Keep it Clever: Yearbook Captions 101

Flip open any yearbook page and chances are you won’t just see a spread-full of photographs. That’s because a yearbook is more than just a book of photos; It’s a place where you find eye-catching headlines, short paragraphs, and witty captions that really tell the behind-the-scenes story of the page.

Writing clever yearbook captions can seem like a daunting task. But it doesn’t have to be–especially if you follow these basic steps.

Choose Spectacular Photos

Start off with great photos. The best photos for yearbooks are those that show the subjects doing something really fun and interesting. For group shots, especially, try to avoid photos that are posed. It’s best to catch people in action—try to take their photographs without them even knowing it!


Analyze the photos using what we like to call the “W-W-W-W-W-H….AT” method. This stands for “Who,” “What,” “Where,” “When,” “Why,” “How,” “Ask,” “Tell.”

  • Who is in the photo?
  • What are they doing?
  • Where are they?
  • When did this happen?
  • Why are they doing this activity? or Why was this photo taken?
  • How was everyone involved in the activity of the photo?
  • If you could ask these people questions in an interview, what would that be? (Now go ask them!)
  • What can you tell readers about this photo that isn’t obvious just by looking at it? (These are the behind-the-scenes details that are also attainable via interview!)

Keep It Simple

Captions need to be short and to the point. They should be three sentences max. The best captions also include a quote from or about one of the people in the photo. That’s where the “Ask” part of the process comes in handy. Take time to interview your subjects and you’ll get some great content that will easily flow into your captions.

Alternate Beginnings

Don’t start every caption the same way. Each one should sound unique and creative. Try alternating the start of each caption with “why,” “when,” “what,” “who” and “where” facts of each photo.

It’s Not Cool to Be Cruel

Being clever and witty is definitely different than being cruel. Don’t say “funny” things about the people in the photo that could possibly hurt their feelings.

Practice, Practice, Practice

As with anything in life, the best way to improve on caption writing is to practice. Find a bunch of photos and practice the techniques described in this post. Encourage individual practice and then with the entire yearbook staff. Group brainstorming sessions can really get the creative juices flowing!