Skip to main content

The art of writing a caption

A caption in its simplest form is the the title of an image but usually we mean a bit more. A full caption takes the form of descriptive text, usually a few sentences.

A good caption informs us about the things we cannot see and encourages us to look at an image more closely. There is a relationship of mutual benefit and dependence between a well written caption and an image. The caption can bring an image to life by providing context and meaning. It is also the link between the article/story/text and the image.

Magda Indigo has written a good description of a caption here. I agree with her dislike of "untitled". It does show a certain lack of imagination and is not particularly helpful to the viewer. Creating an image is all about trying to communicate something and the caption is vital to help the audience understand an image. It can hugely enhance the viewers experience.

A good caption is a piece of writing that should be concise, accurate, informative and as carefully crafted as the image itself. I cannot emphasise enough how entwined the image is with the words that support it. For photojournalists it's absolutely vital to get it right. A great caption can help sell an image and equally, a bad caption can kill an image completely. Above all keep it simple and check facts are 100 percent accurate.

When you write your caption you want to inform the reader of the who, what, when, where, why or how about the photograph. Your first sentence should be written in the present tense because you are referencing the moment in time when the image was made. Expanding on this in the following sentences you can use present or past tense. Explanations are best written in past tense.

If you're a novice then take a look at different national newspapers and magazines to get an idea of the structure they use and the variations in style. With a bit of study and application you'll soon be writing good captions.

By the way, the newspapers I've worked for give you no more than 20 minutes to write a caption and often less. It can get hectic when you're desperately uploading your images from your laptop, making picture edits and trying to write captions to send them through to the paper. Being able to touch type quickly may not be the first thing you think of as a requirement for being a photojournalist but believe me you'll need it.

Comments

Miranda said…
This was very helpful! Keep up the good work!

Thanks!

Popular posts from this blog

How do you make a good photographic portrait?

How do you make a good photographic portrait? The answer is both simple and complex at the same time. The simple essence will probably surprise you.



If I had to write a book about it then I'd cover all the usual topics. Lighting, composition, choosing the right lens, using depth of field and thinking about the background and how you use colour and tone. All have a role to play.

We could also discuss the softer side. How you build rapport with your subject. And how to collaborate.

The truth is none of the above things really matter when it comes down to the essence of what makes a good portrait. Don't get me wrong. They all contribute as stepping stones. They add finesse and enhance. They improve the aesthetics and make it easier to take a good photograph. Other photographers may admire your technique. But good technique does not make a good portrait. Certainly not in the eyes of of the wider public.

So, what does make a good portrait. Simple. The expression on the face, in the…

Is professional photography still a viable career?

I am not against amateurs and semi-professionals selling their photography. It's a great way to earn some extra cash. However I am concerned about the level of high quality published work and the standards that clients and the public accept these days.

It seems that just about everyone is a photographer. The line between amateur enthusiast and professional is fuzzy to say the least.

Photography enthusiasts are selling their images through stock libraries and microstock websites, directly to magazines or through their own and third party sites. They're accepting commissions to shoot weddings, being hired to shoot for magazines and selling fine art prints from their websites. They're teaching photography on the weekend and guiding photographic holidays and safaris.

Photography became accessible to the masses with the first non-expert cameras and the famous Kodak slogan"You press the button, we do the rest." The digital camera age has taken the whole thing to a new …