Nearly all AP captions follow a simple formula:
* The first sentence of the caption should follow this structure; the first clause should describe who is in the photograph and what is going on within the photo in the present tense followed by the city and state where the image was made, following AP style for the city and state as appropriate. Captions must give attribution for action not seen (e.g. the scene of accident where more than 10 died, according to police). The last portion of the first sentence should be the date, including the day of the week if the photograph was made within the past two weeks, and preceded by a comma. (e.g., Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2008). These three elements are MANDATORY and no caption is complete without all of them. Names should always 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 that there is no confusion for who is who.
* The second sentence of the caption is used to give context to the news event or describes 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 may be 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 daily pictures of the president do not need a second sentence either.
* Whenever possible, try to keep captions to no more than two concise sentences, while including the relevant information. Try to anticipate what information the reader will need. Any non-publishable information in the body of the caption should be set off by dual asterisks, (**) both before and after the highlighted information.
THIS IS AN EXAMPLE OF THE STANDARD AP CAPTION:
Democratic presidential hopeful U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., delivers his policy on Iraq speech, Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2007, in Clinton, Iowa. Obama called for the immediate withdrawal of all U.S. combat brigades from Iraq, with the pullout being completed by the end of next year. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
FOR HANDOUT PHOTOS (provided or released by governments, armies, companies or other official sources):
In this image released by the Milk Processor Education Program, actress Glenn Close is shown in the latest ad for the National Milk Mustache got milk? Campaign. (AP Photo/Milk Processor Education Program)
The caption should begin with In this photo released by, followed by the name of the providing body.
The name of the releasing body is then repeated in the photo credit: (The name of the releasing person or organization should be translated according to AP style, where applicable.
The special instructions header field should contain the following; AP PROVIDES ACCESS TO THIS PUBLICLY DISTRIBUTED HANDOUT PHOTO TO BE USED ONLY TO ILLUSTRATE NEWS REPORTING OR COMMENTARY ON THE FACTS OR EVENTS DEPICTED IN THIS IMAGE.
ALL handout images from ANY source MUST, as a final step, be examined carefully in Photoshop by at least two editors on the handling regional photo desk. If there is any doubt about the integrity of a handout image, it should not be transmitted.
DO NOT use DESCRIPTIVE OVERLINES such as:
1. SAFE AT SECOND-For a baseball play at second base, or PRESIDENT ADDRESSES WOMEN-For a presidential speech to a women's group. Regular captions have NO overlines.
INSTRUCTIVE OVERLINES will be used in the following cases:
1. For FILE PHOTOS the word FILE will be the OVERLINE.
Example: FILE – Johnny Depp is shown in London, in this Jan. 10, 2008, file photo. Depp won the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy for his role in "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street", announced, Sunday, Jan. 13, 2008, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant, File)
2. For ADVANCES the OVERLINE is the word ADVANCE and the RELEASE DATE. Do not use story slugs or writer's name in the OVERLINE.
Example: **ADVANCE FOR WEEKEND MAY 15-16** Sean Smith, a fish culturist at Vermont's new fish hatchery in Grand Isle, Vt., one of the Lake Champlain islands, moves young rainbow trout on May 4, 1993, to a new tank. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot)
3. For SPECIALS the OVERLINE should be the word SPECIAL and the name of the publication. Do not use the authorizing editor in the OVERLINE. Also, if the city is not part of the formal title of the publication's name, add it. Put SPCL in the subcategory field of the NAA/IPTC header.
Example: **SPECIAL FOR THE CLEVELAND PLAIN DEALER** Diana Holmes participates in the second day of the 66th annual National Spelling Bee in Washington Thursday, June 3, 1993. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds)
4. For EMBARGOED photos the OVERLINE should be the word EMBARGOED with the RELEASE TIME and DATE. Also, add HFR (Hold for Release) in the SUPPLEMENTAL CATEGORY field of the NAA/IPTC header for embargoed photos for same day release.
Example: **EMBARGOED UNTIL 1 P.M. EST, SUNDAY, DEC. 10, 2006** This undated handout photo provided by the Census of Marine Life shows a Kiwa hirsuta, the Yeti crab, a new species found near Easter Island. (AP Photo/Ifremer, A. Fifis)
If the date when the photo was made is unknown, state "date of photo unknown" in the body of the caption and in the INSTRUCTIONS field of the NAA/IPTC header.
The SIGNOFF for an AP staffer or stringer is, in parentheses, AP Photo followed by a slash and the name of the photographer. Don't use str or stf. Example: (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer). If the name of the photographer is not known or needs to be withheld, the signoff is: (AP Photo).
MEMBER PHOTO SIGNOFF: (AP Photo/USA Today, Anne Ryan). Put MBR in the BYLINE TITLE field of the NAA/IPTC header.
HANDOUT PHOTO SIGNOFF: (AP Photo/General Motors). If photographer is known: (AP Photo/General Motors, John Smith).
POOL PHOTO SIGNOFF: (AP Photo/Bill Waugh, Pool). For pool photos, do not name the newspaper or agency that shot for the pool in the caption signoff. However, put the name of the organization that shot the pool in the Source field, after the word POOL, for example, POOL AP. The BYLINE TITLE field of the NAA/IPTC header should contain the word POOL. The Instructions field should also say POOL PHOTO.
SPECIALS PHOTO SIGNOFF for photo shot by AP: (AP Photo/Al Smith). If made by member's own photographer: (Chicago Tribune Photo/Bill James).
FILE PHOTO SIGNOFF: (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi, File). If the name of the photographer who shot the file photo is not known the signoff should be: (AP Photo/File)
AP GRAPHIC SIGNOFF: (AP Graphic/Karl Tate).
HANDOUT GRAPHIC SIGNOFF: (AP Graphic/AccuWeather, HO).
TV FRAMEGRAB PHOTO SIGNOFF: (AP Photo/CNN)
MANDATORY CREDITS, OUTS, CORRECTION INFORMATION should always appear in the caption box and should be set off by twin asterisks. Corrective information is placed before the caption, credits and restrictions are placed after the signoff. This information must also appear in the INSTRUCTIONS field of the NAA/IPTC header. When necessary in the caption box, they appear AFTER the signoff.
HANDOUT PHOTOS: The use of handout photos requires the release of the copyright holder when known. The AP provides access to handout images only for the editorial use involving what is depicted within the image. All handout photos will be accompanied with the following text in the Special Instructions.
AP PROVIDES ACCESS TO THIS PUBLICLY DISTRIBUTED HANDOUT PHOTO TO BE USED ONLY TO ILLUSTRATE NEWS REPORTING OR COMMENTARY ON THE FACTS OR EVENTS DEPICTED IN THIS IMAGE.