For some photographers, especially those unused to editorial, creating captions seems to prove a real problem. This is made much harder by four of the sites (that take editorial) having specific formats that the captions must be in. Posts on the sites own forums (where they have one) and sometimes over at microstockgroup frequently lament a recent rejection for captioning and then go on to give the caption they used -usually incorrect. One poster on MSG recently treated us to a thread where he kept getting the same image rejected at Istock for captioning. Each time his caption was in the wrong format as others were quick to point out. His initial response was Why does it matter if all the correct information is in there? He was, of course, quite right -it doesn't matter at all (providing you don't mind getting the image rejected).
Shutterstock and Bigstock: (New guidelines from December 2013)
FOLKESTONE, ENGLAND - JULY 6, 2008: Fishing boats moored in the sheltered harbour. In 2012, major plans were announced for the regeneration of the harbour and seafront.
Notes: The first part (date and location) is in CAPITAL letters. Put a dash between the Country and the date. Put the date in full including the year. Finish with a semi colon (:) then continue -starting with a capital letter. Do NOT repeat date and location later in the caption. Caption must still be within 200 characters including spaces and punctuation.
Shutterstock and Bigstock: (Pre December 2013 -for reference only)
FOLKESTONE, ENGLAND - JULY 6: Fishing boats moored in the sheltered harbour on July 6, 2008 at Folkestone, Kent. In 2012, major plans were announced for the regeneration of the harbour and seafront.
Notes: The first part is in CAPITAL LETTERS. Put a dash between the Country and the date. Do not put the Year in the date for this bit. Finish with a semi colon (:) then continue -starting with a Capital letter. Describe the image then repeat the date, this time including the year and the location. In my example I haven't repeated the Country (England) but added more information by saying that Folkestone is in the county of Kent. Next, follow up with a second sentence giving the image some "newsworthy" angle. The internet is your friend here unless the subject is something you have specialist knowledge of. Remember, the second sentence isn't aimed at the buyers (they're not usually interested in your caption) it's aimed at the reviewer to convince them to accept this image because it has some relevance. Your caption must not exceed 200 characters (including punctuation and spaces) or you will not be able to submit it (there is a counter provided, so you know where you are).
EDIT: Amazing! Less than a day after I posted this they have revised their caption requirements. Main change is to include the Year in the opening dateline and that you do not have to repeat the date and location later in the description. Full details here: http://www.shutterstock.com/buzz/announcing-shutterstocks-new-editorial-guidelines. I'll update the post properly later. Edit: OK, now updated with the new version (I have left the old version in for reference only).
Folkestone, England - July 6, 2008: Fishing boats moored in the sheltered harbour. In 2012, major plans were announced for the regeneration of the harbour and seafront.
Notes: Only use Capital letters as you would in correct writing e.g. to start a sentence and for place names.
Include the year in your initial date and do not repeat this information later. Place a dash after the Country and a semi colon (:) after the date. IMPORTANT -if there people visible anywhere in the image Istock require you to mention them. In this example, if there were people on the boats, your caption would read People stand (etc) on fishing boats moored in the sheltered harbour. Try not to make assumptions about the people if you do not know who they are (i.e. avoid Folkestone fishermen stand on boats.... if you do not know who they are or where they are from).
That's your Istock caption done but you still have the description box to complete. Luckily there are no firm rules about completing this. I would put: Fishing boats moored in the harbour at Folkestone in Kent, England on July 6, 2008. That's it. No rules about the number of characters to use but keep it brief and relevant - do not write a Wikipedia style page as your caption. I once saw an example on the Istock editorial forum where the caption contained the entire history of an airline (including annual profits) on a rejected aircraft image.
Folkestone, England - July 6, 2008 - Fishing boats moored in the sheltered harbour. In 2012, major plans were announced for the regeneration of the harbour and seafront.
Notes: Put a dash before and after the date (no semi colon). Use Capital letters for the start of sentences and place names.
The following sites that take editorial images do not (currently) require a specific format: Dreamstime, Yaymicro, Cutcaster, Mostphotos, Picfair. You should, of course, still provide relevant information about the image and always include a date and location.
There you have it then, my summary of how to create editorial captions. The hardest part for some (and I don't always get it right) is that second sentence of information. What facts can you add about the image?
When was that boat built and where? (Tip: if you can see the registration number on the boat/plane etc search on that number). When was this annual festival first held? How tall is that lighthouse? What's the population of that small Greek island? There's always something on the internet to help. Regards, David.
Back in the Seventies and Eighties I founded and ran several Fleet Street photo agencies specialising in stock images of celebrities from pop stars to politicians. These were syndicated to the National and International press and Television. These days I am active in the Microstock world and this blog charts my journey as well as, hopefully, providing inspiration and ideas to others. Image buyers should also find this blog useful with links to my portfolios and regular updates on new uploads. Unless otherwise stated all images are my copyright and may not be reproduced or copied. Comments are very welcome but will be reviewed before publication. Enjoy your visit. Regards, David.