Commons:Placing images

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There are a lot of unused images at Commons. Some of these are simply not currently useful - but many of them are quite useful and nobody has noticed them yet (often because they're recent uploads). Images have much greater visibility and impact when they've been placed in relevant articles on Wikipedia. This is a guide to placing images.

Step-by-step instructions[edit]

Placing images by looking for relevant articles[edit]

  1. Look for images that depict a particular clearly-named subject. These are the best candidates for placement. Check the "global usage" list at the bottom. Is the image already in use in articles?
    • Yes: Click one of the articles it's used in and see how many interwiki links it has. Were all of those listed in the global usage as well? If so, this image is already placed. If not, and those articles do not have acceptable images already, go ahead and place the image in those articles as well. You're done.
    • No: Go to next step.
  2. Visit your native language Wikipedia and use the search tools to locate the correct subject for that image. Alternatively, use a Google site search to search all Wikipedias, such as " <subject name>".
  3. Once you find the article, confirm that it actually describes exactly the same subject. For biographies, comparison of birth and death dates and/or professions is often helpful for this purpose.
  4. How many images does the article currently have?
    • None: Place the new image as a lead image if it depicts the subject, or lower down if it depicts their work or related subjects. You've now illustrated the article!
    • Only inferior or downscale versions of the same image: replace the existing image by the new image, but see the warning about image replacement below. If you replace any images, check the global usage of those images to see where else they might be replaced. If the image you replace is a downscale or poor-quality version of the same photograph/scan, mark it with the {{superseded}} tag (but be careful to verify that it's not just a similar image - e.g. Van Gogh produced three versions of Bedroom in Arles).
    • It's a long article and there's still plenty of prose sections without any illustration. Go ahead and add the image as a supplementary image. Look for a section relevant to the new image in particular, and give a good specific caption if possible. Try to space images out evenly, and alternate left and right. If there's an existing image gallery, consider adding it to that.
    • The article has plenty of images, or the new image would be redundant. Announce the image on the talk page. On the English Wikipedia you can use "{{subst:suggest-image|Name.jpg}} ~~~~" for this. This template also works for multiple files and will create a gallery of suggestions (e.g. {{subst:suggest-image|A.jpg|B.jpg|B.jpg}}). There are not currently corresponding templates on other projects.
  5. Visit all interwiki links and give those articles the same treatment.

Placing images by looking for related images[edit]

  1. Find an uncategorized image and categorize it.
  2. Look at other images in that category. Do you see any that are either downscale versions of the image you just categorized, or clearly inferior images?
  3. If so, check global usage for each one, see what articles it's used in, and consider replacing them by the new image. If you decide to replace an image, you can take advantage of CommonsDelinker to largely automate the process.

Warning about image replacement[edit]

It's important when placing images to respect the editorial decisions of others, especially in fields you don't have background in and languages you don't speak. If an existing image is of acceptable quality and may be in some way more relevant or authentic than the image you're placing, consider either just announcing the image on the talk page or placing it as a supplementary image. If your replacement of an image is reverted, you should not replace it again - instead leave a suggestion on the talk page.


It can be hard to write a caption for an image in a language you don't know. It may be helpful to rely on proper names, numbers, and punctuation - features that typically do not change between Western languages. However, if you don't even know the alphabet, you're pretty much screwed. You may be able to copy a preliminary caption from the article title. If all else fails, an empty caption is fine, other editors can handle it.


Many wikis have a tag called {{commonscat}} or something similar which allows you to link an article to an entire category of related media on Commons. This tag is usually placed in one of the final sections of the article, such as "further reading", "references/sources", or "external links." If the Commons category name does not match the article name (this is common for example for living things), use {{commonscat|Category name on Commons}} to link it. This tag helps readers who are interested in seeing our full collection of media related to a subject, as well as all versions of an image, but is not a replacement for placing single images in relevant parts of the article. Note: to find the equivalent tag on other Wikipedias ({{commonscat}} is for English Wikipedia, but also works on some others), you can go to the English Wikipedia page for {{commonscat}} at en:Template:Commonscat and look at the interwiki links (bottom left, below the Toolbox).


I (User:Dcoetzee) am in the process of designing better tools for image placement. My current ambition is to use the Java Wiki Bot Framework to create a graphical tool for streamlined interactive placing of images, with suggested changes, instant preview, caption generation, auto-categorization, and other features.

  • Note: Never got around to doing this, but still seems like a good idea. Dcoetzee (talk) 18:09, 27 July 2011 (UTC)