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Graphics, information and citation examples on this guide were taken from the Art Research guide of the University of California Irvine and are used with permission.

Find the owner of an image on the web 

What is metadata? 

  • Metadata is descriptive text included with a digital image file.

  • Metadata for images is like bibliographic data for books and journal articles?
  • Currently, most images on the Internet have little or no descriptive metadata

  • Currently, there is no single standard for digital image metadata, though several organizations are working toward that goal
  • Metadata can be modified easily, so multiple copies of the same image file may have different, and possibly inaccurate, metadata.

Questions when evaluating a digital image 

I. Observe, Describe, Connect

a. Observe: Take a few minutes to look at the image. Who or what do you see represented in the image?

b. Describe:  Create a written description of what formal elements you see. Name everything you see in the image, looking at each part of the picture (color, line, shape, etc). Your description should help someone who has not seen the image to visualize it.

c. Connect:  What do the physical properties such as color, form, and placement contribute to the image? Consider how formal elements impact the meaning of the image. 

II. Question & Verify

a. Question: How is the image resolution? Is it clear or grainy? How big is the image?  Is the image dis-colored?

Can you tell if the image has been cropped, scanned at a low resolution or otherwise manipulated?

b. Verify: Can you verify the image has the correct coloration and proportions by comparing it to other reproductions of the image online or in print? 

III. Evaluate & Investigate

a. Evaluate: What information is provided in the metadata?  What information is provided in the text surrounding the image?

b. Can you tell who owns the image? Where is the image from? (not only the creator, but the organization that has shared it).

c. Investigate: Can you find other sources (print and online) that further describe and contextualize the image?

IV. Infer and Hypothesize: 

a. Infer: Assess reliability and accuracy of image sources based on evaluations of  the authoritative sources you’ve consulted, your own point of view or bias

b. Hypothesize: What judgments can you make about image sources based on your evaluations of image and information quality?

 Think about the source for your image.  Does it provide any context or meaning regarding your image?


Sample of images retrieved when searching for "the Ghost and the Flea" retrieved in google images, 1.19.12