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Finding & Using Images Online

This research guide will help you to find various types of images on the open web.

Getting Started

Oil on canvas painting of fishes

You are working on an assignment for a class, you find a picture that's perfect for your presentation, you copy and paste it into your slideshow, you're all set because you found it on the internet, right? WRONG. You need to create a citation for that image just as you would for a journal article. 

We understand that determining whether or not you can use an image (and in what capacity) can be difficult, that is why we are here to help. To understand how/what images you can use you must learn these four terms: copyright, fair use, creative commons, and public domain. Look at the pages in this research guide for definitions and examples of each.


"Fishes" by Amelia Peláez del Casal from Artstor.

Helpful Tips:

  • Always provide a citation or attribution for your images; if you don't, it is a form of plagiarism.

Citations (in MLA format) look like this and go in your bibliography:

Peláez del Casal, Amelia. Fishes. 1943. Oil on canvas. Museum of Modern Art, New York. Artstor, Accessed 24 July 2020.

Attributions look like this and typically go directly underneath your image:

"Fishes" by Amelia Peláez del Casal from Artstor.

  • Always be sure to follow licensing guidelines. Simply attributing an image to an artist may not be enough.
  • Never list the search engine as the creator of the image. You may have found the image by searching with Google Images, but Google Images did not create the image.
  • Pay attention to image sizes. It is much easier to make a large image small than it is to make a small image large.

Citing Images

Images follow a different citation style than other kinds of text-based works (like books and articles) but do still need to be cited. Just giving a hyperlink to where you found an image online is NOT enough. In your Works Cited, you'll want to include as much of the information below as you can:

  • Artist or creator’s name or username,  last name first
  • Title of the work, in italics
  • Date of creation
  • Medium of the work
  • Institution or city in which the work is located
  • Website or database, in italics
  • Medium of publication
  • Date of access

An MLA citation for a work of art will typically look like this:

Artist or username. Title. Date the image was created. Medium. Museum, City. Database name or title of site,  URL. Date of access.

Chagall, Marc. Village Street. 1930s. Oil on canvas. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Museum of Fine Arts, Accessed 1 Oct. 2014.

An example from a database:

Chagall, Marc.The Yellow Room. 1911. Oil on canvas. Private collection. Artstor, Accessed 21 Sept. 2016.

To cite this LibGuide use the following templates:

APA: Northern Essex Community College Library. (Date updated). Title of page. Title of LibGuide. URL

MLA: Northern Essex Community College Library. "Title of Page." Title of LibGuide, Date updated, URL.