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Picture Captions

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Picture Captions

22 Jun 2022 10:29AM   Views : 120 Unique : 86

Adding captions to your images is one of those tasks that takes some discipline but is worth it in the long run.

How many times have you looked at a photo and wondered who is in the picture, where it was or what the occasion was about? Don't kid yourself, it's not just old photos is it. Even the details of recent images can slip easily from memory.
Back in the day adding a caption or indeed any information involved writing on the back of a print (which risks damage from sharp writing instruments and image degradation if acidic ink is used) or on the page of a photo album. Writing on a slide mount for those taking transparencies was quitenpossible but space was limited.

Today it's so very easy to add a caption to an image. Popular editing software will have he option someqhere in the menus, for example Edit > File Info. That's all well and good, but you also need to view the caption. You could o to the file menu of course. If you right click on an image in Windows folders there is the option to see file information.
Then there's Adobe Bridge. This has a Metadata panel where you can see all the Exif data for an image and user assigned information such as caption, keywords and copyright information as well as much more. You can even add captions this way, and to batches of images if necessary, which is a great time saver.

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Colin Stafford-Johnson on Skokholm island. Colin was staying on the island for a number of weeks making a wildlife documentary. Colin is standing outside the central accommodation block on Skokholm and carrying his 16 mm film camera. Canon EOS 5, Kodak Ektachrome 100SW. 4 July 1997


So that's great but the next thing to consider is how much information do you want to include,should include and why? Let's consider some examples.

First, an environmental portrait of Colin. But Colin who? Where is he and what's he doing? When was this?I also know this is a scanned film image so I've included those available details.

Secondly, a classic car. A Triumph. For classic car enthusiasts that simply isn't enough. Model and registration are also important. Very often the owners have a noticeboard with the details, or are happy to talk about their car. You can also obtain information from the DVLA website for Uk registered cars

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A white and pale blue Triumph Herald 1200 Coupe (6260 VC) at the Classic Motor Show at the NEC. 10 November 2007


Finally an aircraft. A Boeing Globemaster, But from which air force? Where is it and is here anything notable about it? Are there performance figures available? Again, these types of information may be available on an information board at a display.

The complete captions and answers to those questions can be found beneath the images. Admit it youwere curious! By the way, it's purely coincidence these three images were all ten years apaat.

Oh but you have GPS location data. That's all very well, and useful to have in any case, but it's so much more helpful and user friendly to include the name of the street and town for example in your description. In the same way I always include the date. It's easy enough to find GPS data in the file information, but it's so much easier to read it as part of the caption. Longitude and latitude coordinates have their place but the name of the street is so much more interesting and meaningful.

The same can be said of dates assuming you've set it correctly on your camera! Again, it's so much easier to see that together with all information in one place. I have to admit I don't include the actual day of the week.
What wouldn't you include. Confidentiality is one consideration. For an image of a rare orchid you may only want to give the county rather than the specific location. Indeed for species protected by law it would be irresponsible to give that information. You can imagine security concerns are important too. You shouldn't be giving the address of someone pictured with their collection of antique weapons.

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A Boeing CC-177 Globemaster III from 429 Transport Squadron of the Royal Canadian Air Force at the Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire. The aircraft can hold up to 102 combat ready troops has a top speed of 830 km/h, a range of 10390 km and a ceiling of 13716 m. This example has markings to commemorate the squadron's 75th anniversary. 16 July 2017


Do you state the obvious? For example, the colour of a classic car at a rally? Some viewers may have colour vision issues but it's also useful for search purposes. Not all Ferraris are red and you may want to find that picture of a yellow or black one.

For archiving purposes a caption needs to be as complete as possible. Images I've worked on for the National Library of Wales require as much detail as possible because they deal with historic records. There's the added requirement of Welsh too. Picture libraries will have similar considerations as regards fully informative captions.

Even a minimal caption is better than nothing at all. It's worth it for those important pictures at least.


All text and images Keith Rowley 2022

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