MLA Bibliographic Entries for Images and Figure Captions

MLA Bibliographic Entries for Images and Figure Captions

MLA (Modern Language Association) style is most commonly used to write papers and cite sources within the liberal arts and humanities. For more information please refer to Carleton's guide on using MLA.  

Basic Elements of an MLA Style Image Citation:

Creator’s Last name, First name. Title of the image. Date. Container, First name Last name of any contributors, Version (if applicable), Number (if applicable), Publisher, Publication date, URL.

  • If there is no creator or organization information then begin the citation with the title. If a creator’s proper name is unknown you can use their screen name or handle.
  • If there is no title provided then create a descriptive title and place it within square brackets.
  • If you are citing a work in its original context then include the medium (i.e. oil on canvas).
  • If there is no date available skip this part unless you know a date range [1984-1987] or use a question mark to indicate an uncertain date [1917?]. Remember - all information from outside the source itself should be placed within square brackets.

MLA Examples

These examples are meant to provide guidelines. If the image you want to cite lacks the elements required for a full citation, first check to see if you can find the same image from a more informative source. If no alternative is available, then just add as much information as you can to your citation.

Work Cited List Examples

  • Artwork in a gallery or museum seen in-person​

MacLeod, Pegi Nicol. Flower Carts. c. 1942. Oil on canvas. Carleton University Art Gallery, Ottawa.

  • Image from a book

Talbot, William Henry Fox. A Scene in a Library. c.1844. National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa. Beauty of Another Order, Ann Thomas, Yale University Press, 1997. Figure 36.

  • Image from a journal

Nyman, Andreas, et al. Microbial composition and dietary effects on specific OTUs in the proximal and distal intestine of Arctic charr. 2017. From “Effects of microbe-and mussel-based diets on the gut microbiota in Arctic charr (Salvelinus alpinus).”  Aquaculture Reports, vol. 5, February 2017, Fig. 3. /j.aqrep.2016.12.003.

  • Image from a museum or gallery website​

Talbot, William Henry Fox. A Scene From a Library. c. 1844. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gilman Collection, Gift of The Howard Gilman Foundation, 2005, 2005.100.172,

  • Image from a specialized database or online image library​

Brumfield, William Craft. Church of St. John Chrysostome (1665), southwest view, Saunino, Russia. 1998. Library of Congress, LC-DIG-ppmsc-03027,

  • Image from an image sharing site like Wikimedia Commons or Flickr​

Jarrett, Kevin. Snowflake Balloon Festival, 2014. 2014. Flickr,

MLA In-text Reference and Figure Caption

When including images in your work, label them as Fig. 1, Fig. 2, unless they are tables (which are labelled Table 1, Table 2), but when refering to them in text use lower case (e.g. table 1).  Ensure that your figures are placed as close as possible to their reference in the text. An entry in the works cited list is not necessary if the full citation information for an image is provided in the caption and it is the only time it is referenced in the text. When an image is reproduced always include copyright status or creative commons license details in the caption as required by the source. Please see below for an example:

As suggested in the lithograph The Apothecary from 1830, calomel (mercurous chloride) was still commonly prescribed, though it was becoming an increasingly controversial treatment (see fig. 1).

Image of a man comprised of pharmaceutical equipment
Fig 1. The Apothecary  (An Arcimboldesque figure comprised of different elements relating to pharmacy). 1830.Wellcome Images, Wellcome Library, London, V0010714, Creative Commons Attribution only license CC BY 4.0.

Additional Resources:

Content last reviewed: February 3, 2021