AP Style Photo captions

Source:  Details from Associated Press 
Please reference your latest Stylebook for details listed below.
View Quick reference for AP Style 

The first sentence of nearly all AP captions follows a simple formula:

  • Describe in the present tense who is pictured and what is going on within the photo.
  • Name the city and state (or country, if it was made outside the United States) where the image was made. For U.S. states, use the abbreviations in the “state names” section of the Stylebook.
  • Provide the date the photo was made, including the day of the week if the photo was made within the past two weeks, and preceded by a comma. (e.g., Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015).

These three elements are mandatory and no caption is complete without all of them. Names should be listed in order, left to right, unless it is impossible for the caption to read normally otherwise. With multiple people identified within the caption, enough representations to placement are necessary so there is no confusion as to each subject’s identity.

Captions must give attribution for action not seen (e.g., the scene of accident where several people died, according to police).

The second sentence of the caption is used to give context to the news event or describe why the photo is significant. While a second sentence can be illuminating, it also has the potential to create problems and is often where errors can be found. A photo caption’s second sentence should be carefully crafted to include information from the text wire story when appropriate or additional relevant observations from the photographer on scene. There are some instances when a second sentence is not needed. Many sports photos taken during a game or match, for example, do not require a second sentence; nor do photos from some ongoing news events.

Most captions should be no more than two concise sentences, while including the relevant information. Try to anticipate what information the reader will need.


German Chancellor Angela Merkel addresses the media during a joint news conference with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu after a meeting at the chancellery in Berlin, Monday, Jan. 12, 2015. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

Reminder – All submitted photos have a caption for a single or multiple submissions, photo galleries and embedded in the Photoshop files.
Example of photo caption for all assignments:

St. Cloud State University President Robbyn Wacker addresses faculty and staff in Ritsche Auditorium, located in Stewart Hall, during the Fall 2018 Convocation in St. Cloud, Minn., Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2018. (Photo/Jane Smith)