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How to Cite an Image in MLA: Citation Guide with Examples

Living in the age of technology where social media, Youtube, and graphics represent a major part of our lives, it is not surprising that citing images MLA style has become one of elementary crucial skills. Regardless if you are majoring in Psychology or study Political Science, the chances are high that your essay will include at least one picture. According to MLA 8 or Modern Language Association academic format style, it is mostly typical for language arts and cultural studies, which makes it logical for adding graphics with proper referencing. While the rules may sound confusing, the aim of this guide with examples will make things easier as you look through our helpful templates.

MLA Image Citation Basic Rules

To reference an image in your research paper, dissertation, or a reflection essay in MLA 8 style, it is recommended to locate as much information about your source as possible. A list of what must be there includes the following: 

  • Author of the image cited.
  • Title or a reference description.
  • Title of a website, database, or print source where a certain picture has been found. 
  • The publishing house or relevant contributors. 
  • A content version, editor.
  • Any specific numbers or database information related to a digital image. 
  • The photograph date or a painting’s creation / publication date. 
  • Photograph’s location, if it is a digital image, as an example. 
  • Your access date. 

The basic template for citing an image MLA style would follow this format, considering that the photograph is available in a digital format:

The Author’s Last name, First name. “Title of your picture.” Website title or another
        source, First name Last name of any contributors, Version (if applicable), Number
        (if relevant), Publisher, Publication date, URL. Access Date.

Now the real-life example would look this way:

Williams, John M. Photograph of WTC Restaurant. Entertainment Weekly, Turner
      Construction, 3 Apr. 2002, www.url.com. Accessed 12 May 2020.

The in-text citation has a different format, compared to Bibliography. As a rule, if the image has been reproduced from somewhere, include a figure number with the “Fig. 1” or “Fig. 14” abbreviation, depending on how many of them you have. The caption should include the author’s name, title of a picture (in italics), creation date, the medium that was used for reproduction, and full information regarding original source. Include information about original format, if applicable. 

The in-text referencing of MLA picture citation has to be included in every Works Cited page without any figure numbers. See our example below: 

(Fig. 1)
 
According to stronger painting shades in The Wings of Nebula (Fig. 1), it is clear that the author tries to… 

Works Cited page: 

Pulsford, Terry. Wings of Nebula. 1982. Oil on canvas. National Rijksmuseum,
        Amsterdam. 

Relevant caption itself becomes: 

Fig. 1. Terry Pulsford. Wings of Nebula. 1982. The Rijksmuseum. Terry Pulsford. By
        Jeroen Van Hoorst et al. Amsterdam, 2009. Plate 22. Print.

Some Notes & Specifics

Some important MLA image citation aspects should be mentioned as you may not find all the necessary information, yet this particular picture that you have discovered becomes an only possible caption. 

If your digital content does not come with a relevant title, it is recommended to include a description of the picture. In simple terms, use it just the same way as any other title. For example: (Photograph of a vintage car in Reno, California). 

If the image creation date is not available, use online access date or N.d. instead. 

Likewise, if some picture has been discovered with the help of Bing or Google, do not mention either as the publisher. Try to find reliable publisher’s information or use the website’s name that hosts this picture. Remember that when you cite a photograph, there may be helpful copyright information, telling about the author.

Structure of a Citation for an Image MLA 8

The basic structure for MLA in-text citation would include the caption beneath every picture with all relevant information. An example:

Fig. 1. Tom Jones. Lady in Blue. 1951. Tom Jones’ Private Archives. Tom Jones. By Renske Jonas. Stockholm: William S. Bates, 2004. Plate 12. Print. 

An in-text would include (Fig. 1) as a reference. Now the Works Cited Page goes this way:

Jones, Tom. Lady in Blue. 1951. Oil on canvas. Tom Jones’ Private Archives. Tom
        Jones. By Renske Jonas. Stockholm: William S. Bates, 2004. Plate 12.

Now there are several ways to cite an image in addition to MLA photo citation. See some other examples below:

Tables and Illustrations

Any illustrative content, be it a photograph, a map, some drawing, graphs, or charts, are labeled with already familiar Fig. abbreviation and the relevant caption with available information. For example: 

Fig 1. Promotional Photo of Billie Eilish from The European Tour 2019, 2020. Universal
      Music Group. UMG Photo Archives. www.url.com. Accessed 10 July, 2020. 

Providing our in-text citation with the example above, relevant Works Cited page goes as follows:

The European Tour 2019. Promotional Photo of Billie Eilish. 2020. Universal Music
        Group. UMG Photo Archives. www.url.com. Accessed 10 July, 2020.

Images from a Website

Author’s Last name, First name. “Title.” Title of related website, First name Last name of any contributors, Version, Number (when available), Publisher, Publication date, URL. Access Date.

In-text: 

Fig. 7. Tom Van Der Lind, Den Hague Mills. 1976. Building. Alice Pane. Den Hague
      Mills. 2008. Digital Image. Flickr. Yahoo! Inc. Web. 1 Sept. 2019.
      http://www.flickr.com/photos/url.

Our Works Cited page becomes:

Van Der Lind, Tom. Den Hague Mills. 1976. Building. Alice Pane. Den Hague Mills. 2008. Flickr. Yahoo! Inc. Web. 1 Sept. 2019.
      http://www.flickr.com/photos/url.

Online Image from a Database

Author’s last name, first name. “Title of your content.” Title of journal or database container that the image was found on, First name Last name of any other contributor(s), Image version, any number associated with an image (volume, issue number, etc), Publisher, Publication Date, Title of Database or second container, URL or DOI, Access Date. 

For figure captions, which is also our in-text MLA citation:

Fig. 19. Jean Claude Van Persie. Saint John’s Sorrow. 1431-1433. Triptych panel.
      ARTstor. ARTstor, Inc., New York, New York. Web. 14 May 2019.
      http://www.artstor.org. Digital Image.

Works Cited:

Van Persie, Jean Claude. “Saint John’s Sorrow.”, 1431-1433. Triptych Panel.
        Amsterdam Art Museum. ARTstor. library.artstor.org/library/url. Accessed 14 May
        2019.

Memes

Title of the meme or your description of it. Title of the Website where it was published, Publisher, Date, or at least a year it was published. URL.

Works Cited page: 

Dog Mask Wearing in Covid-19. Funny Memes, LOL Media, 23 Mar. 2020,
          www.funnymemes.com/image.

For our in-text citation, it is recommended mentioning memes just like a usual web-found image:

Fig. 1. Dog Mask Wearing in Covid-19. Digital Image. Funny Memes, LOL Media. Web. 23 Mar. 2020, www.funnymemes.com/image

Image from a museum or online collection

In-text citation: 

Fig. 3. Johannes Vermeer. Girl with a Pearl Earring. c. 1665. Oil on canvas, 44.5 x 39 cm. Mauritshuis, The Hague. Web. 9 June. 2019. Digital Image.

For your Bibliography page: 

Vermeer, Johannes. Girl with a Pearl Earring. 1665. Mauritshuis, The Hague. Web.
      9 June. 2019.

Image with no title

Citing images in MLA that do not have a title goes this way: 

Create a brief description of the image or painting:

– Photograph of a young girl in Spring. 

– Drawing of an unknown Flemish artist, picturing a stray cat.

In this particular case, the italics are not used when using an in-text citation. Use either, depending on information available: 

(Drawing of an apple pie in oil) 
 
(Appeldoorn) 

Relevant Works Cited reference becomes one of these, depending on our case:

Appeldoorn, Joost. Drawing of an Apple Pie. 1524. Rijkswijk City Museum, Den Haag. Web. 13 Dec. 2017. 
 
Drawing of an Apple Pie. c. 1524. Rijkswijk City Museum, Den Haag. Web. 13 Dec. 2017.

Personally taken photographs

Last Name, First Name. “Photograph Title/Description.” Year Created. Digital File Type.

Simply cite yourself as a photographer. Include relevant title or description, followed by a date and a file format like this in your Works Cited page: 

Tom, Hanks. “My Vintage Jaguar.” 2005. JPEG file. 

Since it is your picture, it is recommended to use relevant title instead of your last name: 

(My Vintage Jaguar)

Painting

Provide the artist’s name, title of the artwork (must be in italics), and the date of composition. Next, comes the name of any related institution that houses specific artwork followed by its location.

See this Works Cited reference example: 

Vermeer, Johannes. The View of Delft. 1660-1661, Mauritshuis, Den Hague. The
        Hague, Netherlands. 

Our in-text citation will use this citing template with more information provided, including image medium and format that has been cited:

Fig. 1. Johannes Vermeer. The View of Delft. 1660-1661. Oil on canvas, Mauritshuis, Den Hague. The Hague, Netherlands. Web. 1 May. 2020. Digital Image.

Use Our MLA Image Citation Generator

Enter all available information regarding the image and our MLA reference generator will provide you with the perfect results. It is also a great tool when you do not have enough information and these MLA rules seem too confusing.  Finally, you can avoid any plagiarism issues and save your precious time by using this handy solution.

FAQs

What should I do if I do not know specific year when a photograph was taken?

If the date of creation is unknown, substitute it with the “N.d.” abbreviation instead.

Sanders, Bernie. Negotiations in Cuba. N.d. Photograph. Museum of Political Art, New York.

Should the descriptive title be in quotation marks for the in-text reference?

No, it is enough to put it in parentheses like (Drawing of a young artist in Flanders).

Should every database container be italicized when referencing an online museum?

Yes. As a rule, both database containers should be in italics. For example: 

Fig. 1. Hals, Frans. Laughing Cavalier. 1624. Oil on Canvas. Wallace Collection.
       Wallace Inc., London, England. Wallace Art Database. 4 Feb. 2020.
        http://www.url.co.uk. Digital Image.