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You may have heard the expression, "A picture is worth a thousand words."  While this is true for a complex picture with many colors or visual elements, most pictures can be fairly well described in a hundred words or less.  These descriptions, also called cutlines, can be used as captions, displayed near a picture, to describe or explain its composition, components, colors, and emotive values.

The simplest form of photo caption is the title attribute of the HTML img tag.  Although some web browsers display alt attribute text as a pop-up caption when the mouse hovers over the photo, it is better to use the title attribute for captions.  Here is an example of alt text and title text used together:

  • <img src="mallard-duck.jpg" alt="mallard duck photo" title="mallard duck">
mallard duck Most web browsers will display the title caption mallard duck near the mouse pointer when a visitor moves the mouse over the mallard duck picture on the web page.

Within an HTML table, a caption can be included above or below a photograph by specifying the caption element along with the img element, like so:

  • <table>
     <caption align="top">Mallard Duck Photograph</caption>
     <tr>
      <td>
       <img src="mallard-duck.jpg" alt="mallard duck" title="mallard duck">
       </td>
      </tr>
     </table>

A caption can also be added to a photo by placing a descriptive title above it or below it, or by floating the photo to the right or left and flowing descriptive text around it, like so:

  • <img src="mallard-duck.jpg" style="float:right">
In conclusion, a photo caption can be used to define the basic theme or topic of a picture in a few words or to explain the picture's subject matter, mood, and setting in great detail.  This website provides descriptive links to selected captioned photographs about various topics.

The Pinterest social media site has captured the imagination of many users, with its ability to categorize and caption digital images that people find while browsing the Internet.  Here are links to three sample Pinterest accounts that highlight the use of descriptive captions:

For more info about writing photo captions, see this Writing Photo Captions and Cutlines article by University of Kansas Professor Malcolm Gibson.


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Photo Captions - Photograph Titles and Descriptions