An image caption is a short explanation, usually no more than one sentence long.

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An image caption is a short explanation, usually no more than one sentence long. Captions are positioned underneath images or illustrations and are usually used in news and magazine articles.

The difference between alt text and a caption is that alt text only provides a short description of an image when it is not already clearly visible and when the computer mouse is hovered over the image. A caption is used to add detail to an image accompanying text and will either describe the image or draw attention to it, by explaining its relevance to the article or other piece of text.

How to write a caption

The main points to remember when writing a caption are:

  • It needs to either describe what is going on in the picture or explain the picture’s relevance to the text
  • It should be no more than one sentence
  • If it is not your work and you have obtained permission, you need to credit the original creator

The two examples below show two different types of caption.

Examples of captions

Photo of JISC Digital Media staff running a webinar

Jisc Digital Media run webinars on a monthly basis

The photograph above of two team members of Jisc Digital Media rehearsing a webinar. While the caption underneath does not describe the image itself, it is relevant to what is happening in the image and to what Jisc Digital Media does as a service.

Photo of seven houses called the Painted Ladies in San Francisco

The Famous Painted Ladies | San Francisco's Painted Ladies / Tony Hoffarth / CC BY-NC-ND-2.0

This is a photograph of the famous ‘Painted Ladies’ houses in San Francisco, taken by photographer Tony Hoffarth, who had uploaded it onto his Flickr account. The caption shows what information you must provide when using someone else’s work that has a Creative Commons licence. You must provide the title of the image, the original creator’s name and the type of Creative Commons licence that the image has.