Search Menu


This site is available only to JEA members. Please log in below.

Caption writing & headlining photos


In this lesson, students will discuss the importance of including a caption for each photo included in a publication.  Then, students will learn about AP Style for writing captions and headlines for photos as well as how to expand photo captions for traditional yearbook photo captions.  They will finish the lesson by practicing writing their own captions and headlines to go along with photos.


  • Students will learn about AP Style for writing captions & headlining photos.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.


45 minutes


Class set: Caption writing handout

Class set: Caption writing practice

Lesson step-by-step

1. Discussion — 5 minutes

Discuss: What is the purpose of a photo caption (also called a cutline)?  What information should a caption include?  Why is it important to include a caption for a photo?

2. Activity — 20 minutes

Pass out Caption Writing handout.  Go over the rules together.  Explain that this is one set of rules, and different publications may follow different sets of rules.  The most important thing is consistency within a publication.

Have students work with an elbow partner to look at the samples and then practice writing their own.  (Students they may make up any details about the photo that they do not know).  Then, ask several students to share their examples and provide feedback.  Repeat for the second photo.

3. Practice — 20 minutes

Pass out Caption Writing Practice.  Tell students that they may work with a partner (or alone) to write captions for the 9 photos on the practice sheet.  For each photo, they should write a headline and a complete caption according to the specific directions given.

4. Homework

Finish Caption Writing Practice, if not already done.


For more experienced photographers/quicker learners: allow them to explore alternate styles of writing photo captions (for instance, National Geographic’s style requires photographers to go beyond the basics and really tell a story in their captions).  You could also choose to have students write different styled photo captions for their own photography.

For students who struggle, it may be difficult to ask them to create photo captions from scratch on the last page of the practice worksheet.  In this case, teachers could provide students with the basic who/what/where/why/when information so that students do not need to invent that information prior to writing the captions.  Teachers can also minimize the number of different caption styles students need to learn (for instance, a yearbook teacher might only ask a struggling student to learn the yearbook caption style, etc).