• That quote is not worth much. Pictures that stand alone, and this is your goal, are rare.• Pictures raise as many questions as answers – the camera can only go so far: • Who is in each picture? What is happening? When is the event taking place? Why is the action occurring? • Pictures usually only answer these questions partially. • Words influence picture meaning! • Never guess or assume. Ask. Don’t let your personal biases or opinions distort fact finding. • Captions can modify and change the impression initially given by the picture. • Dictating captions is a good way to supplement written notes.
• A picture serves a story as an exclamation point does a sentence.• Studies show, readers remember pictures more than stories; view picture pages more than news pages.• So, the need for clear and concise captions is obvious. Readers determine whether they are going to read the article based on what they can glean from the picture or the caption.• The caption is the MOST READ but least carefully written text anywhere! Important to be appropriate, complete and accurate.
• By now you should start feeling bad for the caption.• Sometimes, photographers fail to get adequate information at the shoot or just forget to include pertinent information when they write the caption.• Writers claim that caption writing is beneath them while photographers are already out shooting their next assignment when the time comes to write the captions.• Without captions, readers may be unable to determine just what they are seeing. Are those happy or sad tears?
• Ask yourself: If you knew nothing about this picture, what would you want to know in addition to what you see?• The opening words of a caption must capture the reader’s attention just like the lede in a news story.• The caption writer starts off the sentence with the most newsworthy, interesting or unusual fact – hence the first word in a caption should explain the action.• Unless the situation in the picture is obvious, the caption must explain what is going on!• The who may be emphasized in the caption when the person in the news is featured.
• Sometimes, the fact that someone is speaking is more important than what they said or where they said it.• A person’s name should lead the caption only when that person is well-known to the readers.• And, if any person is recognizable in the photo, you must mention them somewhere in the caption. (First and last name, age. This is the fun part if you ask me: talking to people.)• People’s names are always included in the caption even if they are not famous.• Readers can misidentify the person in the photo if the name is left out of the caption and editors will not run the photo unless the photographer has included the names of all recognizable in the photo. (from left to right: x, y, z)
• How do you want your name to appear in print?• Use physical characteristics, distinguishing clothing and other details that guarantee clear and accurate identity of people and things.• Obtain formal titles if relevant. Sometimes informal titles, too.• ALWAYS hometowns or current city.• Contact info if you plan on publishing their likeness.• Children’s ages – be careful about publishing info about school schedules and home addresses
• Identify the overall event – brief description and title of the event: “fourth annual homecoming parade”• What participants are doing and other relevant info in the scene.
• If this information helps the reader understand the picture, supply the location and the time of the news event. Use the date of the week and not the calendar date.• Begin the cutline with time and place ONLY when the fact is useful and/or significant.• Don’t call it city hall when it’s Government Center.• Don’t write that a structure is “on” the road, but rather “by” a road or “near” or “off” a road. Sidewalks are not “on” streets, either, but along.Some claim that writing why will take away from reading the story, butextensive captions can pique readers interest in the main body of thestory. Without answering the “why,” some photos would not make sense: why a fundraiser was held; why the parade is scheduled
• The caption is the place to tell readers if the subject in the picture was posed or you used any special effects.• Casually glancing at the photo, readers might miss a small detail so cutlines or captions focus attention on various parts of the picture, emphasizing elements you framed of importance. SWEET! A chance for you to convey what you heard, tasted, smelled…small details supply the missing dimension: :The Franklin cheerleaders, dressed in bright pink uniforms and matching shoes, danced in front of city hall yesterday.• Quotes! The best part about captions is using quotes! • Ask: “What happened before this picture was taken?”
• Short, declarative sentences using few words as possible.• Don’t put unrelated facts in same sentence. Keep facts separate.• Let the picture speak for itself: present tense, giving sense of action, immediacy, and life to the photo• Seek explanatory information like technical info and its lay description.• Avoid the obvious: “firefighter fighting blaze” and “basketball player going for the hoop” and “pictured above”• Avoid speculating what the person could be thinking: “smiles with happiness” or “seems to be wondering”• Write simple, cliché free and without any cutesy language.• Identify old photo as morgue photos or readers think they were taken yesterday.
• Always provide a full caption unless you are certain what kind of caption your editor needs• Put as much time into writing captions as you did shooting the photos: it’s the other half of the job – well-written captions make good photos better• Try to match the mood of the photo: light-hearted feature or crash photo• Make a list of what you can’t see in the photo and use this for the caption: list reasons why the pictured event is happening, pre- and post-picture events, time context, other facts..• Clarify ambiguities – all cattle are not cows• Try not to start with a name• Don’t get sued: if you’re not sure about names and facts, leave it out. More on that later…• Never say, “is looking on” • Bob adjusts the harness on his horse while Sam looks on. • Try: After 50 years in the saddle, adjusting the horse harness is almost a reflex action for Bob. Ranch handyman Sam keeps the tack in good shape.