The Importance of Captions and How to Write them

Taking pictures is only half of a photojournalists job, the other half is writing captions which is just as important as the photography. Captions must be concise relevant information that accurately tells the reader what’s going on in a picture. Captions have the ability to transform a picture from ordinary to powerful, and a bad caption has the ability to destroy an amazing picture of graphic and make it very lack luster. Photo Captions are often the first part of a story to be read, and must quickly be able to make it clear to the reader how a photo is relevant to the news story.
Most captions are made up of two sentences that are concise and still contain all of the relevant information. The key is to try to anticipate what the reader will need to connect the image to the story and fill in the blanks. The first sentence should state who is in the photograph and what’s going on within  the photo in present tense. It should also state the city and state or country where the image was made while still following all of the AP style guidelines. Here you will also state the date the photo was made including the day of the week if the photo was made within the past two weeks. The second sentence of the caption is in past tense and adds context to the news or describes why the photo is significant and includes any other significant observations you made on scene as a photographer. It is also important to note that when identifying people in a caption you always go left to right in your notebook making sure to get the correct spelling of their names, you also identify left to right when you publish the photo. Some of the most common captions that are used are a single name for a headshot, a basic descriptive caption that highlights the five W’s, and an extended caption which is a more detailed caption commonly used for standalone photos that run without stories.


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