AP Style Captions

This is one of the most important topics we will cover this semester, and you will need to put this into practice from here on out. Expect to be tested on captions in addition to being graded on them with your shooting assignments.

Download the PDF with examples of real AP photos with captions so you can always have this with you:

AP Style Captions.PDF

You can also view the slides on captions from the presentation (you’ll have to scroll down for the captions section):

Creative Control/Captions presentation

In the news business, photo captions are a fundamental, professional requirement and are necessarily included with every photograph submitted for publication. The Associated Press style for caption writing assumes that each and any picture it moves on its wire service may be used by itself, not necessarily with a story, so each photograph is accompanied by complete information. Whenever possible, try to keep captions to no more than two concise sentences, while including the relevant information. Try to anticipate what information the reader will need.

The 5 Ws:

  1. Who – Captions must include the full name, age, and home town of any identifiable subjects included in the photo. Also, if there are multiple subjects, indicate their position within the image (left, right, center, etc.) so there is no confusion about who is who. Titles and/or designations are also included. Ex: Georgia Southern University journalism professor Charles Brown, 54, left, …
  2. What – Be concise and clear about any actions depicted in the photograph, but don’t simply state the obvious. For example, if people are talking – what are they talking about? If someone is running – are they exercising, escaping danger, playing, etc.
  3. Where – Be specific, such as “in Veazey Hall on the campus of Georgia Southern University,” but also mark the town or city and state. Use AP Style for state abbreviations. Ex: … in Veazey Hall on the campus of Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, Ga.
  4. When – Include the day of the week, month, day, and year the photograph was taken. Follow AP style for the date. Ex: on Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2009.
  5. Why – The first sentence of an AP style caption typically includes the first four Ws. Additional sentences – usually one sentence – can explain the “Why,” helping the reader understand the photo in its proper context by describing why the action, situation or content of the picture is important or interesting. It may include additional facts or statistics, either from the photographer’s own observations or from the accompanying story. Sometimes, the use of a subject’s quote may be appropriate. Ex: Brown is teaching the first multimedia course offered at the university in a program boasting record enrollment this year.


Style and form

First Sentence:

  • Active verbs – always use the active form of verbs. Ex:John Smith runs …” never “John Smith is running …”
  • Present tense – cutlines should always be written in the present tense, as if the moment depicted is happening right before the viewers’ eyes.

Past tense and passive verbs may be used in the contextual second sentence.

Signoff/Credit – Always at the end of a caption, in parentheses, the photographer includes a signoff – the photographer’s affiliation and name. Ex. (George-Anne photo/Jane Smith).

Use **CQ** after names that are not common spellings. Ex: Micheal **CQ** Jones learns audio editing software in a mulitmedia communications class …

Use double asterisks “**” before and after any information that is not meant for publication, such as CQ or contact information.

Note: AP captions are usually rewritten to fit a newspaper’s individual style and to avoid redundancy of information when multiple photographs of the same subject or event are published.

However, because one never knows how or when a photograph may be used, learning to write an AP style caption ensures that vital information and context always stay attached to the image file. Complete information is also extremely important for archiving and searching for photographs

Assignment 3- Interaction

Preparation for the midterm exam on Wed., March 8

It is definitely not too early to start preparing for your midterm exam on March 8. It will be an open-note, written exam with multiple choice, true/false, and short answer questions, along with a few short essay questions at the end to make sure you can briefly discuss some topics. It will be timed – you will have one hour to complete it. There’s a lot of material we have covered so far, so you don’t want to be randomly searching through handouts too often when the clock is ticking.

Start reading and reviewing now so you are familiar with the material and know which handout to search if you get stumped.

HINT: Many of the topics are thoroughly discussed and give multiple examples and details, but the materials and concepts I really want you to know are usually in bold-face type or in italics. So start there.

That said, here is a study sheet to help you narrow things down:

Photojournalism midterm exam study sheet

The links to the handouts and presentations are spread out over different posts on the web site, so I will list direct links to them here:

If you want to view the videos from the presentations, you’ll have to find the post here on the website related to the topic, however.

If you haven’t read the handouts/study materials, do it now, even before you look at the study sheet. You should download them because you will probably need them for your exam. You can print them out or save them to a personal device and bring them to class, or you can download them and save them to a cloud account (like Drive or Dropbox) and pull them up on the computers in the classroom. It’s up to you.

Let me know if you have any questions.

Mughots – Zach Arogeti


Phil Ginsburg, 22 Leasing Manager – University Housing Atlanta


Phil Ginsburg, 22 Leasing Manager – University Housing Atlanta


Phil Ginsburg, 22 Leasing Manager – University Housing Atlanta


Phil Ginsburg, 22 Leasing Manager – University Housing Atlanta


Nicholas Archer, 23 Delivery Driver


Mathew Fibus, 18 Freshman


Katherine Bruce, 25 Graduate Assistant, College of Education


Danny Brown, 22 Junior, Economics


Brandon Harnick 21, Junior

Materials from class (2/22) for review

Before starting on your Portraits/Light assignment, you might want to review the material. Know what distinguishes a journalistic portrait from a more common understanding of portraiture. And refresh your memory on the characteristics of light and start observing them in the real world.

Here are the PDFs of the presentations so you can review the examples:

Presentation – Light

Presentation – Portraits

And here are the handouts from our class topics you will need to study for the midterm exam:

Let There Be Light


If you are unclear about anything or have any questions, please contact me.

Assignment 4: Portraits/Light

While candid, documentary photography is always the preferred approach in photojournalism, sometimes portraits are a valid and necessary approach under certain conditions. Portraits can describe much more than what a person looks like. As with all photojournalism, storytelling is the focus of a journalistic portrait. Also, our understanding about the characteristics of light is key to visual storytelling. Our use of light can help shape the perception of our photographs. 

DUE 5:30 p.m., Tuesday, March 7!

The Assignment:

Create TWO journalistic portraits that go beyond simple snapshots and capture a unique aspect of a subject’s character and personality, and make light part of your storytelling.


  1. Shoot one environmental portrait – incorporate your subject’s environment into your image to facilitate understanding.
  2. Shoot one close-up portrait – concentrate on your subject’s face, giving us a sense your subject’s personality or create a mood or feeling that is appropriate for telling your subject’s story.
  3. One portrait must demonstrate the use of a HARD light source – explore how hard light creates interplay between light and shadow, emphasizing texture, form, and detail and creating dramatic contrast.
  4. The other portrait must demonstrate the use of a SOFT light source – explore how diffused light softens features and opens up shadows to reveal details.
  5. Both portraits must be accompanied by AP Style captions that describe why your subject(s) might be interesting or newsworthy.

Other considerations

  • Your portraits may both be of the same person, or you may select two different people. Select one or two subjects you think others ought to know about. Your choices can be based on personal interests, or simply someone you think is interesting. You must be able to show us and tell us why they might be interesting. Remember to SHOW us first!
  • Use the various characteristics of light to help tell your subject’s story and make your portraits interesting. Is hard light or soft light best? Can the direction of the light help create a mood or visual interest? Is warm light or cool light appropriate for the mood you want to create? You need to think about all these things and incorporate them into your portraits.
  • Again, your photo must be accompanied by a full AP Style caption. Captions are extremely important for portraits to help your audience understand why someone might be noteworthy. A great portrait should be eye-catching, but you need to explain in your caption WHY your subject might be interesting or newsworthy to your audience. This is a good opportunity to add context that might not be included in your portrait and/or use a quote by or about your subject. Two or three sentences should do it.

Upload your two portraits, with captions, in a post on the website no later than 5:30 p.m., Tuesday, March 7.

Portrait Assignment TIPS 


With posed portraits, YOU are in control of nearly everything. You choose the location. The time. How you want your subject to pose. Whether or not to use props. You are in control of everything in your frame – front to back, corner to corner.

Be methodical – THINK your way through this assignment!

Because you have the opportunity to control everything, take advantage. Slow down. Be methodical.

Technical excellence

Shoot test frames to make sure your exposure is correct and your pictures are in-focus and sharp. There’s no excuse for technical problems with these portraits because you have the time to make corrections.

What’s your subject’s story? 

Be clear about what you are trying to communicate about your subject. Why do you think this person is interesting or notable?

You might want to draw out your subject’s personality, but personality alone usually doesn’t make a person newsworthy. What else is unique and interesting about your subject? If your subject’s personality is connected to their notable activities, show us that personality, then explain (in your caption) how it’s relevant to who they are or what they do.

Remember to SHOW us first, then tell us.

Read the light

Start using your knowledge of light to help you create a more compelling photograph. You may want to scout locations before you set up any portrait sessions.

Light is especially important with your close-up portrait. Even if your subject is not particularly expressive, dramatic light can help make your portrait eye-stopping and memorable.

Make note of the light quality, direction, and color cast. Think about the characteristics of light and think about how those characteristics can help you tell your subject’s story. Maybe walk around your subject on the scene and see if the light interacts differently with your subject when you change positions or perspective. And think about how those changes affect your photograph.

What tone or atmosphere do you want to set? Bold and dramatic? Light and airy? Open and relaxed? Dark and mysterious? The type of light you choose can make a big difference in your results.


Composition is extremely important  with environmental portraits.

Carefully evaluate the environment you photograph your subject in. What’s in the foreground? The background? Where are you going to place your subject in relation to his or her environment? What angle are you going to choose? What lens focal length will be best to use? How much depth-of-field do you need? That’s the basic stuff. Can you be more creative and surprise us?

Using the Shooter’s Mantra will help you. Create a focal point, control your background, fill the frame, then wait for the moment!

Composition with your close-up portrait is a little less crucial – you should essentially fill the frame with your subject’s face. You can shoot even tighter, featuring one aspect of your subject’s face – the eyes, for example. You can leave some creative compositional space in your frame if you like, but your subject’s face needs to be the clear focus in your close-up portrait.

Make your subject comfortable

You can give some direction about how you want your subject to pose, but try to draw out your subject’s natural personality. Facial expressions, gestures, and body language should honestly reflect your subject’s personality. This is especially key with your close-up portrait.

Talk to your subjects. Ask them questions about themselves to make them comfortable and to learn more about them. Their answers can help you decide what to shoot and how to shoot it, as well as give you additional information to include in your caption.

While light may drive your choice of location, try to photograph them in an environment that’s familiar to them. That can make them more comfortable and give you more options in how you photograph them. See if you can make the environment a meaningful part of your portraits.

Deadlines – No more late assignments!!!

I’m not going to post about this topic any more after this. We talked about this at the beginning of class, but some stragglers missed this discussion, so take note now.

Apparently, there’s been some disconnect about shooting assignment deadlines. I’m not sure why. Deadlines are in the syllabus. We discussed them during the first class of the semester. They were posted on slides in the presentations and verbally confirmed in class when the assignments were made. They were posted with the assignments here on the class website. And they were linked on the Facebook group. Despite that, only eight out of 21 students had posted their Interaction assignments on the website by Tuesday’s 5:30 p.m. deadline, and only nine had posted by class time Wednesday.

I’m flexible and pretty forgiving by nature. We learn from making mistakes. As you’ve seen, I make some as well, and I expect to be corrected. I’m mostly interested that you take some knowledge and skills with you beyond this course.

However, meeting deadlines is so basic that I just can’t let this slide. If you can’t meet deadlines, you won’t be able to keep a job. Period. Particularly in the communications field. Especially in the news biz.

This one time, for those who missed the deadline for the Interaction assignment but can upload it by Friday, Feb. 24 by 5:30 p.m. – you will have your score reduced by only 10 points (out of a possible 100) – essentially one letter grade. Your score will be reduced by 10 points for every day after that. I will not accept the Interaction assignment for any credit at all past Monday, Feb. 27 at 5:30 p.m.

In the interest of absolute, 100% clarity, for all future shooting assignments:

Late assignments will not be accepted!

Give yourself enough time to shoot your assignment, edit and process it, and upload it to the website BEFORE deadline.

If you run into any problems, let me know right away. Like I said, I’m pretty understanding, but meeting deadlines is not negotiable.

Background Pictures- Charles Montana