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Citing Images

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Beatrice took a selfie   Angels Flight, Los Angeles, 2008   Angel's Flight by Millard Sheets   Schedule of Classes, 1918-1919   Lamassu

If you use an image in your work - be it on an ePortfolio, written essay, blog post, presentation, etc. - you need to give credit where credit is due, just like when quoting text from an article. Citations also help you (and your readers/followers) find that image again in the future.

Although using images in academic papers is generally covered under Fair Use, you may need to obtain additional permissions when publishing an image outside of the classroom, e.g. book or journal, YouTube video, thesis, demo reel, etc.

What to do:

  • Determine the title of the work - You may have to create your own caption or description.
  • Determine who created the work - artist, design, photographer, illustrator, etc. This can be difficult to find. If you are stuck, try looking at any embedded metadata in the image or try a reverse image search like TinEye or Google Search by Image.
  • Determine who provided the image - Flickr, someone's blog or website, company's official website, stock photo, online photo collection, research database, museum website, etc. When possible, link to the original or definitive source, not the Pinterest board.
  • Evaluate the image -  Like other sources, images should be evaluated for quality. A photo of the Mona Lisa from the Louvre website will be more credible than one found on or one of the first search results.
  • Document where you found the image online - When possible, link to the page with the information about the image. Otherwise, link directly to the image. Also, write down the date you last accessed it successfully.
  • Look for rights statements and crediting preferences - Is there a Creative Commons license? a link to their terms of use? Some sites will provide links, citations, or guidelines on how to credit their images and content.

Finding this information can be very difficult and very frustrating. For example, this image on Pinterest originally went to a dead link on Searching that website for "lamassu" returned a few results, which eventually pointed to this page on the Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History.

At minimum, do your best to:

  1. Link to back to the original work
  2. Give credit to the image creator
  3. Follow attribution instructions provided by the source  

(From Using Images by April Hathcock, via NYU Libraries.)


Generic Citations (The Bare Minimum)

This type of caption is usually sufficient for use on blogs, presentations, articles, etc.

Some websites, publishers, and creators will specify conditions. For instance, museums often ask that the top URL be included, e.g. Items published under Creative Commons ought to include a link to the particular license. There may even be multiple copyright statements for the creator, the owner, and the photographer.

Suggested Format:

Title/Caption by Artist/Designer/Poster, via source/website (copyright statements/CC license).


Beatrice took a photo by mstornadox, via

Historic Angels Flight Funicular Railway in Downtown Los Angeles in 2008 by Rich Alossi, via (CC BY 3.0).

Angel's Flight by Millard Sheets, via Los Angeles County Museum of Art (artwork © Millard Sheets Estate, image

Schedule of Classes [1918-1919] by Otis Art Institute, via Otis Collections Online (© Otis College of Art and Design).

Human-headed winged lion (lamassu) [Excavated at Nimrud (ancient Kalhu), northern Mesopotamia], via Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History (The Metropolitan Museum of Art).

A note about URLs...

Do not use the URL for the set of Google Image Search Results (or other search engines): Example
Do not link to the front page of a website, e.g. or, unless that is where the image resides or when specified by the attribution instructions.


Formal Citations (MLA)

Please use these guidelines when crafting MLA citations for images found online, whether from a Google search, a database or Pinterest. It is not exhaustive; some digital images may have additional requirements, like works of art.

Basic Format:

Photographer/Artist/Poster’s Username. “Title or Caption.” Media. Name of Website. Publisher, date posted/published. Web. Date retrieved. <URL>

Works of Art have special rules:

Artist/Creator. Title. Date created. Owner/Repository, City. Source/Website. Web. Date retrieved. <URL>

Works on the web that were published in print (e.g. books) also have special rules:

Author/Artist/Creator. Title. City : Publisher, date published. Source/Website. Web. Date retrieved. <URL>


mstornadox. "Beatrice took a photo." Digital image. Yoyodyne Industries., 5 Nov. 2014. Web. 24 Mar. 2015. <>

Alossi, Rich. Historic Angels Flight Funicular Railway in Downtown Los Angeles in 2008. Digital image. Wikimedia Commons., 2 Nov. 2008. Web. 24 Mar. 2015. <>

Sheets, Millard. Angel's Flight. 1931. Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles. Web. 24 Mar. 2015. <>

"Schedule of Classes [1918-1919]." Los Angeles: Otis Art Institute, n.d. Otis Collections Online. Web. 24 Mar. 2015. <>

"Human-headed winged lion (lamassu) [Excavated at Nimrud (ancient Kalhu), northern Mesopotamia] (32.143.2)." 883–859 BC. Digital image. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. Oct. 2006. Web. 24 Mar. 2015 <>

A note about URLs...

Although MLA no longer requires a full URL in a citation, it is a good idea to add it for resources that do not come from our research databases.

A note about dates...

If you do not know when an image was posted or created, use "n.d." for "no date." Capitalize when necessary.


Best Practices

Copyright: Using Images (NYU Libraries)

Guidelines for Correct Captioning of Images (College Art Association)

Best Practices for Attribution (Creative Commons)

Embedded Metatdata (Visual Resources Association)


Citations and Captions

Citing Images (University of Cincinnati Libraries)

Citation help for MLA: Tables, Figures and Illustrations (Purdue OWL)

Citation help for MLA Works Cited: Electronic Sources (Purdue OWL)

How to Attribute a CC photo from Flickr (Librarian by Day)

Image Resources (Lewis & Clark)

Where do I give credit?

Credits can be added in many places, including:

  • image caption below or beside the image
  • within the text
  • end of paper or article
  • list of works cited
  • last slide of a presentation
  • caption added to the image itself

Be consistent! Do not add a caption for one image, then give an in-line citation for another.

For academic assignments, follow the instructor's guidelines.

MLA recommends using figure captions for in line example and full citations in a Works Cited section. More information

On this page, the credits for the images above are the examples in the text.