Even if a picture is worth a thousand words, it still needs a caption to draw readers, provide context and tell the story.

Here are some tips for writing powerful captions—whether in print or online.

  • Keep captions short and direct. One to three sentences, in active voice, will hold your readers’ interest.
  • Look at the picture. It may sound obvious, but make sure you understand everything the image shows. You'll also discover what you (and your readers) need to know next.
  • Do some reporting. Go beyond the information provided with the image. Interview the photojournalist, the subject of the photo, the reporter and other sources to make sure you have the who, what, where, when, why and how.
  • Be accurate. Check (and double-check) the facts: names, credit lines, details and anything else that might catch a reader’s eye.

Taken from Writing Effective Photo Captions, a Webinar replay with David Brindley at Poynter NewsU.

Take the full course