Captions-May101 -

How to write a
Photo Caption
By Andi Mulshine
Garden State Scholastic Press Association
For the Spring Adviser’s Conference
May 7, 2010
On the job, the reporter and
photographer discuss how
best to
get the shot, based on the reporter’s
research and ideas on how he or she will
write the story. The photographer
meanwhile, also
gets to write.
The caption, or cutline, is the oneto two-sentence story under the photo,
which helps to tell the story.
Captions serve to:
1.Grab the reader’s attention.
2.Provide information for the
busy reader who may not read
the related story.
Two types of photo captions:
1. Photo with a story: the caption is
one to two sentences and aids in
getting the reader to read the
2. Photo without a story: also
called ‘Stand-Alone Art,’ it needs
two sentences, usually has a
Captions should be:
1. Write one sentence,
usually the first, to
explaining what’s
happening in the
photo. The 5 Ws.
2. Write a second
sentence giving
information about
the event.
Do’s for writing captions:
Do use the first three to five words to grab
Do state the obvious without
being obvious.
Do use second IDs.
Do include the 5 Ws and H.
In stand-alone art, the first three to five
words sometimes serve as the
headline, which is in all caps and
bolded. For example:
BLUE MAN ARMED – Long before the night
was over, Baby Face Nelson took out his gun and
cleaned it for old times sake. Nelson will be in
town for the next three weeks, appearing in “Blue
Man Crew.”
What is a Second ID:
Instead of using a subject’s name twice in the
caption, use another label for them – a
second ID.
SEPTEMBER SUNSET – Mary Jones walked
her baby in the park as the sun set on
Manhattan. The district court judge has been on
maternity leave since August and hopes to
return to work in December.
Jones’ second ID is district court judge.
Do’s for Captions, continued:
Do consider what is going on before,
during and after.
Do use visual and specific nouns.
Do use active verbs.
Do keep cutlines factual.
Do identify all people, except with crowds.
Do interview to gain facts.
Do proofread, especially names.
Don’ts for writing captions:
Don’t begin with a name unless it is the
most important element.
Don’t begin with a person’s title.
Don’t state the obvious.
Don’t use “pictured above” or “shown
here” or similar phrases. The reader knows.
Don’t use “seems to” or
“tries to.” Just the facts.
Don’t pad with worthless
Don’t use gag, joke or
cutesy comments. But puns
are sometimes good.
Don’t comment, question
or talk to the picture.
“Watch out for that truck!”
the People in your Photos:
If it’s a male and a female – no need to tell us who’s on the
left or right. Their names will tell us.
If it’s two men or two women – ID the one on the left.
“Jane Doe, left, and Barb Jones took their physics exam
yesterday, just before spring break.
If it’s a group of people – ID up to five people in a photo, left
to right. Sometimes it’s best to ID clockwise.
“Participants included, clockwise from bottom right, Jane
Doe, Barb Jones, Melanie Righteous, etc.
Who: Dana Dietl, 13, and brother Beau, 9. What: They ordered
Roaccutan, an acne drug, over the Internet. Their drug came from
Pakistan. Their father is an ex-NYC cop who runs his own
investigation company. He found no controls on Internet drugs.
Who: Iraqi Shi’a father and son
What: Shi’a mark the
anniversary of the death of
Imam Moussa Al-Kadhim.
Father and son flog themselves
with chains.
When: yesterday
Where: Outside the holy shrine
of Imam in Baghdad
Why: First time since Sadaam’s
fall that such a display was
Who: Andy Willner
What: the baykeeper for Hudson-Raritan estuary
When: yesterday. Where: Passaic River How-Why: Passaic is
coming back after suffering many years of industrial pollution.
Who: Adriana, 4, Daniel, 7, and Alexandre Martinho, 9
What: The lot behind them is under consideration for construction of
an elementary school. However, a builder wants to erect condos.
When: yesterday. Where: Newark. Why-How: Dispute will delay
construction of schools. Same problem exists in many urban districts.
Who: Right-Giants cornerback Will Allen. Left-Redskins
Laveranues Coles.
What: Coles loses interception to Allen in third quarter.
When-Where: Landover, Md. Giants 24, Redskins 21 (OT)
Who: Rookie center fielder Jeff
Duncan and NY Mets
What: Duncan erred, allowing a
triple; he struck out three
times.The Mets lost, 4-2 to the
Montreal Expos.
When: yesterday
Where: at Shea Stadium