Good captions have five basic elements:
The first sentence needs to have the first four items in it – who, what, where and when. The second sentence is used to explain why this photo is important to the viewer. Quotes can be used in the second sentence or in a third if it helps advance understanding of the image.
All captions are written in AP style – names, titles, dates, locations, etc – and in the present tense.
When in doubt, check the AP style book.
The captions we, as photojournalists, write are not necessarily the ones our readers will see. Our captions are written to help the copy desk or page designers put whole packages together. Additionally, our captions will help archivists find images later on.
Because they are written for internal use, they have a lot of information that won’t necessarily get published – including your subject’s contact information. This is a must so you can track them down later, resolve spelling conflicts or confirm information. After your caption and credit info, hit return/enter twice to separate the contact info from the main part of the caption. This makes it easier to find and delete if the caption is going unedited into publication.
Sarah Kohl, left, Kari Goodson and Alexis Snell, all students in the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communications Introduction to Photojournalism course, practice with their cameras in class on Monday, January 27, 2014, in Athens, Georgia. Students are issued digital cameras for use during the semester which eliminates a financial barrier to the students, according to instructor Mark E. Johnson. (Photo/Mark E. Johnson, www.mejphoto.com)
Put your contact info in the caption as well as in the IPTC Copyright fields – you want to make it as easy as possible for editors to find you.
Check your captions, then double check them – bad captions will drastically affect your grade.
Social Media and Block Captions
Today photojournalist are writing longer form captions for social media like Instagram accounts. Here are some mainline media instagram feeds.