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Citing Sources: Using & Citing Images

Help for creating citations and reference lists.

Using Images

We all do it.  We find a great image online, cut and paste, print and forget it. Right?  No problem!

Wrong!  If you didn't create an image, you need to cite it and make sure that you are not infringing on the creator's copyright without giving credit or paying for its use.  Fair use as allowed for educational purposes is not license to use whatever you want whenever you want.

Just as you will cite research studies, books, journal articles, websites for your paper or poster, you also need to cite your images.

Here are some questions you need to ask before using an image:*

  • Am I using an image someone else created?
    • If you didn't create it, you need to cite it.  No exceptions.
  • Why do I need to cite an image?
    • Just like other resources, you need to give credit and provide your readers/viewers with the information to track that image for themselves.
  • Where do I find information to create a citation?
    • Explore any information given on the website, examine links or copyright information.
  • What is the best way to cite an image in my project?
    • This can vary depending on the type of project and how you're using the image.  Check a citation style manual or ask a librarian for help.
  • How do I format the citation?
    • Use the style recommended by your instructors or ask a librarian for help.​​

*Brown, Nicole E, et al. Visual Literacy for Libraries. ALA Editions, 2016.

Citing and Crediting by Project Type

Type of Project Location of Citation or Credit Style and Tips
Research Paper Reference list and figure or caption
  • Academic citation style
  • Use a standard citation style such as APA or MLA
  • Use the style recommended by your instructor
  • Be consistent! Use the same style for images that you use for other research materials such as books and articles
Poster Caption directly under each image or brief caption and reference list
  • Adapted academic citation style
  • Format captions or reference list citations following standard citation style guidelines
  • Consider the overall style and appearance of your poster when deciding whether to use captions or a reference list. Citation information may be more appropriate or visually appealing in one location or the other
  • Image credits should appear on the front of the poster with the images, not on the back of the poster where they cannot be seen or in a separate handout
Presentation Caption directly under each image or in an images list at the end of your presentation
  • Adapted academic citation style
  • Format captions or images list following standard citation style guidelines
  • Consider the overall style and visual impact of your presentation when deciding whether to use captions or an images list.  Citation information may be more appropriate or visually appealing in one location or the other

Brown, Nicole E, et al. Visual Literacy for Libraries. ALA Editions, 2016. 

Tips for Creating Your Citations

APA Style you need: creator/producer, year of production/publication, title of material, description/format, retrieval information*

Sample citation in APA: Nunley, D. (2012). Big fish [Photograph]. Retrieved from https:flic.kr/p/dHH6uu

MLA Style you need: creator/producer, title of material, year of composition, holding entity/owner, title of website/database, medium/format, date of access*

Sample citation in MLA: Nunley, Donnie. Big Fish. 2012 Flickr. Web. 31 July 2014.

*It's important to note that the different styles have different elements to the citation and they are formatted differently.  Make sure that whichever style you opt to use that you are consistent!