The Ropes

Translating photo captions

Barbara McClintock, C. Tr.

Captions are the concise headlines over the words (cutlines) describing a photograph. Use the present tense and active voice in captions to emphasize the action in progress. However, be careful not to mix the past and present in the same sentence. If the time element is essential, introduce it into another sentence to avoid a jarring effect.

It helps to have the photo in front of you when translating. Name people in the photo from left to right or explain where they are positioned if there are special circumstances. Captions should contain all the necessary articles and conjunctions to form full sentences. It is preferable to avoid writing “is shown doing ...,” “is pictured,” “looks on,” and obvious descriptions such as “smiles,”or “waves.”

In the example below, the captions are in bold.

Photo de groupe des dignitaires. De gauche à droite : Kate Middlemay et William Prince (à genou), Laverne Drapeau et Shirley Lamarche.

Dignitaries pose for a group shot. L to R: Kate Middlemay and William Prince (kneeling), Laverne Drapeau and Shirley Lamarche