Tips on writing online photo captions

Guidelines on writing captions for photos that go with an online article:

  • Describe the action taking place in the photo.
  • Identify every person (or major persons) in the photo.
  • Put the picture into context by providing background or additional information.
  • Use present tense for the first sentence; use past or future tense for additional information.
  • Include some time and place references.

In a nutshell, writing captions for online photo is different from writing captions for newspaper photos. In addition to supplementing the article, an online photo also needs to be informational on its own, as many web readers do not have the patience to read through the actual article.

A recent article by the Courier Press may serve as an example of good photo captions for:

  • (a) the caption writing follows the above-mentioned guidelines
  • (b) without reading the actual article, the photos and the captions alone are informational to readers, as there are necessary background information in the captions

Note that there are some repetitions of the background information in the several captions, which is acceptable considering that a visitor to that article may not read each and every photo/caption.

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About Mu Lin

Dr. Mu Lin is a digital journalism professional and educator in New Jersey, United States. Dr. Lin manages an online marketing company. He also manages MulinBlog Online J-School (, a free online journalism training program, which offers courses such as Audio Slideshow Storytelling; Introduction to Social Media Marketing; Writing for the Web; Google Mapping for Communicators; Introduction to Data Visualization; Introduction to Web Metrics and Google Analytics.
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