Wikimedian in Residence

Getting Started

How to start using Wikimedia Commons, including how to make an account.

What is Wikimedia Commons?

With tens of millions of files, Wikimedia Commons is one of the largest online repositories of media files. Built from the works shared by thousands of volunteers, Commons hosts educational images, videos, and audio files that are used by Wikipedia and the other projects of the nonprofit Wikimedia Foundation. All of the works on Commons are under a “free license.” That means they can be used and shared by anyone, for free, just by following the license rules – usually by giving credit to the author and preserving the license so that others can re-share the work as well.

Wikimedia Commons is a repository of free images, videos, sounds and other multimedia files. Uploaded files can be used as local files by other projects on the Wikimedia servers, including:

The InstantCommons feature also supports imports media onto other wikis.

Why contribute to Wikimedia Commons?

Imagine a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge. Your contributions can be part of that. When you share your photos and other files on Commons and illustrate Wikipedia articles with them, your work might be viewed by thousands – even hundreds of thousands – of people all over the world. And you’re helping to build a common resource that reaches an even wider audience; media from Commons are used by educational websites, news media, bloggers, artists, filmmakers, students, teachers, and many others.

What can you contribute to Commons?

When you share your work on Wikimedia Commons with a free license, you grant anyone permission to use, copy, modify, and sell it (as long as they follow the rules of the license).

What is allowed

You may upload works that you created entirely yourself. This includes photos and videos of:

  • natural landscapes, animals, plants
  • public figures and people photographed in public places (only with consent in some cases, depending on local laws)
  • useful or non-artistic objects

You can also upload original graphs, maps, diagrams, and audio.

What's not allowed

Commons can’t accept work created by or based on the work of others – including photographs of it. By default, you can’t upload someone else’s work. This includes material such as:

  • logos
  • CD/DVD covers
  • promotional photos
  • screenshots of TV shows, movies, DVDs, and software
  • drawings of characters from comics, TV, or movies – even if you drew them
  • most pictures published on the internet
  • photos of you not taken by you (the copyright holder is the person who took the photograph unless it is a formal work made for hire)


  • You can upload someone else’s work if the author granted permission for anyone to use, copy, modify, and sell it – by releasing it under a free license. (Be sure to provide a link to the source, where the license is stated.)
  • You can upload someone else’s work if it is in the public domain (usually very old works).
  • You can upload your photographs of public domain works, such as old buildings, statues, and art.

How to create an account on Wikimedia Commons

You can easily make an account on Wikimedia Commons by clicking the "Create account" link at the top right-hand corner of the main page. You will need to create a username and password. You can optionally enter your email address to receive updates from Wikimedia Commons, such as when there are changes made to pages on your watchlist, or community updates. It is recommended that your username not be based on your real name, so as to protect your identity. See the image below:

Main page of Wikimedia Commons, with "Create account" link circled in red.
The main page on Wikimedia Commons.

See also

Commons FAQs: Commons:FAQ - Wikimedia Commons