On the back of a photograph intended for reproduction the author should write or type a brief explanation of what it represents. If he is skillful in phrasing this explanation, or "caption," as it is called, the editor will probably use all or part of it just as it stands. If his caption is unsatisfactory, the editor will have to write one based on the writer's explanation. A clever caption adds much to the attractiveness of an illustration.
A caption should not be a mere label, but, like a photograph, should have life and action. It either should contain a verb of action or should imply one. In this and other respects, it is not unlike the newspaper headline. Instead, for example, of the label title, "A Large Gold Dredge in Alaska," a photograph was given the caption, "Digs Out a Fortune Daily." A picture of a young woman feeding chickens in a backyard poultry run that accompanied an article entitled "Did You Ever Think of a Meat Garden?" was given the caption "Fresh Eggs and Chicken Dinners Reward Her Labor." To illustrate an article on the danger of the pet cat as a carrier of disease germs, a photograph of a child playing with a cat was used with the caption, "How Epidemics Start." A portrait of a housewife who uses a number of labor-saving devices in her home bore the legend, "She is Reducing Housekeeping to a Science." "A Smoking Chimney is a Bad Sign" was the caption under a photograph of a chimney pouring out smoke, which was used to illustrate an article on how to save coal.
Longer captions describing in detail the subject illustrated by the photograph, are not uncommon; in fact, as more and more pictures are being used, there is a growing tendency to place a short statement, or "overline," above the illustration and to add to the amount of descriptive matter in the caption below it. This is doubtless due to two causes: the increasing use of illustrations unaccompanied by any text except the caption, and the effort to attract the casual reader by giving him a taste, as it were, of what the article contains.
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