If your photo is important, then it needs a caption.
If your photo is not important, then don't post it.
Facebook and Twitter have emerged as the leaders in the social networking spotlight, yet there are several hundred others including deviantART, Flickr, Classmates, Friendster, LiveJournal, LinkedIn which all share a common malady. There is a prevailing notion to chat, blog, post pictures, and socialize -- yet not reveal any detail. While I realize, and even advocate, protecting your identity and personal, private information on the web, many times not giving enough information is detrimental to the information itself.
FaceBook users expect everyone to know what or who the picture is. I get so frustrated with people on FaceBook when pictures are posted -- but no captions. Who is this? When was it taken? Where is it? Back in the 1990s we called it "shovelware" -- where people would just blindly drag whole folders of images or clip art or fonts into a web directory with no idea of what they are or why they were posted. If you go to flickr.com you see thousands of great photos with no idea who, what, where or why. Were they put there just for everyone to look at and use? Is it a visual free-for-all? Who knows? They are just there -- most without even an intelligible name attached. Many are posted with copyright notice, or Creative Commons, but without the proper notivication, and no name or date. Guess what , folks: It's not a copyright unless correctly annotated. You lose.
DeviantART, Behance and the 'portfolio' sites are some of the most frustrating. Some awesome art and graphics are presented there, but with little information about who created it, where they're from or any thing about the intended purpose of the posting. Consequently, they cannot really be taken wholly credible. In many cases, art, paintings and photographs could easily be forgeries or lifted from someone else's portfolio. How do we know? In many cases, the ownership and copyright on postings is strongly indicated -- yet incorrectly. Behance requires sometimes a half dozen clicks and new page loads just to get you to the information about the portfolio owner -- and then it turns out be some weird name. Who is Lggkcgob? Why did they post the information in the first place if they didn't want to be known and contacted?
Captions reveal the importance of the information
Captions are the words positioned underneath or beside an image or graphic in visually presented information. These are very useful for helping the reader get the gist of the nature of the graphic image and the significance it has in relation to the material being presented. (wiktionary.org) If your post is important, then it needs a caption. If your post is not important, then don't post it.
How important are captions?
For years, in my Creative Layout Techniques workshops and seminars I heavily stressed the value of captions. Of course I had a good teacher, David Ogilvy -- probably one of the most successful advertising geniuses of all times. His book, Ogilvy on Advertising, focuses again and again about the importance of captions in a most persuading way. He stresses that writers should always include captions with all of their photographs each and every time. According to the research Ogilvy cites, 4 times as many readers read captions as body copy and 10 times as many people read headlines as body copy.
Proven time and time again in all sorts of reading research, people scan first and read second. They only read if their initial scan sparks their curiosity with something worthwhile, or something they directly relate to. We know that reading ANYTHING, whether it's a magazine, newspaper, or web page, the order of eyeflow goes like this:
first - pictures: am I interested?
second - the largest type: if it's easy to read and short
third - captions: what is the picture saying.
last - the text: if so motivated by the above three
Since the illustration is first on the human eye scan, then any specific information which is directly attached or in close approximation to the image will get scanned. Perhaps even before headlines. Your posts will automatically be more credible, your readers will enjoy and like them better, and you'll have a better experience.
And like I said before:
If your post is important, then it needs a caption.
If your post is not important, then don't post it.
Thanks for reading
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- David Ogilvy video #1 Direct Marketing - Renowned Advertising guru David Ogilvy gives a brief speech on the importance of direct marketing.
- Ogilvy & Mather - Giants of Advertising
- The importance of captions This article by Jeff Sexton goes into much more depth on this subject if you care to dig deeper.
- Social Networking Web Sites - a fairly complete listing of the most influential social networking sites, along with some statistics about each. This is at wikipedia.org