What’s the difference between the headline, the title, or the caption and what about the description?

The problem is that the difference depends on which standard is used. You would think that the IPTC would be the standard. IPTC or Adobe? Let’s face it, Adobe is bigger and more important. IPTC is used by a few hundred organizations, Adobe (Lightroom and Photoshop CSx) is used by millionS of people and I would not be surprised if millions of organizations would be using Adobe.

IPTC stands for the “International Press Telecommunications Council.” It’s an organization based in London, UK. It’s a study group of news agencies and various news organizations so they use some common standards to exchange data among them. There are problems with the IPTC standards. There are a few versions and they conflict with each other because they renamed some fields and made some other data obsolete. Then the next problem is that they have the “core” and the extensions.

The Headline

The headline is a “short descriptive” title (with is different from the Title) that should be on ALL photographs. The headline is the text associated with the HTML tag . It’s what helps the search engines (Bing, Google…) to make an image searchable on the web. The headline is a brief, publishable summary of the photograph.

Some examples would be:

  • Family at the beach during the winter
  • Vancouver’s North Shore, British Columbia, Canada
  • Farmer at Granville Island Market, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

The Title

The title is primarily used for identification. It should a short text for identification and not a description.

Some examples would be:

  • IMG_1234
  • S Ritch: Vancouver Riots on 2011-06-21

The Caption

The caption is the new name for the old “Description” It’s still called description in Lightroom and Bridge.

The caption should be the full text of the “who, what, and where.” If there are people in the photograph, it should include their names. If the photograph is about a location, it should describe the location and also include the geographical information that is already in the city, the state/province, country…

Some examples would be:

  • Older man with a Canon 5D Mk3 and a Canon 500mm f/4L lens on a tripod at Reifel Bird Sanctuary, Ladner, British Columbia, Canada. He is walking with the camera and the lens mounted on a tripod. He is searching for a Barred Owl (Strix varia).

And now to “screw-up” everything.

It depends on how the external organization uses the data. For example, Smugmug doesn’t use the headline but it uses the title. Facebook is different…

Check your “main user” for what they require.