually contains Exif data: information about the photographer, settings, and the equipment used to take the picture. If you reuse images from Wikipedia, please be sure to respect the provided license and provide credit—usually to the photographer, not Wikipedia!
We have more than forty million media files.
There are over 55 million media files on all Wikimedia projects as of July 2019—predominantly images but also sound files, animations, videos, etc.
However, we primarily want freely-licensed images (GFDL, CC-BY-SA, CC-BY, public domain, or another free content license, not just any picture on the web) which are compatible with our policies and our goal of creating a free resource for everyone. If a picture is worth a thousand words, contributing a free picture is giving a thousand words to everyone who wants to use it and will ever see it; a non-free one only gives them to visitors on a single website.
We depend on people like you to create and contribute images for Wikipedia, and the rest of the world, to use, as long as you are willing to release the images under a free content license. You can read about a few of the people who are already contributing their work on the meet our photographers page.
Blatant violations of copyright law and our image policies are usually deleted immediately. Our long-term mission is to create and promote content which is free of the typical encumbrances of copyright law. This mission requires us to take copyright very seriously. Unlike most other websites that allow users to submit content, we aggressively remove all copyright infringements as soon as we can find them, and we block people who willfully ignore this after being warned.
Because free content is such a fundamental part of our mission, our policy on image licensing is more restrictive than required by law. We try to use non-free images only when nothing else is possible.
Most images found on the web are copyrighted, even if the particular website does not specifically state this. Also, most images found on the web do not meet our non-free content policy, which states that a non-free image may be used only when it cannot be replaced. For example, there's no way that a logo of a political party or a screenshot of a video game can be replaced by a free image, but a photo of a living person or location can almost always be replaced, even if doing so may be very difficult. To help Wikipedia, search for free images, especially for living persons, existing buildings, and places—but don't upload a non-free image just because the article doesn't have one right now; we can (and will) wait for a free image to be created or released.
Also, non-commercial, educational use only, and no-derivatives, and other such restrictions on the type of use limit how other people may use the image outside of Wikipedia. Such images aren't considered "free", and so if these images cannot be justified as "fair use" within their articles, they will be deleted from Wikipedia.
Copyright law is complicated, even for lawyers, and applying it to Wikipedia even more so.
Even if you are a licensed attorney who practices in this area, US copyright law (which applies to Wikipedia) is complex, and while an understanding of how it applies to Wikipedia may be achievable, there are considerable gray areas. Deciding the status of one image in a complex situation can be very difficult at times, if not impossible.
We have more than photographs.
Animation: When a circle's diameter is 1, its circumference is π.
Our media collection also includes hundreds of thousands of vector images, audio recordings, animations, and videos.
Vector images can be displayed or printed at any size without loss of quality. The creation of these alternative media types demands different skills and equipment than is required by still photography.
We have an image use policy.
Once an image is uploaded, and the source and licensing information are correctly given, it may be used in articles. Our Image Use Policy describes the accepted ways of displaying, formatting, and otherwise using images in Wikipedia. If you jump in to using images in articles, you should be familiar with it. For example, did you know that no image will display more than 550 pixels wide inside an article?
Uploading the same image multiple times is unnecessary.
If something is wrong in the description of the image, you can edit the image description page. Just like every other page on Wikipedia, the image description page can be edited by anyone. Just click "edit this page" while looking at the image page. Did you forget to say what the license or source for the image is when you uploaded it? Don't re-upload the image—just edit the image description page and add the licensing information!
Also, the wiki software can change the display size of the images, so you do not need to re-upload a smaller version of the same image to use a smaller version in an article. See Wikipedia:Extended image syntax. There, you can learn how to use frames, control the placement in the article, and add captions! For more on captions, see Wikipedia:Captions.
You can use (free) images from Wikipedia on your own site, or anywhere you like.
You can use images that are freely-licensed images, provided you comply with the individual image's license terms. While all article text is licensed under the GFDL, free images have several free content licenses to choose from. See Wikipedia:Image copyright tags/Free licenses for the many possibilities. You can use them on any appropriate page on Wikipedia. You can even use them outside of Wikipedia, such as on a website, in printed material, anywhere! All "free" image licenses allow these uses, provided you follow the license's terms for attribution and usage, as there could be penalties if you don't.