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2 minutes to read Posted on Thursday February 25, 2016


Photography resources for creative re-use

Find high quality, re-usable photographs from across Europe, and beyond
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Europe’s galleries, museums, libraries and archives contain a wealth of photographic materials from many genre. This includes images from the very earliest days of photography in the 1840s, high quality art photography from famous photographers, early topographic photographs depicting locations around the world, plus of course record photographs depicting items in the collections themselves. Increasingly these are being made available in high resolution and with open licenses, and new features in the Europeana Collections website and Europeana API allow users to find high quality materials perfect for a diverse range of creative needs.

With this diversity can come complexity, so in this guide we will explain the different ways that you can explore, uncover and access these materials.

Europeana Collections

The recently relaunched Europeana Collections website is a searchable, visual interface to the complete collection of nearly 50 million records. Browsing through individual items you can, where available, manually download original media files.

Limiting results to just photographs can be a challenge, but one of the easiest ways to filter results is by descriptive facets. Try terms like what:"Photograph" and what:"Foto". And combine these to find as many as possible, such as this example query - what:"Photography" OR what:"photo"OR what:"foto" OR what:"photographie" OR what:"Photograph" OR what:""

This approach can owrk particularly well within the items from one provider with a diverse collection. For example for the Rijksmuseum, known more for its paintings, using what:photograph gives over 9,500 images, all Public Domain and available for direct download in high resolution. Becasue of their high quality metadata, you can also further filter this set by type, for example to find steroviews using what:"stereoscopic photographs" (ca 900 results). Note that this approach may not work for all providers, so it is worth experimenting with terms.

There are also several notable Europeana projects and providers that have photographic themed collections

  • Europeana Photography - contains a high quality collection of approximately 125,000 resuable (if mainly small) images
  • Daguerreobase - a collection of over 12,000 reusable thumbnail images (though watermarked), contanng about 2,600 which have links to low resolution versions without watermarks. Higher resolution versions may be available indirectly via the providers' websites.

Here are some Collections links and tips to help you

When running searches, lots of options are available to further filter content. On the left hand side of any search results page you will see extra filters that allow you to refine your search:

  • First you will want to select an appropriate license - for most creative projects it's best to choose the option "Can I use it? Yes - with attribution" which will only contain re-usable content that can be used commercially and be modified. But if you have a non-commercial project then you can include "Can I use it? Yes - with restrictions" but be sure to check that individual restrictions such as if you are planning to create derivative images, or if you need to 'Share Alike'.
  • You may have noticed that these links also pre-select just images, as opposed to text, audio and video or even 3D, but you may find further interesting resources if you open up the search to all content types.
  • When you select one specific type, content-specific options appear such as filtering by image resolution. Using the example above, we can find over 50,000 items relating to photography with directly accessible images greater than 4 megapixels.
  • Other options are available, such as searching by colour. This is based on the W3C palette, and you can see a full list of indexed colours. Note that there is also an option to filter colour vs black and white, but this is a technical quality rather than the appearance of the photograph, so can return false positives as most photographic images are (correctly) scanned in full colour even when they may be described popularly as ‘black and white’.
  • Of course you can also combine these with standard text searches, such as looking for portraits or photographs related to transport.

Europeana Labs

On Europeana Labs we feature some of the best open datasets in Europeana. For each there is a link to browse the collection and for developers our API console shows how to query the API to extract that content. There are over 20 featured datasets containing photographs, including 27,000 images of daily life in Sweden in the early 1900s, 37,000 photographs from Austria-Hungary taken in World War 1, and nearly 200,000 WW1 photographs and images of personal memorabilia and documents contributed by the public as part of the Europeana 1914-18 project.

Europeana API

The Europeana API provides direct access for developers to the complete data available through Europeana. This allows the creation of powerful, content rich apps and services. Indeed our own website runs on the API, and all the search methods are available for use.

Example queries

Searching for locations

"Louvain - le Théâtre et la rue de la Station". Contributed by Arietta Ruß as part of the Europeana 1914-18 project. CC BY-SA.

As many photographic related applications require location-based material, it’s worth giving some extra advice on how to find these.

  • Within the Europeana API there is the ability to search for geotagged materials using a bounding box. You can append a parameter such as
    This has been used on the PostcodePast site that has a small script to generate a geoJson feed for display using LeafletJS - e.g. see,50.8628526691932,4.756135940551758,50.89686185152743 (feel free to use this for testing, but for production purposes you can find the code under an open license on GitHub)
  • The presence of geotagged material can be limited if providers have not given geotags with their metadata. There are a few possible ways to overcome this, for example by searching for a location name. You can simply type the name as a search term e.g. q=Leuven or if that returns poor results try the more specific &qf=what:Leuven OR Louvain OR Löwen
  • An example of this approach has been implemented on PostcodePast which uses the Wikipedia API to find geotagged points of interest and then searches these names within Europeana (and Flickr & DPLA) - see e.g. The concept and API calls behind this are illustrated in this Google Sheet (please make a copy for your own use before editing/changing).

Find out more

Need help?

If you have any questions or are seeking particular content, please email