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Captioning Photographs for Stock Photography

The following information was circulated by the now-closed image agency 'Lonely Planet Images' as a guide to their photographers on best practise for image captioning...

Good Captioning - 8 Quick Points

  1. Include specific LOCATION information
    Captions should NOT include country, city or state province location information as this should already be entered in the appropriate IPTC field. However DO include suburb and street/road information.

    Eg. Cafe Allegro in Palmer Street, Manly.
    is better than
    Cafe in Sydney

  2. Include the SUBJECT matter
    Sometimes what may be obvious to you when looking at your image may not be so obvious to the end user. So clearly state what it is in your image in the caption.
    • Include the correct names of churches, cafes, museums, points of interest etc.
    • Include what is in the image only, not what is outside the shot.
    • Make the subject the focus of the caption, with extra information following it.

    Eg. Statue of David replica at Mercato Nuovo.
    Portrait of girl with painted shell. (sex of person is good to know)
    Museum of Native Art on waterfront.
    Arizona Black Rattlesnake (Crotalus viridis cerberus).

  3. Explain WHAT is happening
    by using doing words, if appropriate

    Eg. Children swimming with stingrays.
    Man carving wooden tiki.
    Group trekking through jungle forest.
    Tourist interacting with local outside Blue Mosque.

  4. Keep it SHORT and precise

    Eg. This caption is too long: John Smith, Blacksmith at Millers Barn, making horseshoes by first softening the metal with his set of tools and bellows then hammering the shoes into shape. His family have been using this traditional method here for over 300 years.
    and will be edited to this:
    Blacksmith hammering horseshoes at Millers Barn.

    • Avoid superfluous use of 'the' and 'a' unless it is in a proper name or title.
    • Avoid 'flowery' description:

      Eg. majestic, lovely, beautiful, stunning, breathtaking

    • Do not include information that is relevant to the photographer but not for the end user, like notes, personal images numbers or date image taken.
  5. If image is not at a specific location, include NEAREST city/town

    Eg. Man riding horse in field near Kalapana. (Include Kalapana in IPTC city field.)

  6. Check SPELLING
    We rely on correct photographer spelling for places and things.
  7. Use of CAPITAL letters
    Capitalise first word, at start of caption
    Capitalise proper names, place names, titles etc only (not every word in caption).
  8. Include FULL STOP at end of caption

By taking a little bit of extra care with image captions your images will be more quickly processed, more easily found in a search, have more meaning to the end user, and be sold more readily!

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