Add value to your photos

You’ve heard it said that a picture is worth a thousand words. But often in our business of education and information, it’s a few words that add value to a good picture.

In journalistic parlance, the words used to describe the who, what, when, where, and why of a photo—the cutline or caption—sometimes can turn an interesting or attractive shot into a powerful educational resource with long-term value.

In a perfect photo, all necessary information would be incorporated into the shot. The location would be obvious, the subject would wear a shirt with his/her name printed on the front (along with the date), and the subject would carry a sign revealing the reason for the photo. But since that’s not likely, the only way to ensure your photo's value and longevity is to write down—on or near the photo—those five “Ws.”

Recording photo descriptions

The simplest ways to handle photo descriptions are to print the information on the slide mount or on the back of a print, or to create a log sheet with descriptions that correspond to the number on the slide or print.

For digital photos, there are cataloging applications such as Portfolio or PhotoTrack. These allow the photographer to write elaborate descriptions that are tied to the individual photos within a digital photo archive.

Recording accurate cutline information eliminates second-guessing later on and solves any mystery surrounding who or what the subject is and when, where, and why the shot was taken. A photo with a complete description is more likely to be used in future publications, websites, posters, and presentations.