Photo Captions Warren Watson Ball State University American Press InstituteA Presentation for the Citizen-Times February 17, 2006
The Role of the Copy Editor• To improve stories• To prepare material for publication• To write headlines and photo captions• To lay out and paginate pages• Also, the Web!
The Concerns of the Copy Editor• 1) Clarity• 2) Precision• 3) Focus• 4) Respect for language
Seeking the Best* The job of the copy editor is to makeevery story that best that it can be.* The job of the assigning or story editoris to make every writer the best that he orshe can be.
Maybe This is Why We Need Editors A newspaper travel section chronicled shattered syntax from trips abroad: • In a Paris hotel: “Please leave your values at the front desk.” • In a Swiss mountain inn: “Special today -- No ice cream.” • In a Tokyo bar: “Special cocktail for ladies with nuts.”
The 5 Ws for Editors1) Who said so? Who else should knowabout this? Who is affected by this?2) What is the news? What impact will ithave? What’s the point? What else doreaders want to know?3) When did these people say these things?When will the impact be felt? When shouldwe do a follow up?
Photo Captions or CutlinesPhoto captions or cutlines requireinformation, taste, judgment andimagination. The best cutlines do more thanexplain a photo. They pull readers into thestory. Apply the same standards ofaccuracy to cutlines as you apply to storiesand headlines. Avoid simply repeating theheadline.
The Role of the Photo CaptionPhoto cutlines accomplish four importantthings: 1. Explain the action. 2. Name the principals. 3. Tell why were running the photo. 4. Note the important or telling details in the photo.The cutline helps you connect the reader tothe information.
Photo Caption Checklist In writing or editing cutlines, you should answer yes to these questions:• Does the cutline identify, fully and clearly?• Does it tell when?• Does it tell where?• Does it contain all important information?• Are names spelled correctly?• Is it easy to read?
Checklist (more)• Have you eliminated needless adjectives and adverbs?• Have you explained all mysterious objects or circumstances?• Have you gone beyond the obvious? (EXAMPLE: » Poor: A smiling Yeltsin waves to the crowd. » Better: Yeltsin greets party-goers in Red Square. The festive atmosphere demonstrated a new mood inside the Kremlin.)
Cutlines: Dos and Don’ts• Study the photo carefully; make sure you understand it.• Check the spelling of names.• Identify all people whose faces are clear.• Don’t insult people. You don’t have to say: “President Bush (at left) gestures …”• Explain things not immediately apparent.
Cutlines: Do’s and Don’ts (2)• Do say if it’s a file photo.• Don’t assume a principal’s state of mind.• Don’t put words into people’s mouths.• Explain questionable actions.• When there is a bright, humorous dimension, reflect that tone.
What Copy Editors Need from Photographers and Artists• Honesty in using information.• Cutline information that is complete and accurate.• On-time delivery of photos and graphics.• Respect for editor’s understanding of reader needs.• Willingness to provide basic, routine work products as well as special project-efforts.• Openness to suggestions and collaboration.
A Few Tips for Editors, Designers Who Handle Pictures• Start with the photos (the building blocks)• Be picky: Fewer is better• Consider the crop• Bigger is usually better (with a good photo)• Make sure you look at the photo before writing captions• Review the package