Captioning: Not just for fun!

I would say this photo needs a caption (please do send me any, I’ll publish any funny ones!):

Bout avenue, theo pathitis

Theo Pathitis opens a new Boux Avenue Store in Brighton. Credit: Simon Dack/Vervate



There is whole different meaning to a caption, however.  You may have seen these if you are a Flickr user. The caption (or description) of a photo is part of the metadata of an image, described by the IPTC (punchily this is the ‘International Press Telecommunications Council’) as:


“There are 3 main categories of data:

Administrative – identification of the creator, creation date and location, contact information for licensors of the image, and other technical details.

Descriptive – information about the visual content. This may include headline, title, captions and keywords. This can be done using free text or codes from a controlled vocabulary.

Rights – copyright information and underlying rights in the visual content including model and property rights, and rights usage terms.

It’s important that the metadata stored in an image file stays with the image. Metadata is essential for identification and copyright protection. Metadata are also key to smoothing workflow, easily finding digital images via search – online or offline – and tracking image usage.”



Take this image shot at an event at Churchill Square, Brighton to raise the profile of recycling:


bag factory staff

Photo by Liz Finlayson/Vervate
The Bag Factory was in the centre of Churchill Square shopping centre today to recycle plastic bags for brand new cotton bags .
Pictured: L to R – Linda Lovely and Clara Cloggins ready to welcome people to swap their plastic bags


The caption to the images above is right underneath them.  We caption our photographs in a great program called Photo Mechanic – here is a screenshot of the section of information (i.e. the caption part of the metadata) we fill in there:


caption for bag factory


Further down on this pop up box about the photograph, there are other fields in the metadata about the date taken, location, copyright, licensing etc.  It is an absolutely vital part of our editing process as this information is intended to stay attached to the photograph for ever.

When I upload that photo to a social media platform, this information used to be automatically pulled out and added to the ‘description’ of an image.  This is not always the case in recent years and the IPTC has conducted some fascinating research into which social media platforms keep the caption and which don’t.

You may by this stage be wondering why on earth you should give a monkeys.  The thing is, photographers add this information to protect their rights to an image as much as to describe what it is about.  Also, many an image gets cited on social media as portraying something that it actually doesn’t – have you ever noticed?  This is a great read: The Gallery of Fake Images – and here is an interesting article about the misuse of images in relation to the refugee crisis on The Independent.

caption for bag factory

A few extra snippets about Captions:

  1. Media outlets also rely on this technology to ensure accuracy and copyright are correct.
  2. New and changing technology can result in captions being ‘stripped’ (deleted) from photos without the explicit intention of doing so.
  3. Add the information into images on blog posts as a matter of course, whether it is there already or not – it also helps with SEO.
  4. Even if you can’t see any information about a photo and want to use it – you really do need to try and find who originally took it by using something like Google Reverse Search or Tineye.

VERVATE take these issues of credit, authenticity and professional standards really seriously.  We will always caption your photographs so that they are protected for you as much as us.  If there are details that you would need to know such as names of people at events, we will copy that into a pdf to save you having to work out how to ‘read’ it.


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