Options for Sharing Your Research-Related Images

Ed White, doing the first American spacewalk in 1965.  Now also part of my dissertation image collection in Flickr!

Astronaut Ed White, famously doing the first American spacewalk in 1965. Now, less famously, also part of my dissertation image collection on Flickr!

Part of my dissertation research involves images, and in writing my last chapter, I wanted to share the images I was using with my committee co-chairs.  In the past, I’ve put images into Word documents, and never really liked the results.  So, I’ve investigated other ways to share images with them, and thought to share what I’ve discovered.

There's nothing anyone can say to convince me that this image in a Word document doesn't look bad.

There’s nothing anyone can say to convince me that this image in a Word document doesn’t look bad.

Images in MS Word

I dislike using Word for word processing, and prefer to avoid it whenever possible — I use Scrivener to write my dissertation, then I export the finished chapter into Word, footnotes and all, for my committee. I don’t want to use Word to share images, either. Since I don’t like it for word processing, I like it even less for image-wrangling.  Many years ago when I did use Word files with images, before I knew any better, they would end up taking up a ton of space (because the image was high-resolution but scaled down), or the images wouldn’t show up in the file, or the formatting wasn’t intuitive — the list goes on. Suffice to say, I didn’t even consider using Word for image-heavy documents.

Share Files with Dropbox

I started using Dropbox to share dissertation writing with my committee as per Evan Cordulack’s suggestion.  I also share with them PDFs of sources that they might want to take a look at themselves, especially the more obscure things I’ve written about. I created an image folder to go along with the PDF folder for this particular chapter, so I could share the actual image files with my co-chairs. The problem with this is that I couldn’t figure out a simple way to attach information to these files — like a caption of sorts with the URL where I found the image, as well as my own notes. I’d have to include that in the Word file of my chapter, and then have my co-chairs go and find the proper image. This seems rather clumsy, but I did it anyway as one option.

Sharing Albums with Comments Using Picasa and Google+

I use Picasa a lot for this blog — I have the Adobe collection of software, so could use Photoshop (and do, for other things) — but when I only need to crop an image and export it as a particular blog-ready size, I turn to Picasa. It works really well (I like it way better than iPhoto), so I thought it might work for sharing images with my committee. I’ve used it before to share albums of images on Google+ with my sister, via Picasa Web Albums, and that worked well enough.

Could Picasa and Google+ work as easily with my dissertation images? I discarded this as an option almost immediately.  Since Google+ is a social media-type service, sharing images seems to be more about that than about creating an image collection/repository or a shared album with someone else, where you both contribute images (it’s great for that!). I didn’t want my co-chairs to have to use Google accounts, should they not want to.  I would also have to either privately share the albums with my co-chairs, or share the albums to my Google+ stream — and I’m sure that not everyone who is following me wants to see all my dissertation images!

Here's what one of my images looks like on my Flickr page.  Note the presence of a caption!

Here’s what one of my images looks like on my Flickr page. Note the presence of a caption, as well as the collection links.

Flickr Wins!

I’ve used Flickr for years to find images, especially Creative Commons images for Web publishing, but I hadn’t ever had a Flickr account. Creating one was easy — you can sign in and create an account with a Facebook, Yahoo, or Google account — and I was uploading images within a few minutes.

The “hardest” part about using Flickr was finding all the images that I’d collected on my hard drive so I could drag and drop them into my Web browser. I’ve not been the most organized person when downloading them, and have several folders in various places called “Dissertation Docs” or “Dissertation 2-15-2013,” to name a few. After dragging the image files into the window, you can change the title, add a description and tags, and put the image in a set with other images.

One of the major drawbacks of Flickr for sharing dissertation images, which thankfully I don’t have to deal with, is that of copyright.  All the images I’ve used so far are free of copyright restrictions, since they were created by NASA.  I think that if I wanted to put something that was owned by someone else, however, I’d run into problems.  For example, this Norman Rockwell painting, from the NASA and the Arts project, belongs to Rockwell’s estate, and I believe I would have to get permission to use it.

Other than that one major caveat, Flickr is perfect for my needs to share a curated gallery of dissertation images with my committee. All I would have to do is send them a link to the set(s) of images that go along with my chapter, or put the link to each image into the text itself, and they could go look at the images, assuming they have an Internet connection. So, until my dream of online formatting and publishing for all academic writing is realized, this is what I will use for sharing my images!

Do you have any suggestions for how to best share images? If you use them in your research, how do you share them with others? Please let us know in the comments!

About Kim Mann

Kim Mann is the editor and a writer for the Academic Technology Blog. She earned her BA in English from the University of Minnesota in 2003 and her MA in American Studies from William & Mary in 2009, and her PhD in American Studies at the College in 2014. Her research is on technology, the interface, and the body in mid-twentieth century science fiction.


  1. Andrew Bauserman says:

    Kim – great review of options.

    Flickr is also the service of choice for integrating slideshows on departmental web sites via Cascade (as YouTube is for sharing video). Plus Yahoo! CEO (and former Googler) Marissa Mayer has re-committed Yahoo! to making Flickr great.

    • Kim Mann says:

      Thanks for the comment, Andrew! I didn’t know that about Flickr being used for Cascade-based sites’ slideshows — that’s good to know, and another pro for using it. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I just thought I’d add that Flickr lets you change both search settings and privacy settings. This way, you can choose who can see your images (whether they are publicly visible or not), as well as whether or not you would like to have your images findable via searching. –Kim