Captions for visual material in MLA Style
A caption is the text accompanying an image inserted in your written work, normally directly below it. Each image should be labelled Figure (which is usually abbreviated to 'Fig.') with a sequential number (e.g. 'Fig. 1' or 'Fig. 2') in the in-text reference. The format is a bit different from Works Cited – the artist/creator is listed by first name then surname, and punctuation within the container is all commas with a full stop after the last container item. Name the artist if known, the title of the work (italicised) or a description if there is no title, then a reference to the original source. If the date is unknown use n.d., which means no date. When you do not have an exact date but have a rough idea, use circa which means about, before the year.
NOTE: There is no need to list an image in Works Cited if the caption provides complete information about it and the source is not cited in the text. Images discussed in your text but not inserted as a captioned illustration, should be listed in the Works Cited. MLA does not require a separate illustrations list.
Image scanned from a book/magazine
[Creator] First Name Last Name, Title of work, Date created, Medium, Institution or collection holding work. 2nd container details [description of the publication it's taken from: author, title, publisher, year, page or plate number OR webpage details OR DOI number].
Fig. 2. John Singleton Copley, Mrs. Joseph Mann, 1753, Oil on canvas, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Sylvan Barnet, A Short Guide to Writing about Art, Pearson, 2011, p. 143.
If no title, provide a brief description in […]:
Fig. 3. Annie Leibovitz, [Kirsten Dunst in Alexander McQueen at the Grand Trianon], 2006, Photograph. Vogue, September 2006, p. 46.
If no creator is identifiable, provide a brief description in place of the author:
Figure 11. Graffiti of a girl with a balloon on a wall in Wellington, n.d. Personal photograph by author, 5 September, 2015.
Figure 2. Postcard of a lithograph of chickens in a farmyard, circa1899, Metropolitan Museum of Fine Art, New York, 2011.
Image downloaded from an image database or institution website
[Creator] First Name Last Name, Title of Work (italicised), Date created, Medium of work, Institution or Collection holding work. 2nd container details [Database/Website Name], Collection identifier number [if available] or URL.
Fig. 2. John Singer Sargent, Madame X (Madame Pierre Gautreau), 1883-84, Oil on canvas, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. ARTstor, 12492.
Fig. 7. George Bourne, Rua [Rua Kenana standing at the doorway of the temple], n.d., Photograph, Auckland War Memorial Museum. Auckland War Memorial Museum Collections, PH-CNEG-C5879.
Fig. 4. Thomas Eakins, William Rudolf O'Donovan, 1891, Photograph, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Flickr Commons, www.flickr.com/photos/smithsonian/2547841439/in/photolist-4T9muF.
Fig. 9. South Crater Tongariro, Personal photograph by author, 14 Jun 2015.
Screen shot or frame capture
Fig. 5. Still from Jonathon King, director, Black Sheep (45:07). New Zealand Film Commission, 2007.
These pages are provided as a guide to proper referencing. Your course, department, school, or institute may prescribe specific conventions, and their recommendations supersede these instructions. If you have questions not covered here, check in the style guide listed above, ask your course coordinator, or ask at Academic Q+A.