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Finding and Using Online Images: Citing

Though you may have permission to use an image, you must still credit the image's creator or copyright owner. In statements of usage rights on websites, this practice is often called "attribution." In some cases, you will be instructed to attribute the image to an institution that owns the copyright. Look for a link on a website or database called "Terms of Use" or something similar.

Conform as closely as possible to the structure and examples below with the information you have available. Consult a style guide for more detailed explanations and for exceptions (such as images without a listed date or creator). Make sure to also track your research by recording the following information:

  • Image creator's name (artist, photographer, etc.)
  • Title of the image
  • Date the image (or work represented by the image) was created
  • Institution (gallery, museum) where the image is located / owned (if applicable)
  • Date of access (the date you accessed the online image)
  • Website and/or Database name

For further information about citation, consult our Writing & Style Guides.

Citing images in MLA

In-text citation

To cite an image you found online, use the italicized image title or general description in your text, and then cite it using the first element in the works cited entry.

Examples:

The Dream (Rousseau) baffled art critics when it debuted in 1910, mere months before the artist’s death in September of that year.

As illustrated in Up Close and Personal with the Very Large Telescope (Salgado), the fish eye camera lens creates uniquely distorted images, which often evokes the curvature of the earth.



Incorporating images into the text of your paper:

  • All images that are not tables or examples of musical scores are referred to as “figure” or “fig.”, and are referred to by their number (i.e., figure 1 or fig. 2). Do not capitalize figure or fig, or refer to figures as "the figure below" or "the figure above."
  • Place the figure close as possible to the part of text referencing it, unless otherwise instructed by your professor.
  • Number the figures consecutively, beginning with figure 1.
  • Below the figure, provide a capitalized label name and corresponding number, without bolding or italicization (e.g. Fig. 1.) 
  • If the figure’s caption provides complete information about the source, and the source is not cited in the body of the text, it is not necessary to list the source in the works-cited. 
  • On the same line as the label and number, provide a descriptive title/caption, as well as source information in the following format:

Fig. #. Descriptive title or caption, from Image Creator’s First Name Last Name; Description or Title of ImageTitle of the website where the image is located; Publisher or sponsor of the site; Date of Creation; Medium of publication (“Web”); Date of access. 

 

MLA in-text citation example:

Works Cited list citation

When citing images found online, your MLA citation format will depend on whether the image represents a work originally held in a museum or collection, or whether the image only exists on the web.

Structure for a work of art or photograph that exists in a museum or collection:

Creator's last name, first name. Title of Image or Description of image. Year of creation. Gallery or museum where the image is physically located. Title of the Website or Database. Medium of publication ("Web"). Date of access (Day Month (abbreviated) Year).

Examples:

Bonsu, Osei. Female figure (akua ba). [c.1960]. National Museum of African Art. African Mosaic/Womanhood. Web. 9 Apr. 2011.Rousseau, Henri. The Dream. 1910. The Museum of Modern Art. ARTstor. Web. 29 Mar. 2011.

 

Structure for a work or photograph that exists only on the web:

Creator's last name, first name. Title of Image or Description of image. Date of creation. Title of the Website where the image is located. Publisher or sponsor of the site (if available). Medium of publication ("Web"). Date of access (Day Month (abbreviated) Year).

Examples:

Salgado, José. Up Close and Personal with the Very Large Telescope. 6 Dec. 2010. ESO Picture of the Week. European Southern Observatory. Web. 9 Apr. 2011.Sayer, Larissa. Nurse Log. 27 Jan. 2007. Flickr. Yahoo! Web. 7 Apr. 2011

Citing images in APA

In-text citation

To cite an image you found online, use the image title or a general description in your text, and then cite it using the first element in the works cited entry and date.

Examples:
The Dream (Rousseau, 1910) baffled art critics when it debuted, mere months before the artist’s death in September of that year.

As demonstrated in Up Close and Personal with the Very Large Telescope (Salgado, 2010), the fish eye camera lens creates uniquely distorted images, which often evokes the curvature of the earth.

 

Incorporating images into the text of your paper:

  • In the text, refer to figures by their number (i.e., Figure 1 or Figure 2). Do not refer to figures as "the figure below" or "the figure above."
  • Place the figure close as possible to the part of text referencing it, unless otherwise instructed by your professor.
  • Centre the image in the paper.
  • Number the figures consecutively, beginning with Figure 1.
  • Provide a brief description of the image. The caption should serve as both a title and explanation.
  • On the same line as the figure number and caption, provide the source and copyright information for the image in the following format:

Figure X.  Descriptive caption of image. From Image title, by Creator’s Name, Year of creation, Database/URL.  Copyright Date by Name of Copyright Holder. Reprinted with permission (if applicable).
 

APA in-text citation example:

References list citation

Structure:

Creator's last name, first initial. (Role of creator). (Year of creation). Title of image or description of image. [Type of work]. Retrieved from URL/database

Examples:

Bonsu, O. (Sculptor). [ca. 1960]. Female figure (akua ba). [Wood and glass sculpture]. Retrieved from http://africa.si.edu/exhibits/mosaic/womanhood.html

Salgado, J.F. (Photographer). (2010). Up close and personal with the very large telescope. [Digital image]. Retrieved from http://www.eso.org/public/images/potw1049a

Sayer, L. (Photographer). (2007). Nurse log. [Digital Image]. Retrieved from http://www.flickr.com/photos/riss/368673880

Rousseau, H. (Painter). (1910). The dream. [Image of painting]. Retrieved from ARTstor.

Citing images in Chicago/Turabian

Note that Chicago style outlines two distinct citation styles—Notes/bibliography style and Author/date style—and that this guide covers only Notes/Bibliography style.

In-text citation and notes

Cite visual sources such as paintings and other images in notes only, not in the bibliography (17.8.1).

To cite an image you found online, use the italicized image title or general description in your text, and then cite it using a numbered footnote or endnote. Format the corresponding note like this:

1.  Firstname Lastname of Creator, Title of Work, date of its creation, the name of the institution that houses it (if applicable), name of database OR image URL.

 

Examples:

The Dream1 baffled art critics when it debuted in 1910, mere months before the artist’s death in September of that year.

As illustrated in Up Close and Personal with the Very Large Telescope,2 the fish eye camera lens creates uniquely distorted images, which often evokes the curvature of the earth.

 


1.  Henri Rousseau, The Dream, 1910, The Museum of Modern Art, ARTstor.

2.  J.F. Salgado, Up Close and Personal with the Very Large Telescope, 2010, http://www.eso.org/public/images/potw1049a.

 

Incorporating images into the text of your paper:

  • All images that are not tables or musical scores are referred to in the text as “fig.” and are referred to by their number (ex. fig. 1). Do not capitalize fig or refer to figures as "the figure below" or "the figure above." Place the figure close as possible to the part of text referencing it, unless otherwise instructed by your professor. Number the figures consecutively, beginning with figure 1.
  • Below the figure, provide a capitalized label name and corresponding figure number, without bolding or italicization (ex. Figure 1.)
  • On the same line as the label and number, provide a descriptive title/caption, followed by citation information in the following format: