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How to Write Photo Cutlines

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A cutline is simply a sentence or two about the photo and naming who's in it.

Most photo cutlines should be as short as possible - one sentence if you can, with the Five W's: who, what, when, where and how. For photos like this, you can skip the "who," unless these are famous turtles at a zoo that actually do have names.

Photo by Guy Bergstrom

A cutline is simply the text below a photo.

Newspapers, blogs and websites simply need to identify who's in the photo and who took it, which they call a "photo credit."

The easiest mistake is to write a cutline that is far too long.

Unless a photo is going out as a standalone, you don't need to explain too much. They'll have the press release, oped or other material that goes along with the photo. All they need is a little context and to spell the names right of whoever's in the photo.

A cutline is written like a straight news piece, with a sentence or containing the Five W's: who, what, when, where and why.

Cutlines don't need to be artistic or creative.

Most of the time, a newspaper or blog will rewrite the cutline, depending on whether the photo needs to get cropped down to fit their layout or can get stretched out to fill space.

Caution: Cutlines must include a photo credit. Newspapers and blogs are sensitive about not printing photos that don't have a photo credit -- they don't want people sending photos they don't have permission to publish. Make sure you've got the right photo credit, and that you include it in the cutline.


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