Citing Images in a Paper with MLA

We have had several students stopping the library’s Information Desk asking how to cite images in a research paper using MLA citation style. I thought it might be useful to type up a quick post outlining how to do this.

When you cite an image, you are following the template for citing a visual work of art. There will be two pieces to citing images:

  • image information (photographer, image title, where original is located)
  • where you found it (web, book, periodical, database, etc) and date accessed if you found it online.

Remember, you should cite AS MUCH OF THIS AS YOU HAVE. You must take the pieces in your hands and do your best. If you do not have an official title for the image, you should make up a basic title such as “Image of Abraham Lincoln.”  If you do not know the date, use “n.d.”


Example from the web

  • Template:
    Last name, First name. Title of Image. Year of work. Museum name, City. Web. Date Accessed.
  • Sample:
    Picasso, Pablo. Abstraction: Background with Blue Cloudy Sky. 1930. Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago. Web. 20 Nov. 2012.

Including the web address is not required, but if your instructor asks you to include the address, then you (obviously) must include the address.

Example from a book

  • Template:
    Last name, First name. Title of Image. Year of work. Museum name, City. Book Title. editor name. City of publication: Publisher, year of book publication. page number. Print
  • Example:
    Moholy-Nagy, Laszlo. Photogram. n.d. Museum of Mod Art, New York. The Contest of Meaning: Critical Histories of Photography. Ed. Richard Bolton. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1989, 94. Print.

For more information, take a look at Purdue’s OWL MLA Page:

When you refer to these in your in-text, you would cite the photographer/artist name in parenthesis. For example: (Picasso).  If your image is from a book, you would include the page number from the book: (Moholy-Nagy 94).



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