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Writing Photo Cutlines as a Photojournalist

December 21, 2013 IADT General, Photography 0 Comments

Writing Photo Cutlines as a PhotojournalistEvery photojournalist strives to tell a complete story with images. But when your photos get published in a newspaper, magazine or web outlet, they'll likely be accompanied by a photo cutline of two to three sentences to further explain the story. Do you know how to write these informative pieces of text?

What to Ask the Subject

After you've captured the moment on camera, it's imperative to get identifying details from each person pictured, unless it's a large group shot of random people. Ask for the subjects' names, towns where they reside and how they're affiliated with the story.

Always have people spell their names because you never can assume how to spell a common moniker like Karen. It could be Caryn, Kareyn or Carin. Only ask for ages of the people if they are children or age is part of the story. Before talking with a child, identify his or her parent or guardian and ask permission. If you're photographing a senior citizen who just returned from winning a triathlon, the person's age becomes interesting and makes the story even more remarkable.

Which Details to Include in the Cutline

Sometimes a photojournalist is mistaken for a reporter. The people you photograph will continue to tell you about the event or situation you're photographing in great detail. Although this information is interesting, and would be helpful to share with the reporter, you can't include everything in your photo cutline.

Pare down the information. Include who, what, why and how in your cutline. Here are a few examples that give additional details that may not be apparent in the images.

  • Left to right: Josie Miller, 5; Anna Hill, 5; and Sara Hennington, 4, all from Parkstown, wave at the Ohio All State Marching Band during the 65th Annual Lighted Christmas Parade on Tuesday evening, December 10, 2013. Josie and her two cousins have attended the community celebration together for the past three years.
  • Sue and Darryl Johnson of Boston share a kiss in Terminal C at Logan International Airport last night before parting ways for Sue's six-month military deployment to Iraq. The couple will celebrate their 25-year wedding anniversary upon Sue's return in March 2014.

Both photo cutline examples tell more about the people in the images and give a little background on why they're being photographed. Sometimes readers don't have time to delve into the accompanying article. That's when a well-crafted photo cutline and picture give readers a glimpse at the story with both visuals and written facts.

Saving the Text with the Photo

Once the images have been captured and the photo cutline written, photojournalists must archive this information. If you use Adobe Photoshop, write the photo cutline, photographer's name, date photographed and original publication date in the "File Info" box to keep the text stored with the image file. If the photo is used multiple times (which is common for headshots or photos of local leaders and business people), the text is easily retrievable.

Do you have tips and tricks for writing informative photo cutlines? Please share with the IADT community in the comments below.

Photo source: Morguefile.

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