Captions Matter

I’m repeating it again: for your Features assignment (and ALL your shooting assignments, for that matter), make sure you gather enough information for complete AP Style captions to accompany your photos. It’s mandatory!

Over on Mark Johnson’s Visual Journalism blog, he explains the importance of captions: Captions Matter

Without captions, it’s just photography, not photojournalism.

The linked article specifically addresses making photographs of people who are grieving, which is one of the hardest tasks for a photojournalist. But the sentiments expressed really apply to any situation. Never assume people won’t talk to you, even in the most traumatic circumstances.

Mark chose one quote to feature. I choose another, by Kenny Irby of the Poynter Institute:

“Irby says there are two benefits when photographers introduce themselves and interact with their subjects. One is that they can obtain accurate caption information — which ultimately adds more meaning, value and credibility to the photo for the reader. The other is that it can make the experience of being photographed more rewarding for the subject — even in a moment of extreme grief.”

When you express interest in another person, he or she is less likely to feel violated or spied-upon. We are not voyeurs or paparazzi.

There are many reasons that complete captions accompanying your photographs are a basic professional standard. It’s not an arbitrary formality.

One of the greatest qualities of photography is the ability to help viewers connect with the subjects depicted in photographs. And if that is your goal, it’s difficult to achieve if you – the photographer – do not connect with your subjects. And simply talking to them and recording their information is one of the easiest ways to do this.

Be a journalist, no matter what medium you choose to communicate with!

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