While it can take time and resources to find appropriate photos, images that support your content should be well thought-out and considered an important part of your design.

Best Practices

  • Show real New Yorkers

    Use photos of real New Yorkers whenever possible. We want to showcase the community we serve, and stock photos just don’t have the same impact.

  • Make it look natural

    While photos of New Yorkers are great, photos that look natural and unplanned are even better.

  • Focus on an individual

    Honing in on one person, even in a large group or crowd photo, helps users make a personal connection to your subjects.

  • Keep it simple

    Choose photos without too much clutter or complicated compositions. They’re easier on they eyes and won’t distract from the rest of the content.

NYC Image Requirements


Copyright is a federal law that protects original works. Make sure any image you use is either in the public domain, licensed under a Creative Commons license, or owned by the City of New York. Otherwise, you will need to get explicit permission (and sometimes pay a licensing fee) to use the image.

Photo Subjects

Photos used in official City materials cannot show faces of people who have not given consent. If you’re going to an event to take photos, make sure to bring consent forms for people to fill out. Without written consent, you won’t be able to use the photos in public-facing media.

If an image is taken from a distance or angle that obscures the subject’s face, feel free to use it.

The City also prohibits using images that show recognizable brand names. If you do have a good photo that shows a McDonald’s logo, for instance, try using an image editing program to remove or obscure it.

Image Types

Make sure you’re using the correct image types from the beginning of your project. It will save you the hassle of going back to find or create new versions. NYC Water graphics being used to compare vector and raster images

Vector Graphics

Vector graphics are zoom and resolution-independent. This means they won’t become pixelated, no matter how much they’re scaled up. Since vectors are essentially shapes, they’re suited for graphics such as logos and icons. Vector graphics have the file extension .svg, which stands for Scalable Vector Graphics.

Raster Images

Raster images are made of pixels. If you zoom in far enough, you will be able to see the individual pixels, which look like little squares. Raster images are typically larger than vectors, and must be high-resolution to scale well without pixelating.

The three universally supported raster image formats are JPG, GIF, and PNG.

  • JPG: Use for optimizing photos and screenshots.
  • PNG: Use when you need to preserve fine detail at high resolution.
  • GIF: Use for animations.

Image Sources

Use these sources for usable images you don’t have to pay for or take yourself.

NYC Department of Records and Information Services

The Municipal Archives at the Department of Records and Information Services (DORIS) preserves and makes available historical images of New York City. DORIS’s digital gallery contains over 910,000 historical photographs, maps, and audio recordings. To get permission to use any of their assets, or to inquire about additional archival resources, contact the Municipal Archives. Remember to credit the NYC Department of Records and Information Services whenever using their materials.

City of New York Photo Library

Search and download photos taken by the Mayor’s Office of Photography and NYC & Co. These adhere to the City’s requirements for safely usable imagery. Contact NYC Digital for information and a login. And remember to credit the photographer whenever possible.


Search this website for free, high-resolution photos licensed under Creative Commons Zero. Creative Commons Zero photos are free and can be used and modified by anyone for commercial and noncommercial purposes. While crediting the photographer isn’t required, it is appreciated when possible.

NYC & Co Icons

Find icons that are free to use for all City agencies. This icon set was created by NYC & Co, and inspired by the logo.