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