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MLA 9th Guidelines: Finding and Citing Images

This guide was just updated to MLA 9th edition.
Last Updated: Aug 17, 2022 8:37 PM

Citing an Image from a Website in your Works Cited

Last Name, First Name (or username). "Title of Image." Name of Website, date, URL.

Jose and Roxeanne. "Flowers." Flickr, 31 Dec. 2017, flic.kr/p/8bD3aP. 

Put the full citation in your Works Cited / References page along with the other sources you have used. Make sure it is all in alphabetical order and that all citations have a hanging indent.

Attribution or In-text Citation for an Image in a Digital Artifact

  • Indicate the "Title" of the work written in quotation marks and link it to the URL where the image is found.
  • Indicate the Author of the work either by full name (First Last) or user name (if real name is not given). Link it to the author's personal page.
  • Write licensed under and then indicate the proper Creative Commons license (CC0, CC 1.0, CC by 2.0, or CC by 4.0). You should be able to find it on the page. Link to the URL of the proper license.

Note: These are instructions for using an image in a Digital Composition or Artifact (ex. slide deck, poster, infographic, etc.) Make sure you change the font size to be smaller than the body text so that it does not become a focal point for the viewer.

If using an image in the body of a traditional paper, refer to Purdue OWL's MLA 8th Guide for the details on figures and captions in this style.

CC Licenses

Public domain icon or CC0 1.0

CC0 1.0 means that works are not restricted by copyright and Public Domain.

CC by 2.0 icon

CC by 2.0 means that you can show and transform other owner's images as long as you cite them correctly and indicate what changes you made to the image.

CC by 4.0 icon

CC by 4.0 means that you can show and transform other owner's images as long as you cite them correctly and indicate what changes you made to the image; however, It is more restrictive than the two.

OpenVerse (formerly Creative Commons)

Creative Commons has recently moved to OpenVerse, an image hub that searches many different image databases, such as Pixabay, Flickr, and Wikimedia Commons. When searching, make sure to filter the images presented to say I want something I can "Modify or Adapt."

Using OpenVerse is great because it will automatically give you an accurate three-point attribution, or in-text citation for the image. However, sometimes the server is finicky. If that's the case, you can use the other image databases below. However, they will not preformat the attribution for you.

Pixabay

Pixabay logo

Pixabay is another image database with over 2.4 million high quality images, videos, and music. All images are free to use but some must be cited for attribution. After picking an image, save it to your computer to use it. Finding the information for a three-point attribution and the full citation might be difficult because all images lack a title. You must assign it a title based on the tags provided for the image. The tags appear at the top of the image when you hover over it.

WIkimedia Commons

Wikimedia commons logo

Wikimedia Commons is similar to Wikipedia. All images, sounds, and videos are contributed by the public and are free to use. However, they must be cited for attribution because most have a Creative Commons license. After picking an image, save it to your computer to use it. Like in PIxabay, information for the three-point attribution and the full citation might be difficult to locate at first. The title of the image will be the file name. You must locate the author or username yourself as well as the Creative Commons license.

Google Images

Google Images is probably the most familiar to you. The search engine will deliver you the most images for your search, as it crawls through every website for results. However, you must filter your results before choosing an image to use. You can do this by clicking on Tools below the search bar at the top and then changing Usage Rights to "Creative Commons licenses."

Your results will most likely be from the image databases listed above. After picking an image, save it to your computer to use it. You must locate all of the information for a three-point attribution as well as for the full citation.