6 tips for writing photo captions

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 effective captions.

  • Check the facts. Be accurate with credit lines, details and anything else that might catch a reader’s eye.
  • Captions should add new information. Don't merely repeat the story headline or summary, and avoid stating the obvious elements that are captured in the image. The caption should add context to the image, not just duplicate what the reader already sees.
  • Always identify the main people in the photograph.
  • A photograph captures a moment in time. Whenever possible, use present tense. This creates a sense of immediacy and impact.
  • Conversational language works best. Write the caption as though you are talking to a family member or friend.
  • The tone of the caption should match the tone of the image. Don't try to be humorous when the photo is not.

Taken from Writing Effective Photo Captions, a webinar replay with National Geographic's David Brindley at Poynter NewsU.

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    Vicki Krueger

    Vicki Krueger has worked with The Poynter Institute for more than 20 years in roles from editor to director of interactive learning and her current position as marketing communications manager.


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