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Image Caption

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Image Caption

You can say a lot with an image. You can also say a lot with words. Instead of arguing about which one is better, why not have both? In your blog, you will want both images and captions to help guide your reader. In some blogs, images are all but mandatory, such as travel blogs. Even Lewis and Clark drew pictures of their travels! Here is how you can make the most of your images using captions.

Photo Caption

A photo caption or image caption is a written description that sits directly underneath an image. This image can be a photo, drawing, diagram, piece of art, or anything else rendered in an image file format.

In a blog, many of your images will have photo captions.

Image Caption Importance

Captioning your image is essential for four main reasons: to clarify your image, to enhance your image, to cite your image, and to optimize your blog for search engines.

Here is a process to help you create an image caption.

Explain what that diagram means to your blog or argument if you include a diagram. If you include a photo of a place, specify that place and time. Any image you include that might be unclear to the audience needs a caption.

If there is a chance that your reader doesn’t know the content or purpose of your image, you need to include a photo caption.

Image caption, Flower example, StudySmarterPassion Vine at the Norfolk Botanical Garden in Virigina. Wikimedia Commons.

The above image caption clarifies the kind of flower and its location.

2. Enhance the Image With an Image Caption

Improve your image by adding further context, including emotional context. You can make an image more dramatic or sadder with a caption, but captions are especially good at adding humor to an image.

Image caption, Humor example, StudySmarterA tiny bug with a tinier bug chilling atop it. Wikimedia commons.

When enhancing an image, you can make it more amusing and engaging to your audience.

Don’t feel the need to enhance every image you add! Some images stand better without enhancement, and groups of images might appear bulky if you caption each one. However, if the picture is not yours, you will need to cite it.

A citation is critical if you do not own the image. Photos and images you do not own should contain some kind of citation confirming where you got the photo or image. The pink text below is the citation.

Image caption, Citation example, StudySmarterAct IV, Scene III of Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew. Wikimedia commons.

How to cite your image in APA and MLA formats is included later on.

Image Captions and SEO

The final reason to caption your image is different from clarifying, enhancing, and citing. The final reason to capture your image is search engine optimization, shortened to SEO.

SEO is all about accessibility for the search engine and the reader. The more accessible your blog is, the higher it will climb in the search engines.

Because captions stick out, people naturally read captions while scanning a blog. If you have no captions, readers will not have captions to scan, and you will lose that avenue of accessibility. Include captions where you think it’s appropriate! If you don’t, you miss an entry point or gateway to bring in readers.

Because your readers are likely to see your captions, make your captions strong and indicative of your article! Don’t make your captions long or daunting. Make them catchy and easy to interpret.

MLA Image Captions

Choose MLA-style captions if you want a strong academic style in your blog or if you need to caption images in an academic essay that uses MLA style. If you are captioning an online image in MLA format and you don’t have a works cited section, you need to include:

  • Figure number (relative to your other images in the article or post)

  • Title (your description)

  • The artist or photographer (last name, first name)

  • Source of image

  • Date created (when the work or image was created)

  • URL

  • Date accessed

You might notice how academic this appears. You probably won’t use MLA citations in your blog, but here is how that would look. Note that you should replace INSERT YOUR URL HERE with the actual URL, with no caps or colorful format!

Image caption, MLA full citation, StudySmarterFig. 1, Rabich, Dietmar. “Beautiful cherry tree stump in Hausdülmen, Germany.” Wikimedia, 3 April 2021, INSERT YOUR URL HERE. Accessed 17 June 2022.

If you have a works cited section, here is how your image caption should appear for an online image:

Image caption, MLA citation, StudySmarterFig. 2. Charles J. Sharp, Ground agama in water, 2014.

This is how the image would be further annotated in the works cited section.

Sharp, Charles J. "Ground agama in water." Wikimedia, 3 Nov. 2014, INSERT YOUR URL HERE.

APA Image Captions

Captioning your source in APA style is an alternate style to MLA, but it remains academic. Use APA if you want to capture a formal style. If you are captioning an online image in APA format and you don’t have a works cited section, you need to include:

  • Figure number (relative to your other images in the article or post, placed above the image)

  • Caption (placed above the image)

  • Description

  • Title of the website

  • The artist or photographer (last name, first initial of first name)

  • Year created (when the work or image was created)

  • URL

  • Copyright year

  • Copyright holder

  • Disclaimer

Here is how that would look. Note that you should replace INSERT YOUR URL HERE with the actual URL, with no caps or colorful format!

Figure 1.

A tree stump with many rings.

Image caption, APA citation, StudySmarterNote: Beautiful cherry tree stump in Hausdülmen, Germany. Reprinted [or adapted] from Wikimedia, by D. Rabich, 2021, INSERT YOUR URL HERE. 2021 by D. Rabich. Reprinted with permission.

If you have a works cited section, here is how your image caption should appear for an online image:

Figure 2.

A ground Agama swimming in water.

Image caption, APA citation, StudySmarterNote: A ground Agama in water. (Sharp, 2014)

This is how the image would be further annotated in the works cited section (or reference list).

Sharp, CJ. (2014). Ground agama in water. Wikimedia. INSERT YOUR URL HERE


Suit your image captions to your needs. In a more academic or business setting, go with something more formal like APA or MLA. If you are blogging casually or prefer a minimalist style, try one of the simpler methods of image caption and citation.

Image Caption - Key Takeaways

  • An image caption is a written description that sits directly underneath an image.
  • This image can be a photo, drawing, diagram, piece of art, or anything else rendered in an image file format.
  • Clarify, enhance, and cite your images using the image caption.
  • Photos and images you do not own should contain some kind of citation confirming where you got the photo or image.
  • Your image caption can better your search engine optimization (SEO).

Frequently Asked Questions about Image Caption

photo caption or image caption is a written description that sits directly underneath an image.

Clarify, enhance, but importantly cite your image to complete the image caption.

Here is a simple caption: 

Act IV, Scene III of Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew. Wikimedia.

Captions are important because they help explain your image and improve search engine optimization.

Yes, photos should have captions. It is particularly important to include captions if you don't own the photos because you need to cite the source.

Final Image Caption Quiz

Question

What is another name for a photo caption?

Show answer

Answer

An image caption

Show question

Question

Where is an image caption generally located?

Show answer

Answer

Directly underneath an image.

Show question

Question

What is considered an image on a blog or academic essay?

Show answer

Answer

A photo, drawing, diagram, piece of art, or anything else rendered in an image file format.

Show question

Question

Which of these is not a reason to caption your image?

Show answer

Answer

To argue your image

Show question

Question

How do you "clarify" an image using an image caption?

Show answer

Answer

Explain what that diagram means to your blog or argument if you include a diagram. If you include a photo of a place, specify that place and time.

Show question

Question

When should you clarify an image using a caption?

Show answer

Answer

Any image you include that might be unclear to the audience needs a caption.

Show question

Question

What kind of context can you add to enhance an image?

Show answer

Answer

Emotional context. You can make an image more dramatic or sadder with a caption, but captions are especially good at adding humor to an image.

Show question

Question

What is the goal of enhancing an image with a caption?

Show answer

Answer

When enhancing an image, you want to make it more amusing and engaging to your audience.

Show question

Question

"You should caption every image in your blog."

True or false?

Show answer

Answer

False. Don’t feel the need to enhance every image you add! Some images stand better independently, and groups of images might appear bulky if you caption each one. However, if the picture is not yours, you will need to cite it.

Show question

Question

When can you not cite an image you don't own?

Show answer

Answer

Never.

Show question

Question

What is SEO?

Show answer

Answer

Search engine optimization.

Show question

Question

How does captioning an image improve SEO?

Show answer

Answer

Because captions stick out, people naturally read captions while scanning a blog. If you have no captions, readers will not have captions to scan, and you will lose that avenue of accessibility.

Show question

Question

Which of these do you not need in a complete MLA image caption citation (no works cited section)?

Show answer

Answer

Place where image was made

Show question

Question

"If you have a works cited page, your MLA and APA image caption citations will be longer."

True or false?

Show answer

Answer

False. They will be shorter.

Show question

Question

What do you need in a complete APA image caption citation (no works cited section)?

Show answer

Answer

Figure number, caption, description, the title of the website, the artist or photographer, year created, URL, copyright year, copyright holder, disclaimer

Show question

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