Customizing Image Credit Lines and Captions

Customizing Image Credit Lines and Captions

The structure set out by citation styles are only one of the factors that determine the content of captions that accompany images. Image providers and the type of project you are including an image in can also dictate how much information you need to include with your image.

Creating Image Credit Lines and Captions By Project

Research papers always require the thorough and consistent use of academic citation styles, but how do you deal with images included in presentations, posters, or online work? Different types of academic projects require citing or crediting images by either adapting academic citation styles and/or by following the citation or credit style required by the image source itself.

  • Crediting images is an alternative to a full citation. A basic credit line includes the creator's name (person or organization), title, and date of creation. If the source is online, you should link back to the original. Credit lines often include copyright and licensing information and sometimes there are additional instructions provided by the source that you must follow.1
  • Remember:  An image citation or credt line is required to be accessible within the context of the image's use whether it is a presentation, on a webpage, or in a paper.
Project Type Style of Image Caption and Reference
Posters Full caption under each image or a shorter caption followed by a reference list that includes a full citation.  Credit lines should be included on the front of the poster with the images

Full caption directly under each image or simple credit line followed by an image list with full citations at the end of the presentation.

Websites, Blogs, Online Sites

Credit line placed directly under image that links back to original with licensing and copyright information included. If part of a scholarly project then providing additional source information is appropriate.2

1.Section on creating image credit lines adapted from Visual Literacy for Libraries: A Practical, Standards-Based Guide by Nicole E. Brown et al. (London: Facet Publishing), 2016, p. 138-139.
2. Table on creating captions by project adapted from Visual Literacy for Libraries: A Practical, Standards-Based Guide by Nicole E. Brown et al. (London: Facet Publishing), 2016, p. 131-132.

Captions Required by Image Providers 

Sometimes image providers determine the content of image captions. This is often the case with images provided by museums or galleries that deal with a variety of rights from the estate of the artist to third party digital content providers. For example, some museums may require that an accession number, donor information, institution name and location, and the copyright symbol be included when reproducing an image.

For images that you have received permission to use, it is appropriate to add phrases such as “Permission granted by” or “Courtesy of “ followed by the name of the creator or copyright holder.

  • For an image from a sharing site such as Flikr for which you have received permission from the copyright holder to use, include the URL and the name of the site along with a "permission granted by" note. Be sure to follow their caption/credit line guidelines, if provided.

Example of a MLA style caption for an images with copyright restrictions where reproduction permission has been granted and the digital image has been licensed by a third party:

Paul Klee, Fire in the Evening, 1929, Museum of Modern Art, New York. Digital Image: © The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY. Licensed by SCALA/Art Resource, NY.

Example of an APA style caption for an image provided by the creator directly:

Reeves. J. Michael Snow and Joyce Wieland in 1964 [Photograph]. 1964. Reproduction courtesy of John Reeves.3

3. Both examples of image captions are adapted from Michael Snow: Life & Work by Martha Langford (Toronto: Art Canada Institute), 2014, accessed November 22, 2016,

Additional Resources:

Content last reviewed: February 3, 2021