Cutlines and Photos

Editing Photos
Pictures, captions and the dangers
that lie within
Photo editing flow chart
Photo editing
begins with
the photographer
The press room
makes final
adjustments on
ink, water,
paper, etc.
Photos then
go to a
photo editor, who
culls the selections
The designer/
editor puts the
photos “on”
the page or
Web site
Photos then
go to a section
editor or to a
The selected
photos then
go to the
production staff
for enhancing,
refining, etc.
Happy readers …
or not …
Uses/types of photos
1. Stand-alone or wild photos -- no
accompanying story or that story is
elsewhere and the photo serves as a refer
 2. Photo/photos accompanying a story
 3. Thumbnail mugs
 4. Photo illustrations
Wild or stand-alone
Garrison Keillor croons
for an Alabama
audience. Note the top
placement of the caption
Photo with a story
Note use of a kicker
head to give
Note that the cutline
is in a different font
from the body type
and provides
information not in
the headline/deck.
Thumbnail mugs
Thumbnail mugs usually use a nameline as a caption. But sometimes “file
mugs” that may be outdated will require an explainer (Smith in 1999).
Note the “wild” photo that refers to a story inside the paper.
Photo illustrations
Note the use of
a cutout photo
with a graphic
to create a main
More thumbnail
mugs … a
double mug
treatment as
opposed to
imbedding the
mug in the body
of the story.
Some not so good
photos and captions
Send in the clones
More cloning around
Look ma … No ma
That’s not Mattress Mac
That’s not Condi either
Real The Edge
Real Bono
You make
this mistake,
and U2 will
be very
That’s bad taste
Bad taste is
paid lip service
Sarah Silverman
making reference
to a certain part
of Britney
Spears’ anatomy.
This photo ran 3
columns in the
Oops … one, two,
three …
This photo was
the victim of a
production error.
Can you put your
finger on what the
problem is?
It’s not Ass Wednesday … or is it?
It starts with the photographer
The first person involved in the editing process of
photos is the photographer. Where do they position
themselves to get the best shot? Preparation is key.
What type of lens is used? What type of lighting?
(See Images & Ethics handout, The Rest of the
Story handouts)
Getting the “words” right with a photo is also
fundamental, but often a weak spot for many
There can be ethical – or personal safety concerns
for photographers. Is it better to take that shot on
another day – or not at all? Consider the photo in
the next slide …
Photo editing
This is the Pulitzer-winning photo shot by
former UH student Adrees Latif, right. The
videographer on the ground was killed by a
Myanmar soldier. Look at the handouts on
“The Rest of the Story” and “Ethics in the Age
of Digital Photography.”
Photo editing: Bad photos
There are many types of photos that are part and parcel
of typical newspaper coverage that have become cliché
over the years: the group photo, the groundbreaking,
the business opening, the gala event, the check passing,
the award ceremony, etc.
Many of these “bad photos” (see bad photos handout)
can be banned from newspaper pages or shuffled off to
Web sites. Other types can be salvaged by using
different angles (shooting downward or upward) or
through creative cropping.
Some “bad photos” aren’t of the cliché variety. Some
don’t accurately complement a story – or can distract
from it.
Just like this …
Photo editing: Bad photos
This photo was
provided to go with a
story about killer bees
in Mexico (the Houston
Fire Department was
checking the threat
level). The photo editor
didn’t understand why I
started laughing and
told him we can’t run
that photo in a family
Handout: “Editing / Design / Leadership:
Tips for improving captions”
Cutline facts
1. Placement: Cutlines generally run below a
photo but sometimes run to the side. In any
case, make it easy for the reader to find the
words that accompany a photo.
2. Length: Pretty subjective. Sometimes a oneword nameline suffices. Generally, cutlines
should be long enough to convey -- tightly -- the
significant details in a photo.
3. Font / typeface: Cutlines are generally in a
different typeface and often a different point
size from the body text.
Parts of a cutline
A “wild” or stand-alone photo
generally requires three bits
of information: the photo
credit (photographer’s name
and agency), the caption
headline that can go above
or below the photo and the
cutline itself. Photos with a
story rarely have caption
Photo credit
Caption head
How to write a cutline
1. Determine the size / length of the cutline. Usually determined by
the designer.
2. Check to see if the photo is wild or accompanies a story. If standalone, it may require a caption hed. If the photo goes with a story,
you may need to form a word bridge between the two to indicate
how the two are related.
3. Thumbnail mugs generally need only a name line, but make sure
there is not more than one "Smith" or "McGrath" in the story. Look
to see how current the mug shot is. Also, is it immediately
discernible to the reader why a particular mug shot is being used? If
not, again a brief explainer may be in order.
4. Check to see if there are other similar pictures running in order to
avoid redundant information.
5. Note whether the photo is black and white or color
6. Photographers are notorious for messing up info. Check alternate
sources -- any stories, electronic library, phonebook, Internet -- to
fact-check a cutline.
7. Try not to state the obvious -- don't say two people are sitting in
the park, tell me why they are there. Explain the human interaction
going on. It may be plain to see that two politicians are shaking
hands, but "why" they are shaking hands may not be obvious.
8. Avoid parroting the hedline and the lede. Cutlines should
complement, not duplicate.
9. Include the necessary "directional" information to aid
identification or move the reader's eye around: Photo at top; John
Smith, left; from top to bottom; etc. Or, if directions are too
unwieldy, use a bit of information to identify someone. "Jane Smith,
holding flowers, approaches the altar .... “
10. Verify the time element.
11. Use proper tone -- a humorous photo can have a humorous
cutline and caption hed. Avoid judgmental terms -- is that protester
really angry or playing to the camera?
How NOT to do a cutline
This photo was selected as the main photo for a Chronicle Page 1A.
Although the names of the two soldiers were CQ’ed (checked), the
soldier on the left is missing his first name and the soldier on the
right is missing his rank. The relationship of the pair to the dead
soldier was not given. The photographer was forced to call Fort
Hood on a Friday night to get the information.
This is an
example of a
cutline. Note
that the
cutline is also
“wild” and
refers to a
story inside
the section.
Too long!
The cutline
is deeper
than the
Maybe this
should have
been a
photo with a
short story.
OK, the names
are correct,
but the
information is
missing. Are
the women
placed left to
right? Don’t
make the
reader have to
Same story,
but for two
editions. Note
that not only
did the story
get shorter,
the subject
in the mug
One-line cutlines can sometimes suffice, especially on large
horizontal photos. But not only does this cutline state the
obvious, it gives no indication that this is supposed to show
“holiday crush at the airport.”
1. Someone needs to
account for this
2. And the sign said
… I guess
someone should
have raised Cain
on this.
3. Well, at least they
name right.
Cutline problems
It helps to
check the
name tag.
Michael Peña, center left, plays Will Jimena, an American
soldier inspired to be a good citizen by a college professor,
who is caught in a desperate fight in Afghanistan.
OK, you left out
a name in your
notes. Make a
phone call – do
not do this!
Check out the
third line of the
cutline. Just
because the kid’s
number isn’t
visible doesn’t
mean he
deserves this.
Cutline problems
Young Tyler
Cannon of
Texas, can
smile now,
but, boy,
that must
have really
Handout: “Cropping Photos”
Photo editing: Cropping
Cropping is merely editing the photo so that it conveys
the best message/info -- much like cutting the
superfluous or questionable material out of a story.
Cropping is NOT changing the shape of a photo because
you need a vertical instead or a horizontal image. Edit
your space to fit the photo, don't edit the photos to fit
the space. You crop a photo to add impact, and you
surely don't want to change the meaning of a photo.
Example: See how the “story” changes according to how
the same photo is run – one cropped, one uncropped.
Photo editing: Cropping
This was the Baltimore Sun’s version
of the photo. Obviously, the woman
holding the child is not his mother. So
what happened to his family?
Casualties of war perhaps?
No, they were the casualties of a bad
crop. Mom was OK, she just had her
hands full. This was how the photo ran
in the Miami Herald. It tells a much
different story, doesn’t it?
In these comparison examples, see how cropping redirects
the viewer’s focus and eliminates “background noise.”
The running woman distracts
from the rabbi’s distinctive face.
Note how much warmer and
friendlier this photo feels now.
The “Perp Walk”
If this is a story about media
coverage of a trial, perhaps the full
crop works. If the focuses on the
defendant, then the crop at right is
Note the two news microphones in
the original photo.
David Souter is
sworn into the
Supreme Court. Do
you need the
historical photo or
just a tight shot of
his face?
The focus changes from the rifle to
the woman’s face.
Photo manipulation
In general, a three-word policy works:
(unless it’s obvious)
Handout: “Manipulating Reality”
Photo manipulation: definitions
Cloning or rubber stamping: Duplicating part of an image in another
area of the image.
Computer image: Pure digital illustration, created on a computer to
achieve a particular effect, which either uses photographs as its base
material, or is so photorealistic that it may be perceived as being real.
Dropout/silhouette: Eliminating the background of an image.
Face off: Using two separate photos, not in their original forms, in the
same package (e.g. having Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding skating
alongside one another in a “face off").
Photo illustration: A set-up photograph that is illustrative in nature and is
clearly out of the realm of reality. Traditionally, it is an approach used for
fashion, food, and product photographs.
Photo manipulation: Altering a photograph beyond normal
enhancements (color correction, adjusting contrast, dodging, burning).
Examples include removing facial blemishes, adding features such as a full
moon, or changing the color of an object in the image. (the “moving
Photo manipulation
Here’s a case
where it’s easy to
see the photo was
manipulated. The
reader is not
fooled by the
photo illustration
-- or shouldn’t be
Photo manipulation
The New York
Post front page
after the Iraq
Study Group’s
report was
released (that’s
James Baker
and Lee
Photo manipulation
You shouldn’t
play tricks on the
reader. There
are ethical rules
to follow. Just
like driving, you
need to stay
between the
white lines, so to
Taken from MAD magazine
Photo manipulation
Where did
the woman
on the
balcony go?
Atlanta JournalConstitution
Photo Manipulation Policy
In order to maintain our journalistic integrity, and so that we do not
misrepresent information or mislead our readership, we will not
manipulate any photographs, for any reason.
We will use darkroom techniques for reproduction purposes and we
will produce dropouts and illustrations that involve photographs
under the following conditions:
An image that is dropped out will be used as is -- no cloning or
rubber stamping to change its shape or character.
If there is more than one person or image involved in the dropout
(from different photos), we will make sure one image is more
prominent than the other, to emphasize that the resulting photo
package is not real or a "face off." We will make sure the caption
information states that the images are taken from separate photos.
We do not try to fool the reader.
We label the image as illustration. Additionally, all illustrations
involving photographs will require the approval of either photo
director or graphics director.
Cutline exercise
Now you do it:
Worth 10 points each
to a story grade
Exercise: Two cutlines
Write cutlines for the following photos. The photos are
stand-alone; they do not need to refer to any stories.
The pumpkin photo will run in color; the other will run
black and white. The cutline should include the
photographer’s name and affiliation, a caption headline
(above or below the photo) and a 2- to 4-sentence
 Photo 1 (speed bump) credit is: Gregory Urquiaga,
Knight-Ridder Tribune
 Photo 2 (pumpkins) credit is: Jim Kahnweiler, Associated
Exercise: Cutline info
Photo 1: Work crews were adding speed bumps
along Mariposa Street on Thursday in Richmond,
Calif. The large lettering is a warning to
motorists as they approach the speed bumps.
Photo 2: Danny Georgette, age 5, of Reading,
Mass., was at Arena Farms in Concord, Mass.,
on Monday. He wanted a pumpkin for