How to Use Extended Captions for Photo Essays

When I announced the next assignment would be for Travel Photography with a photo essay of, at least, three photos.  I know some of you became a bit uneasy.  The word “essay” does conjure up a laborious task most of us thought was left back in our school days.  Photo essays are a bit different.  The photos help to tell the story of the essay.  What is needed are extended captions to fill in information about the photo to the reader and tie the photos together.

Extended captions should include the basic information of what, where, when and who (if a person is the subject). Additional facts or interesting information about the photo’s subject beyond the basics. You might have a personal opinion about what’s in the photo. For example, if the photo is a restaurant, you might give a mini-review if you ate there.

Here is an example of an extended caption using one of my travel photos from a trip I took back in 2005. I included the photo data in the photo caption for reference. The extended caption follows in italics.

Nikon D70, 18-70G lens, 1/250s, f/8, ISO 200, EV 0, 48mm focal length

Nikon D70, 18-70G lens, 1/250s, f/8, ISO 200, EV 0, 48mm focal length

Millennium Bridge over the River Thames in London, England with St. Paul’s Cathedral on the other side partially covered in scaffolding for renovations being done back in October of 2005. The Millennium Bridge opened in June of 2000 but was closed almost immediately for its own renovations.  Nicknamed the Wobbly Bridge after participants in a special event to open the bridge felt an unexpected and, for some, uncomfortable swaying motion during the first two days after the bridge opened. The bridge was closed for the next two years to make modifications to eliminate the swaying motion.  I can tell you when I walked over it in 2005, there was no swaying motion.

The first sentence gave the what, where, and when of the photo’s subject, the Millennium Bridge.  A little research on the bridge uncovered interesting and, no doubt, costly information about the bridge’s opening.  I thought it interesting enough to include them in the extended caption.  I ended it with a personal note of my experience walking over the bridge.  Had I know of it’s history, I might not have been so nonchalant about crossing it.

Add a couple more photos with extended captions about London or the River Thames or Bridges and you have yourself a nice photo essay.

Click here for more travel photography tips from National Geographic magazine.

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11 Responses to How to Use Extended Captions for Photo Essays

  1. Gerry says:

    That is a fascinating photo. Between the scaffolding and the stepped-down terraces on the red brick building on the left, it looks like the bridge took a bite out of the streetscape! (Um, OK, overactive imagination here.)

    I’ve never been on a swaying bridge, or at least not so’s you’d notice, but I have driven across one that fell down during its construction: the Zilwaukee Bridge. Practically everyone in Michigan has probably crossed it at least twice. I can’t think why we do that. Probably in denial.


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  3. Wow, I love this photograph and thinks for the tips on the essay. I’m not a very good writer but I certainly love to read other people’s blog.


  4. davecandoit says:

    Great info on photo essays, Scott. And a really nice photo to boot. I’d love to travel to exotic places and foreign lands.


  5. Nye says:

    Beautiful photo Scott, it’s like stepping back in time.


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