How to Write Captions for Your Photos

Photo of a cheetah with caption. Note that the caption for this image, published in Wild Planet Photo Magazine, details camera settings as well as the captive nature of the subject, including location where the image was photographed.
The caption for this image, published in Wild Planet Photo Magazine, details camera settings as well as the captive nature of the subject, including location where the image was photographed.

By Jennifer Leigh Warner, NANPA Ethics Committee Chair

It’s exciting when you decide to make the leap from viewing your image on the back of your camera to publishing that image for the whole world to see. So many thoughts are buzzing around your head, like “What will others think of my image?” and “Will this image impact the way people see the world?” With so much going through your mind, it’s important to not forget the ethical obligation you have to properly caption those photos for viewers.  

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Crafting Compelling Captions for Photo Contests, Part I

A young pine marten leaps from one tree to another in my direction. I was shooting out of an open window. Silver Gate, Montana © Patricia McCollom Bauchman
A young pine marten leaps from one tree to another in my direction. I was shooting out of an open window. Silver Gate, Montana © Patricia McCollom Bauchman

By Frank Gallagher, NANPA Blog Coordinator

Captions play a critical role in photo contests. You might think that your photograph stands on its own but judges don’t have your knowledge of the circumstances at the moment you pressed the shutter button. The information you provide in your caption can help preemptively answer a judge’s questions or concerns, explain a unique situation you captured, illuminate subtle nuances in your composition, and assuage any trepidations over potential ethical problems. Captions can make or break your photo’s chances in Showcase or any other photo contest.

We’re in the middle of the 2021 NANPA Showcase nature photo competition and hundreds of photographers are combing through their archive to choose which stellar images they want to submit. The quality of submissions has always been outstanding, making the judges’ job difficult. Yet every year we get comments from judges about images with inadequate captions. Don’t let a weak caption give judges a reason to discount your photo!

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