APA Image Citation – Understanding The Format

19.02.23 Commonly used citations Time to read: 4min

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Navigating the complexities of valid APA citations can be challenging enough with text-based sources alone. When introducing images into your work, you encounter an entirely new level of intricacy that must be skillfully handled to align with the APA’s referencing guidelines. Fortunately, there’s no reason to be alarmed, as APA examples can be particularly helpful in this context. In this post, we will demystify APA image citation by providing clear guidance and APA examples. This will not only ease your concerns but also enhance the overall quality of your writing by ensuring proper adherence to APA standards.

APA Image Citation in a Nutshell

Although APA image citation can seem overly intricate, they are actually fairly straightforward. This article touches upon the key factors of formatting an APA image citation:

  • When formatting an APA image citation from an online source, the website name and URL must be included.
  • When there is no title for the source, write a short description in squared brackets.
  • When there is a missing date of the source, label the citation with ‘n.d.’ and add the date of access.
  • When an author’s information is not available, refer to the title or add a short description in squared brackets.
  • When citing an image in APA that has been viewed in person, it is essential to include the location of where it has been viewed.

Definition: APA Image Citation

As we hinted at in the introduction, APA image citations are – at least on paper – far from straightforward, in terms of both content and construction. The first bullet point below provides the baseline format whilst the following two points add some real-world context in the form of a sample APA image citation for George Stubbs’ famous painting Whistlejacket.

APA Format Creator Surname, Initial(s). (Year). Title of Work [Format]. Museum Name, Location. URL.
Sample APA Reference Entry Stubbs, G. (1762). Whistlejacket [Painting]. The National Gallery, London, United Kingdom. https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/george-stubbs-whistlejacket
Sample APA In-Text Citation (Stubbs, 1762)

Additionally, you’ll also need to ensure that the subject of your APA image citation is included as a figure within the text, but more on what that actually means later.

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APA Image Citation: Accessed Online

The APA image citation is constructed very similarly for images sourced from the web, but there are nonetheless some slight differences in content that warrant highlighting here. Much of the information is the same as in the prior example, though as seen in the first bullet point below you must also include the name of the website and a direct URL for the image. The second two points provide a real-world example, this time in the form of a reference to the image-sharing website Flickr.

APA Format Image Author. (Year). Image Title [Format]. Website Name. URL.
Sample APA Reference Entry Alberto Hernando. (2022). Montjuic [Photograph]. Flickr. https://www.flickr.com/photos/ahernando/52253182183/.
Sample APA In-Text Citation (Hernando, 2022)

Missing Information

Although completeness is the goal of any good APA image citation, you may find in actuality that not all the information you need is readily available. If your image has no title, provide instead a brief description contained within square brackets, whilst dateless sources should be labeled ‘n.d.’ and appended with a date-of-access. For works with no established author, revert to the title or, failing that, a description as before:

Untitled & Missing Publication Date:

  • Reference Entry: Bloggs, J. (n.d.). [photograph of sun setting over Manhattan skyline]. Retrieved 9th August 2022. https://somewebsite.com.
  • In-Text Citation: (Bloggs, n.d.)

Missing Creator Information:

  • Reference Entry: [Photograph of sun setting over Manhattan skyline]. (2022). https://somewebsite.com.
  • In-Text Citation: ([Manhattan sunset], 2022)

APA Image Citation: Viewed In-Person

The only real difference to be mindful of when doing an APA image citation for something that you viewed in person (as opposed to found online) is the need for provision of geographical information indicating where the image was originally observed. As in the first bullet point below, this information comes at the end of the reference. The second bullet point demonstrates the degree of detail that you should aim to provide:

APA Format Surname, Initial(s). (Year). Title of Work [Format]. Museum Name, Location.
Reference Entry Murphy, S. (2010). Peter Crouch [Colour Print]. The National Portrait Gallery, London, United Kingdom.
In-Text Citation (Murphy, 2010).

APA Image Citation: Including Images as Figures

Using images in your paper requires more thought than just pasting it onto the page and calling it day: any image that you use should be included as a figure in line with APA style guidelines. In practice, this means pairing the image with contextualizing information, helping ensure proper attribution whilst also establishing its provenance. Rather than a standard in-text citation, the APA image citation provides this detail in the form of a copyright attribution. This structure is broken down further below:


It is also necessary to produce a corresponding reference entry for your figures, formatted as per the APA standard. Additionally, though it is not an APA requirement, you may find including a List of Figures will help your audience’s understanding of your paper. This should come at the beginning, after the Contents but before the main body.


Isn’t that the million-dollar question? Broadly speaking, APA image citations will include all important biographical and attributory information about an image, both in-text and in the reference list.

Ideally, your title page will be image-free, but your institution may request you include a cover image. In this case, you should include a copyright attribution as normal but it is not necessary to list the image as a figure.

In a word: no. But if your paper contains a substantial amount of APA image citations, including one will almost certainly make it easier for your readers to navigate the paper fluently.