Skip to Main Content
library logo banner

Finding and referencing images: Referencing images


In this guide, 'IMAGE' is used to refer to any visual resource such as a diagram, graph, illustration, design, photograph, or video. They may be found in books, journals, reports, web pages, online video, DVDs and other kinds of media. This guide also refers to ‘CREATOR’. This could be an illustrator, photographer, author or organisation.

The examples are presented in Harvard (Bath) style and offer general guidelines on good practice. For essays, project reports, dissertations and theses, ask your School or Department which style they want you to use. Different referencing styles require the use of similar information but will be formatted differently. For more information on other referencing styles, visit our referencing guide.

Using images to illustrate or make clear the description and discussion in your text is useful, but it is important that you give due recognition to the work of other people that you present with your own. This will help to show the value of their work to your assignment and how your ideas fit with a wider body of academic knowledge.

It is just as important to properly cite and reference images as it is the journal articles, books and other information sources that you draw upon. If you do not, you could find yourself accused of plagiarism and/or copyright infringement.

Using images and copyright

For educational assignments it is sufficient to cite and reference any image used. If you publish your work in any way, including posting online, then you will need to follow copyright rules. It is your responsibility to find out whether, and in what ways, you are permitted to use an image in your coursework or publications. Please refer to our copyright guidance and ask for further assistance if you are unsure.

Some images are given limited rights for reuse by their creators. This is likely to be accompanied with a requirement to give recognition to their work and may limit the extent to which it can be modified. The ‘Creative Commons’ copyright licensing scheme offers creators a set of tools for telling people how they wish their work to be used. You can find out more about the different kinds of licence, and what they mean, on the organisation’s web pages.

What is a caption?

Any image that you use should be given a figure number and a brief description of what it is. Permission for use of an image in a published work should be acknowledged in the figure caption. Some organisations will require the permission statement to be given exactly as they specify. If they are required, permissions need to be stated in addition to the citing and referencing guidance given below.

Referencing images in PowerPoint slides

For a presentation you should include a brief citation under the image. Keep a reference list to hand (e.g. hidden slide) for questions. Making a public presentation or posting it online is publishing your work. You must include your references and observe permission and copyright rules.

Example of a caption

Library book with pink 7 day loan ticket

Figure 1. Library book.
Reproduced with permission from:
Rogers, T., 2015, University of Bath Library

Citing and referencing images

If you wish to refer to images used in a book or journal, they are cited in the same way as text information, for example:

The functions and flow of genetic information within a plant cell can be visualised as a complex system (Campbell et al., 2015, pp. 282-283).


Campbell et al. (2015, pp. 282-283) have clearly illustrated how a plant cell functions.

If you were to include this example in an essay the caption and citation below the image would look similar to this:

Figure 7. The functions and flow of genetic information within a plant cell (Campbell et al., 2015, pp. 282-283).

The reference at the end of the work would be as recommended for a book reference in our general referencing guide.

For a large piece of work such as a dissertation, thesis or report, a list of figures may be required at the front of the work after the contents page. Check with your department for information on specific requirements of your work.

When referencing an image found via Google you need to make sure that the information included in your reference relates to the original website that your search has found. Click on the image within the results to get to the original website and take your reference information from there. Take care to use credible sources with good quality information.

If you use an image from a web page, blog or an online photograph gallery you should reference the individual image. Cite the image creator in the caption and year of publication. The creator may be different from the author of the web page or blog. They may be individual people or an organisation. Figure 2 below gives an example of an image with a corporate author:

Nasa Astronaut Tim Kopra on Dec. 21 2015 Spacewalk
Figure 2. NASA astronaut Tim Kopra on Dec. 21 spacewalk (NASA, 2015)

List the image reference within your references list at the end of your work, using the format:

Creator, Year. Title [Online]. Place of publication: Publisher (if known). Available from: URL [Accessed date].

NASA, 2015. NASA astronaut Tim Kopra on Dec. 21 spacewalk [Online]. Washington: NASA. Available from: [Accessed 7 January 2015].

If you want to reference an image included in a Wikipedia article, double-click on the image to see all the information needed for your reference. This will open a new page containing information such as creator, image title, date and specific URL. The format should be:

Creator, Year. Title [Online]. Place of Publication: Publisher. Available from: URL [Accessed date].

Iliff, D., 2006. Royal Crescent in Bath, England - July 2006 [Online]. San Francisco: Wikimedia Foundation. Available from:,_England_-_July_2006.jpg [Accessed 7 January 2016].

If you want to reference an image or design that you have found in an exhibition, museum or archive, then you also need to observe copyright rules and reference the image correctly. The format is:

Creator, Year. Title [Material type]. Archival collection, Box/file/call number. Archive name, Location.

For example, if you want to reference an old black and white photograph from 1965 that is held in an archive at the University of Bath:

Bristol Region Building Record, 1965. Green Park House (since demolished), viewed from southwest [Photograph]. BRBR, D/877/1. Archives & Research Collections, University of Bath Library.

NB if you were to reproduce this archive image in your work, or any part of it (rather than just cite it), you would also need to note ‘© University of Bath Library’. This copyright note should be added to the image caption along with the citation.

If you take a photograph, you do not have to reference it. For sake of clarity you may want to add “Image by author” to the caption. If you create an original illustration or a diagram that you have produced from your own idea then you do not have to cite or reference them. If you generate an image from a graphics package, for example a molecular structure from chemistry drawing software, you do not need to cite the source of the image.

If you use someone else’s work for an image then you must give them due credit. If you reproduce it by hand or using graphics software it is the same as if you printed, scanned or photocopied it. You must cite and reference the work as described in this guide. If the image is something that you have created in an earlier assignment or publication you need to reference earlier piece of work to avoid self-plagiarism. If you want to annotate information to improve upon, extend or change an existing image you must cite the original work. However, you would use the phrase ‘adapted from’ in your citation and reference the original work in your reference list.

If you have used an AI tool to generate an image you must acknowledge that tool as a source (see point 7 of the academic integrity statement).

This content is not recoverable; it cannot be linked or retrieved. There is no published source that you can reference directly. Instead you would give an in-text, ‘personal communications’ citation, as described in part 15 of our 'Write a citation' guidance (from the Harvard Bath guide). This type of citation includes the author details followed by (pers. comm.) and the date of the communication.

For example, an image of a shark in a library generated with Craiyon with a ‘personal communications’ citation included in the image caption:

Figure 3. Shark in a library image generated using an AI tool (Craiyon, AI Image Generator (pers. comm.) 14 July 2022). 

Online images and resources for your work

The library has compiled a list of useful audio-visual resources, including images, that can be used for essays or assignments. Visit the 'finding images and videos' tab of this guide to find out more.