Flip open any yearbook page and chances are you won’t just see a spread-full of photographs. That’s because a yearbook is more than just a book of photos; It’s a place where you find eye-catching headlines, short paragraphs, and witty captions that really tell the behind-the-scenes story of the page.
Writing clever yearbook captions can seem like a daunting task. But it doesn’t have to be–especially if you follow these basic steps.
Choose Spectacular Photos
Start off with great photos. The best photos for yearbooks are those that show the subjects doing something really fun and interesting. For group shots, especially, try to avoid photos that are posed. It’s best to catch people in action—try to take their photographs without them even knowing it!
Analyze the photos using what we like to call the “W-W-W-W-W-H….AT” method. This stands for “Who,” “What,” “Where,” “When,” “Why,” “How,” “Ask,” “Tell.”
- Who is in the photo?
- What are they doing?
- Where are they?
- When did this happen?
- Why are they doing this activity? or Why was this photo taken?
- How was everyone involved in the activity of the photo?
- If you could ask these people questions in an interview, what would that be? (Now go ask them!)
- What can you tell readers about this photo that isn’t obvious just by looking at it? (These are the behind-the-scenes details that are also attainable via interview!)
Keep It Simple
Captions need to be short and to the point. They should be three sentences max. The best captions also include a quote from or about one of the people in the photo. That’s where the “Ask” part of the process comes in handy. Take time to interview your subjects and you’ll get some great content that will easily flow into your captions.
Don’t start every caption the same way. Each one should sound unique and creative. Try alternating the start of each caption with “why,” “when,” “what,” “who” and “where” facts of each photo.
It’s Not Cool to Be Cruel
Being clever and witty is definitely different than being cruel. Don’t say “funny” things about the people in the photo that could possibly hurt their feelings.
Practice, Practice, Practice
As with anything in life, the best way to improve on caption writing is to practice. Find a bunch of photos and practice the techniques described in this post. Encourage individual practice and then with the entire yearbook staff. Group brainstorming sessions can really get the creative juices flowing! Download this handout to get you started.
Posted on: October 8, 2015
Posted in: Writing Tips
Pictures are worth a thousand words, but the stories within them are incomplete without captions.
Captions are easier to write once you know the formula, and yearbook advisers are telling us they would like more training materials for their staffs on topics such as caption writing. Walsworth is listening, and has responded with a caption-writing lesson, complete with a new video called “A Simple Approach to Great Captions,” Lesson Overview, one pre-video activity, two post-video assignments and three handouts you can access at the links below on this page.
Renee Burke, yearbook adviser at Boone High School in Orlando, Fla., wrote the script and is the presenter in the video. She said caption writing was a good choice for a video and lesson plan because captions are important in yearbooks.
“I personally get so annoyed when I am reading a yearbook, or even a magazine, and there isn’t a caption for a picture. I want to know details,” Burke said.
The objectives for the lesson plan include students learning the parts of a good caption and how to write them to identify people, be accurate and informative.
Burke also said caption writing is easier to approach because it’s a group of smaller pieces instead of a multi-paragraph article.
“Body copy can be intimidating. Oftentimes people don’t know where to start or they feel like they’ve said the same thing year after year. Also, small schools feel that since they have a small book it’s hard to give up space for body copy,” Burke said.
“I see such value in captions and feel staffs can overlook their importance,” Burke said.
All the activities, assignments, handouts and a Lesson Overview that you can use with the video are available at these links.
Bell Ringer Exercise
Caption Writing Exercise.5Ws.1H
Caption Writing Exercise.TellmeMore
Easy as ABCD
Writing Captions with Flair