When I recently told someone that my editing course includes time spent on writing photo captions, the person gave me a puzzled look. How hard could that be? That has to be taught?
Well, it's not as easy as it looks, but it's easy to find examples of cutlines (as we call them) that fall short. They don't explain enough, or they state the obvious, among other pitfalls.
This one, however, shows how a copy editor can save the day. This photograph, as originally sent by The Associated Press, mentioned that the man's sign had a "Seinfeld" reference. But it didn't explain the reference. The story with the photo is about a pair of wayward whales in California.
Thankfully, a copy editor at The News & Observer did, telling the reader how "Seinfeld" character George Costanza once tried to impress a woman by claiming to be a marine biologist — only to face reality one day on the beach. Now the image, cutline and story work together. Nice work!
(Click on the image for a better view.)