How to Write a Newspaper Photo Caption
A newspaper photo caption attracts readers so they want to read the rest of the article. Photo captions are the most read body type in a publication, according to the University of Kansas. When writing a photo caption, provide enough details so readers know the context of the image, without explaining the obvious. Write in complete sentences and use the present tense in the first sentence -- or in all sentences -- of your caption.
1 Relevant Details
Develop a caption that clearly explains who or what's in the picture and why they're important, according to "Convergence Journalism" at the University of Missouri School of Journalism in Columbia. You don't want readers to struggle to identify what's in the picture or misunderstand the purpose of the photo. Identify people from left to right, and note whether photographers have used the lowercase letters "cq" -- an abbreviation for a Latin term that indicates the information has been fact checked -- after names that don't have common spellings, such as "Jamie Smyth (cq)." Provide ages of any children younger than 18 in your caption.
2 Avoid the Obvious
Explain what's happening, when and where the incident occurred, why people in the photo appear as such, and how or why the event occurred, recommends the University of Kansas. Avoid giving details that are already obvious from the photo, suggests Portland State University. For example, if you're writing a caption for a photo of the high scorer in a high school basketball tournament, include the name and location of the event, the player's name and his game-time statistics. Don't explain that the student is shooting a layup or that he's wearing jersey No. 15, if that's obvious from the photo.
3 Specifics About the Date
Include specific information about the date. If the photo is less than a week old, include the day of the week, but don't include the month, day or year. If the photo is more than a week old, state the month and day, such as "Feb. 15." Use the entire date, including the year but not the day of the week, if the photo is from any previous year. Incorporate the date into the body of your text, so it flows smoothly. For example, if you're writing a photo caption about a car accident, you might write, "Jim Jones and his daughter Ann, 4, await help Wednesday after a single-car accident on Rivers Road in Alexandria, Virginia, due to icy road conditions. No injuries were reported."
4 Style and Format
Keep your photo caption to two sentences when possible, but don't neglect to answer all the basic questions, according to "Convergence Journalism." Focus on the "Five Ws" -- who, what, when, where and why. Don't editorialize or offer opinions and evaluations of the photo. The objective is to present the facts clearly and concisely. Double check your spelling, including people's names, and always use proper grammar. Follow Associated Press guidelines for capitalization, spelling, abbreviations and punctuation.