Images, whether illustrations or photographs, can enhance or center a paper’s argument. However, just how you format an MLA image citation will depend on where you viewed it (in person, online, or in print). Learn how to cite an image in MLA below.
Definition: How to Cite an Image in MLA
MLA is a writing style outlined by the Modern Language Association. 1 This writing style is adopted by the humanities, particularly, within literary, cultural and media studies departments. As these subjects frequently deal with visual material, you’ll need to learn how to cite an image in MLA properly.
How to cite an image in MLA depends on its source. Is it an artwork held by a collection, published in a book, or available to view on the internet? Each has different rules on how to cite an image in MLA. These are in place to help your reader locate the source.2 As many images are readily found online, you’ll most likely use this method of citation:
|MLA Format||Image Creator’s Last Name, First Name. “Image Title (or description of if a title is not available).” Website Name, Day Month Year Published, URL.|
|MLA Works Cited||Ricker, Kathleen. “Young Male Gorilla in Bwindi National Park.” National Geographic, 17 May 2021, https://www.nationalgeographic.co.uk/photography/2021/05/46-powerful-wildlife-images-capture-beauty-peril-and-hope.|
|MLA in-text Citation||(Ricker)|
How to cite an image in MLA: Books
When citing an image that appears in a book, the MLA image citation method depends on whether the image was created by the author. If it is, simply cite the book as a whole with a figure or page number in-text to indicate where to find the image. For example:
|MLA Format||Author last name, First name. Book Title. Publisher, Year|
|MLA Works Cited||Parr, Martin. Benidorm. Sprengel Museum, 1999.
(Parr, p. 23)
|MLA in-text Citation||(Parr, p. 23)|
If you’re citing an image in a book that’s not attributed to the same author, you need to provide extra details in your MLA image citation. These include the image’s author, its title, and year of production if known. For example:
|MLA Format||Image creator last name, First name. Image Title (or description of if a title is not available). Year. Book Title, by Author first name Last name, Publisher, Year, p. page number.|
|MLA Works Cited||Herreno, Edwar. No Gentle Affair. 2020. Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Portfolio 31, by Kidman Rosamund Cox. Natural History Museum, London, 2021, p. 61.|
|MLA in-text Citation||(Herreno)|
As the page number here is provided in the Works Cited listing, you don’t need to add a page number to the in-text citation.
How to cite an image in MLA: Museums
Museums and galleries are common sources of images. To cite an artwork or other such image, name the institution and city it’s in. If the city is self-evident from the name, you can skip this. For example:
|MLA Format||Artist last name, First name. Image Title (or description of if a title is not available). Year, Institution Name, City.|
|MLA Works Cited||Millais, John Everett. Ophelia. 1851, Tate Britain, London.|
|MLA in-text Citation||(Millais)|
Similarly, if you viewed the artwork via the institution/collection’s website, add the URL to your citation. For example:
|MLA Format||Artist last name, First name. Image Title (or description of if a title is not available). Year. Website Name, URL.|
|MLA Works Cited||Millais, John Everett. Ophelia. 1851. TATE, www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/millais-ophelia-n01506.|
|MLA in-text Citation||(Millais)|
How to cite an image in MLA: Journal articles
Images from journal articles can be cited just like a book. How to cite an image in MLA this way depends on whether the journal author is the same or different to the image creator. Where the journal author is the same, simply cite the source as you would any other article and provide the figure/page number in-text:
|MLA Format||Author last name, First name. “Article Title.” Journal Name, vol. Volume, no. Issue, Month Year, pp. Page Range, DOI or URL.|
|MLA Works Cited||Sichel, Daniel E. "The Price of Nails Since 1695: a Window into Economic Change." Journal of Economic Perspectives. vol. 36, no.1, Winter 2022. pp. 125-150, https://www.jstor.org/stable/27099462.|
|MLA in-text Citation||(Sichel, fig. 1, p. 127)|
If the author of the journal article is not the same as the image creator, extra information is required in the Works Cited entry, as such:
|MLA Format||Artist last name, First name. Image Title (or description of if a title is not available). Year. “Article Title”, by Author first name Last name, Journal.|
|MLA Works Cited||Martellus, Henricus. The Martellus Map. 1491. "The Economics of Maps”, by Abhishek Nagaraj and Scott Stern, Journal of Economic Perspectives. vol. 34, no.1, Winter 2020. pp. 196-221, https://www.jstor.org/stable/26873535, p. 197.|
|MLA in-text Citation||(Martellus)|
How to cite an image in MLA: As a figure
If an image is important to your argument, you can place it within your paper for clarity. It will be listed in your paper as a figure. How to cite an image in MLA as a figure is formatted as follows. Figures are shortened to “fig” and are placed as close to the in-text reference as possible.3
When formatting your figure on the page, begin by placing a centered caption below the image with the title “Fig” followed by its number, like “Fig. 2”. This number corresponds to the figure’s entry within your essay. You then have two options when captioning your MLA image citation:
- Provide full bibliographic information on where you sourced the image just as you would with a Works Cited entry. The only difference here is that the author’s name isn’t inverted, so “Millais, John Everett” is listed as “John Everett Millais”. As you provide this within the caption, you don’t need to repeat it with a separate Works Cited entry.
- Provide basic information, like the image’s author, date and title. If you do this, you’ll have to provide a more detailed Works Cited entry for the image later. You may want to do this, for instance, when the bibliographic information is long and detailed.
|MLA format:||Last name, First name, or Name of Organization. Name of Report. Name of Publisher, Year. Report No. Number. URL, PDF download/file.|
|MLA Works Cited Entry:||Richards, Jack. Information Systems in Machine Learning, 2019. Report No. TRCD 765. www.isml.fr.gov/research/reports/comprehensivereports/987.pdf, PDF download.|
|MLA-in-text citation:||(Richards 7)5
If your image source has no title, use a description in plain text with no italics or quotations. Do not write “untitled” in your MLA image citation.
If an image is the product of two people, include both names in the MLA image citation. If there are three or more authors, only include the first name followed by et al.
Whenever you’re referring to images that aren’t your own. You can also consider reproducing the image as a figure when helpful.
1 Modern Language Association. “Join the MLA Community.” Accessed January 5, 2023. https://www.mla.org/ .
2 MLA Style Center. “How to Cite an Image.” Accessed January 5, 2023. https://style.mla.org/works-cited/citations-by-format/image/.
3 Purdue University. “MLA Tables, Figures and Examples.” Accessed January 5, 2023. https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/mla_style/mla_formatting_and_style_guide/mla_tables_figures_and_examples.html.