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Finding and Using Images: Citing Images

Use this guide to help you find images for your art history, studio art, and design courses. (Originally written by Heather Lowe of the Visual Resource Center.)

Citations

Just like texts that you use in your papers, images should be cited. It's important to use images you find on reliable websites, like museums and databases, because those sites will usually include information you need to properly cite an image.

How you cite an image will depend on how you are using it in your paper. There are four basic ways that you can cite an image. The first three here are for academic papers and publishing, the fourth is for commercial or non-academic websites.

  1. Citation: Use when referring to an image or an artwork without including a copy of it in your paper.
  2. Figure: Use when including a copy of an image.
  3. Reference to figure: Use when you are referring to an included copy of an image in your text.
  4. Credit line: Use when publishing an image outside academia.

This guide will provide examples in the three most often used styles Chicago Manual of Syle, Modern Languages Association (MLA) and American Psychological Association (APA), as well as how to provide a credit line for non-academic work. Make sure to check whether your professor wants you to use a certain style when citing your work. If your professor doesn't have a preference, it's best to use the accepted style for your discipline.

Chicago Manual of Style Image Citations

The Chicago Manual of Style offers extensive guidelines on the use and credit of images within texts. In this guide, we will focus on using an images found online or in print. For more examples of different styles of citations (e.g. commissioned illustrations, etc), please see The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th edition. 

Citation

General

Note: Firstname Lastname, Title, Date, medium, dimensions (in the order of height x width x depth), owning institution, location of instituion.

Ex: Vincent van Gogh, The Starry Night, 1889, oil on canvas, 29 in. x 36 1/4 in. (73.7 cm x 92.1 cm), Museum of Modern Art, New York.

 

Bibliography: Lastname, Firstname. Title. Date. Medium. dimensions (in the order of height x width x depth). Owning institution, location of institution.

Ex: Gogh, Vincent van. The Starry Night. 1889. Oil on canvas. 29 in. x 36 1/4 in. (73.7 cm x 92.1 cm). Museum of Modern Art, New York.

 

From the web

Note: Firstname Lastname, Title, Date, medium, dimensions (in the order of height x width x depth), owning institution, location of instituion. Accessed date. <URL>

Ex: Vincent van Gogh, The Starry Night, 1889, oil on canvas, 29 in. x 36 1/4 in. (73.7 cm x 92.1 cm), Museum of Modern Art, New York. Accessed 1 Jan. 2013. <http://www.moma.org/collection/browse_results.php?object_id=79802>

 

Bibliography: Lastname, Firstname. Title. Date. Medium. dimensions (in the order of height x width x depth). Owning institution, location of institution. Accessed date. <URL>

Ex: Gogh, Vincent van. The Starry Night. 1889. Oil on canvas. 29 in. x 36 1/4 in. (73.7 cm x 92.1 cm). Museum of Modern Art, New York. Accessed 1 Jan. 2013. <http://www.moma.org/collection/browse_results.php?object_id=79802>

 

From a book

Note: Firstname Lastname, Title, Date, medium, dimensions (in the order of height x width x depth), owning institution, location of instituion. Title of book, by Author First name Last name (Publisher City: Publisher, date) page or plate number.

Ex: Vincent van Gogh, The Starry Night, 1889, oil on canvas, 29 in. x 36 1/4 in. (73.7 cm x 92.1 cm), Museum of Modern Art, New York. Janson's History of Art: The Western Tradition, by H. W. Janson et al (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2007) 916.

 

Bibliography: Lastname, Firstname. Title. Date. Medium. dimensions (in the order of height x width x depth). Owning institution, location of institution. Title of Book. By Author First Name Last Name. Publisher City: Publisher, year. page or plate number.

Ex: Gogh, Vincent van. The Starry Night. 1889. Oil on canvas. 29 in. x 36 1/4 in. (73.7 cm x 92.1 cm). Museum of Modern Art, New York. Janson's History of Art: The Western Tradition. By H. W. Janson et al. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2007. 916.

 

Figure

When images are placed into papers using Chicago style, use a caption beneath the image with the label "Figure" or "Fig." followed by an arabic numeral and a period (e.g. "Fig. 1."). You may then add a note if neccessary, followed by the citation or credit line for the image in parentheses.

Vincent Van Gogh, Starry Night

Figure 1. Vincent van Gogh, The Starry Night, 1889, oil on canvas, 29 in. x 36 1/4 in. (73.7 cm x 92.1 cm), Museum of Modern Art, New York. Janson's History of Art: The Western Tradition, by H. W. Janson et al (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2007) 916.

OR

Figure 1. Van Gogh used small storkes of varying colors of paint (Vincent van Gogh, The Starry Night, 1889, oil on canvas, 29 in. x 36 1/4 in. (73.7 cm x 92.1 cm), Museum of Modern Art, New York. Janson's History of Art: The Western Tradition, by H. W. Janson et al (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2007) 916.)

Reference to figure

A reference to the figure can either be done within the sentence or parenthetically at the end. Within the sentence figure or plate is spelled out and lower case. When used in parentheses, figure may be abbreviated but remains lowercase. If using the term plate instead of figure, do not abbreviate.

As figure 1 shows, van Gogh used small strokes of varying color in his paintings.

Van Gogh painted using small strokes of varying color (see fig. 1).

Van Gogh painted using small strokes of varying color (see plate 1).

Bibliography
The Chicago manual of style. 2010. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Modern Languages Association (MLA) Style Image Citations

When citing images within MLA style, there will be two types of citations: one for a museum or art object and one for a web-based image. There are some helpful examples at the Purdue OWL (look for the heading "A Painting, Sculpture, or Photograph.")

Art objects:

On the web: Lastname, Firstname. Title of artwork. Date created. Collection or Museum, location of institution. Website name. Web. DD Month Year.

Ex: van Gogh, Vincent. Starry Night. 1889. Museum of Modern Art, New York, New York. MoMA/PS1. Web. 1 January 2013.

In print: Lastname, Firstname. Title of artwork. Date created. Title of book. By Authors in natural order. Publication city: Publisher. Page. Medium of publication.

Ex: van Gogh, Vincent. Starry Night. 1889. Museum of Modern Art, New York, New York. Janson's History of Art: The Western Tradition. 7th ed. By H.W. Janson, et al. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall. 916. Print.

An image that appears solely on the web:

Author or username. "Title." Medium. Website name. Publisher of website, date last updated. Format. DD Month Year accessed.

Ex: NASA on the commons. "Apollo 11: East Crater Panorama." Photograph. Flickr. Yahoo, 28 August 2012. Web. 1 January 2013.

Figure

Beneath the image, you need to provide a label beginning either with the capitialized "Figure" or "Fig." followed by an arabic numeral and a period (for example: Fig. 2.). Then use the citation formats above to provide a reference. If you include the citation with the image in figure label means that you do not also need to include a citation in your Works Cited page. See an example below.

Panoramic view of lunar landscape.

Figure 1. NASA on the commons. "Apollo 11: East Crater Panorama." Photograph. Flickr. Yahoo, 28 August 2012. Web. 1 January 2013.

Reference to figure

If you want to refer to the image above within the text, simply use the figure and its number. Place it in paranthesis at the end of a sentence and do not capitalize the word "figure" or "fig.", for example:

Though astronauts were predominantly focused on collecting scientific data, many of the photographs taken during the Apollo 11 lunar landing became iconic images for the American public (see fig. 1).

 

Bibliography
Purdue University. "Purdue OWL: MLA Formatting and Style Guide." Purdue Online Writing Lab, 2012. http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/747/09/.
Linda Smoak Schwartz. The Wadsworth guide to MLA documentation. Boston, MA: Thomson/Wadsworth, 2004.

American Psychological Association (APA) Style Image citations

The APA style manual has no specific examples of how to cite an artwork.

However, the APA's Style Blog provided some examples in this post: "There's an Art to It."

If you are simply referring to an image in your paper, you can include a citation similar to a citation for any text-based work.

Citation

Author last name, First Initial. (Date created). Title [Medium]. Publisher/Museum location: publisher/museum.

Ex: van Gogh, V. (1889). The Starry Night [Oil on canvas]. New York, NY: Museum of Modern Art.

Note: If you retrieved the image from the Web, include the URL:

Ex: Wyeth, A. (1948). Christina’s world [Painting]. Retrieved from http://www.moma.org/explore/collection/index

If you're including the image itself in your paper, you'll want to use a figure label

Figure

General format of figures:

Figure X. Title. Brief explanation. Because there are no specific guidelines for using creative images, you may want to ask your professor or publisher how they would like you to format the figure label. One suggestion follows:

Figure X. Author last name, First Initial. (Date created). Title [Medium]. Publisher/Museum location: publisher/museum.

The Starry Night painting by Vincent van Gogh.

Ex: Figure 1. van Gogh, V. (1889). The Starry Night [Oil on canvas]. New York, NY: Museum of Modern Art.

Reference to figure

There are two ways to refer to figures in the APA style. You may mention directly the figure number within a sentence or you may include a reference parenthetically. For example:

As Figure 1 shows, van Gogh used small strokes of varying color in his paintings.

Van Gogh painted using small strokes of varying color (see Figure 1).

 

Bibliography
Hume-Pratuch, Jeff. 2010. "There's an Art to It." APA Style Blog. http://blog.apastyle.org/apastyle/2010/04/theres-an-art-to-it.html.
Purdue University. 2013. APA Formatting and Style Guide: Tables and Figures 2. Purdue Online Writing Lab. http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/560/20/.
American Psychological Association. 2005. Concise rules of APA style. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Credit lines in commercial work

The need to offer a reference to the original copyright holder extends past academic honesty. Often in the commercial and publishing world, it's important to list the author and copyright information for an image. This is done with a credit line.

The credit line is probably the most familiar format for attribution because you see it all the time below images in the news, magazines, and professional blogs. A credit line is generally the default way to give credit to the image creator and the copyright holder outside of the academic world. The Copyright Clearance Center defines a credit line as "a formal acknowledgment that copyrighted material has been reproduced with permission of the copyright holder". (1)

Sometimes companies, image collection websites, and museums will tell you exactly what a credit line should look like for images they license. However, there is no one form that all credit lines follow.

A simple credit line might look like this:

(author/creator), copyright (year) (copyright holder)

Ex: Matty Zimmerman, copyright Associated Press


A more thorough credit line might include more information, such as:

(title), (author/creator), (year created), copyright (copyright holder). Published with permission of (copyright holder) via (licensing entity).

ex: British pop star David Bowie as he appeared in the fantasy adventure production 'Labyrinth', photo by Bob Thomas, 1984. Published with premission of Bob Thomas via Getty Images.


Remember that these are just examples of different types of credit lines. When possible it's always best to ask a copyright holder the credit line they would like you to use. There are some images that are licensed under a Creative Common license. These licenses allow creators to select which uses they would like to allow. For example, a creator could choose to license their images under a "non-commercial" license. This would mean anyone could use the image in a publication as long as it's a non-profit, educational, or personal use. You can learn more about Creative Commons licenses here.

(1) Copyright Clearance Center. 2013. “Glossary.” http://www.copyright.com/get-permissions/glossary/.