A Quick and Easy Guide

For a newsworthy editorial image/footage clip to have any long-term value, the image must include the following identifiers as a caption/description:

Who, What, Where



. Simply examine your image and describe what is going on. Shutterstock has a 200 character limit on captions, so please be concise and factual, and remember: accuracy is very important.

To make it easier for editors to search and correctly identify Shutterstock images, we require the following standard editorial format for captions:

CITY, STATE/COUNTRY – MONTH DAY: Factual description of the image content on [date] in [location]. Qualifying newsworthy second sentence (if necessary).

The Breakdown

Dateline. The dateline is very important because it allows editors to quickly scan through image titles for the date and location they need. Therefore, the dateline must be in an exact format, and in all CAPITAL LETTERS.

• If the city is large or well-known, such as MOSCOW, it is not necessary to include the country in the dateline or description. Please see the bottom of this article for a comprehensive list of standalone cities.

• If the exact date is unknown or does not apply, please provide as much information as available, and replace unknown information in both the dateline and description with CIRCA (Example 2).

First Sentence. Look at your photograph. Describe what is going on in the image.Here, include the necessary factual information which directly describes the depicted scene. If the photo depicts people, start by identifying the subject(s) with the person’s/people’s name(s), and describe what they are doing. Be sure to describe the action in the active present tense (Example 3). End the first sentence with the date, followed by the location.

Concerning people:

• Sports and Celebrity images should ALWAYS include the name of the person depicted.

• Human interest photos – if the name of the subject is not available, simply write “unidentified” in your caption. For example, “An unidentified woman sells vegetables—”

• Children – due to the sensitive nature of photographing children, provide the name, age, and general area of residence for all children in editorial photographs. If this information cannot be obtained and the photo is particularly newsworthy, we will consider approval, provided the description is factually accurate, and states “an unidentified child” (Example 1).

Concerning actions:

• Always describe actions in the active present tense (Example 3).

Second Sentence. Sometimes a second sentence is not necessary (Example 3). However, if the first sentence is not enough to fully describe the photograph, use a second sentence. Ask yourself: why is this newsworthy? Remember, all photos of famous landmarks or cities can be newsworthy, even if they are not taken during a particular event. You simply need to find the news angle (Example 4).

Image Manipulation. Editorial images should never be digitally altered. Scaling and cropping slightly is acceptable (sometimes you must crop a newsworthy editorial image), but you should never add or remove elements to make an image sell more, such as adding smoke at a protest or removing background elements.

What you could do simply in a darkroom is generally acceptable with Photoshop. However, changing key elements of the image to your advantage is not ethical. The best editorial image is the full frame image. If you must crop it, the “message” of the image must not change at all.

It is of utmost importance to maintain the editorial integrity of the image in every way.

List of Standalone Cities:

*Note: D.C. is not used