Captions are Critical

They say a picture is worth 1000 words (and I’d argue that pictures can say much more than that), but what about actual words associated with your pictures?  Does the picture above tell you much without the caption alongside it?

2016-12-05 (18) 0027
My grandmother’s bad handwriting (she was left-handed but wrote with her right) on the back of the picture.

When you go through old pictures, you may be fortunate enough to have extra information to tell you what is going on in the picture.  Some people were good about marking information on the back of pictures (though the actual pen or marker was not good for the physical photo itself!).  Others put pictures in photo albums that allowed space to add information about the photos on the page.

My favorite captions are those that give more than the Who? What? When? Where? data and provide insight on the Why or How come.  What was Mom thinking when she took that picture?  What is the meaning of that particular gift?  Why were these people on vacation together?

One thing that makes me sad for today’s kids is the lack of stories attached to their photos.  Since most people aren’t printing photos out or organizing them properly on the computer, these stories are getting lost.  We have thousands of photos of the children born in the age of the digital camera, but they aren’t as meaningful as the handful of photos taken in the 1960s or 1970s in the family’s collection.

Stacy and Cheri (5 weeks)  Cheri sure makes her laugh!
“Stacy – 5 weeks.  Cheri sure makes her laugh!”

I was fortunate to be born in a family that valued photos, took more than average, and added information to them.  As I digitized my baby photos and my sister’s baby photos, I smiled over and over as I added captions in my mother’s words.  Even though there’s a five-year difference in our ages, apparently my sister and I were enamored with each other from the start.  How much does this caption strengthen our relationship now when we see how close we used to be?

Experts say it builds a child’s self-esteem to see family photos.  David Krauss, a licensed psychologist from Cleveland, Ohio, says, “It is so helpful for children to see themselves as a valued and important part of that family unit.” (  How much more meaningful are those photos when there’s a story along with them?

Set aside time each month to caption and tag your digital photos.  Even better, print important ones out and note your thoughts about them.  Use a photo-safe pencil on the back or put the pictures in a photo album with space for handwritten notes.  It’s more than worth the effort to have the story with the pictures we’re taking in this digital age!


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