GATHERING CUTLINE INFORMATION
There is no secret formula to gathering cutline
information. However, there are certain practices you
should follow that will allow you to write effective
cutlines after you return to your office. These practices
are covered in the following text.
How to Record Cutline Information
Cutline information maybe recorded in a notebook
or a locally designed caption log. A caption log may
serve as a handy reminder of what information you
should record An example of a locally designed caption
log is shown in figure 9-14.
What Cutline Material Is Recorded
When you gather material for cutlines, you
generally use the same methods and techniques as for
gathering information for a news story. The major
difference is that you do not need as much information,
but it must be pertinent to the scene in the photograph.
The following are a few points to consider before
you write a cutline:
What is the storytelling value of the photograph?
Is the photograph intended for internal or
external use? (Photographs for civilians may
need more information.)
Will the photograph be released to a hometown
paper? If so, you must include a hometown tie-in.
Will the photograph be used alone or with a
With these basic considerations in mind, try to stick
with the old but reliable five Ws (and H) when you
gather cutline material. Find the answers to the most
pertinent questions, and you will have more than enough
information to write your cutline.
WHO. Identify people in the photograph by rank
full name, title, hometown, and so forth. Also note
relative positions of people in the photograph when
there are more than one and if it is not obvious who is
who by action, age, gender or rank Sometimes it is
helpful for you to note the clothing or physical
characteristics of the people being photographed. Keep
in mind that when you or your photographer use
black-and-white film, it will do little good to note
yellow T-shirt or red dress on the caption log.
However, such notations as Mets T-shirt,
sunglasses or curly blond hair will prove helpful.
WHAT. The what can apply to two areas. First,
it may involve what is happening in the photograph. In
the caption log, it maybe necessary to jot down a word
or two to describe the action. For example, slicing
cake, performing PMS check or donning EEBD.
Second, the what may entail equipment in the
photograph. Unusual equipment often is included in
photographs. The equipment should be identified. An
OBA may not require identification, but an OBA with a
lifeline attached may need further elaboration. Ships and
aircraft should always be identified. Never guess or
suppose you know the proper nomenclature; ask an
expert on the scene.
WHERE. Make sure you record the location of
the action. Write down the name or number of street
names, building names or numbers, and so forth. If there
are landmarks, either natural or man-made, identify
them as well. These might include rivers, lakes, statues,
bridges and mountains.
WHEN. Record the time and date the photograph
was taken. This is especially important for wild or
stand-alone photographs that will not be accompanied
by a story.
WHY. Unless it is obvious, record why an action
is taking place. Is it part of a base basketball champion-
ship or a monthly awards ceremony? As in the when
category, this is important for photographs that will
stand by themselves.
HOW. If there are circumstances that led to the
photograph being taken and they require explanation,
make sure you know how they came about.
Matching Cutline Information
with the Photograph
You should record cutline information by individual
frame number. However, if you shoot several frames of
the same subject and action, it is not necessary for you
to record information each time. Simply list the range
of frame numbers in which the subject appeared.
When to Record Cutline Information
Record the cutline information immediately after
each shot or series of shots. Do not let subjects getaway
without jotting down the required cutline information.
They may be hard or impossible to track down later, and