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Image Citation: Formats and Best Practices

This guide is meant to cover different image citation formats as well as best practices. Anyone is free to use this guide!



Welcome to my image citation LibGuide! This guide covers image citation formats for APA, MLA, and Chicago style. It also contains citation examples and resources that you may find useful. 


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Citation Resources to Bookmark

Things to Take Note Of

  • Make sure to pay attention to any citation guidelines that your professor might give you. Remember, it is important to be aware of national guidelines for citation formats, but, sometimes professors have specific guidelines they want you to follow. So make sure you double check!
  • While many databases contain automatic citation generators, it is always best to double check your citations against the citation formats you are trying to follow.
  • If you are looking to use an image from an archive, always feel free to contact them and ask if there is specific information they want included in your citation. However, this information may also be available on their website. So make sure to do your research before you call.

It is important to understand that an image caption and an image citation are not the same thing. However, you need to have both when using images in your research. An image citation is meant to give attribution to the creator and owner of an image and is listed in the references. A caption is listed next to an image and describes the details of the image as well as the citation information. While there is not a specific format for captions at this time, make sure that you check with your professor/instructor to see if they have any preferences on how you format your captions. Below is an example showing how an image caption differs from an image citation.


The above screenshot shows an example of an image caption. As you can see, the caption in this instance is more of a label that describes the image. There is no attribution information included.


The above screenshot is the APA citation for the image of the brooch with a lock of Edgar Allen Poe's hair. As you can see, you can gather a lot more information from a citation than a caption. The caption helps me identify what an image is, while the citation helps me find the image.

Citation Management Tools

Citation managers format references in the style you choose (e.g., APA, MLA, Chicago).

IU students have free access to several citation managers (i.e., "bibliographic software").

NOTE: Always check the accuracy of citations created through these tools. They can be very helpful, but may make mistakes.

Citation Managers at IU

Getting to Know Your Librarian


Jacqueline Fleming

Visual Literacy and Resources Librarian

Scholars’ Commons Department

Herman B Wells Library W119


What Can I Help You With?

-Finding and Accessing Images

-Forming Image Citations

-Image processing and Interpretations

-Understanding and gaining a visual literacy skill set