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April 17, 2020

Write Food Captions

Captions increase the understanding and engagement of photos.

In fact, I found that the type of caption I use made my user engagement vary by 300%!

If you could increase your media engagement by that much, how many more people would you reach?

Today I’m going to show you how to write the best captions for your food media.

Sense Test

All captions need some kind of photo first. Even if you have an idea for something that you want to talk about, then you get the media to support it, you will probably still end up tailoring your caption to match your photo.

With that, all captions should start with a sense test.

What senses are we going to use?

Of course, photos and videos are very visual so we are going to use our eyes. But even more importantly, we have to use feelings.

There is something in copywriting called EMV, which applies to writing headlines.

Writing headlines and writing captions are very similar.

They’re both short, to the point and attention grabbing enough to set up a continuation or call to the action for the customer.

EMV stands for emotional marketing value. Some companies like Hubspot have an EMV headline analyzer that tells you how well your headline connects with the reader’s feelings based on the words within the headline.

Before we use those calculators, let’s use our sight first to analyze your media and see what we can come up with.

I have a 5 step process that I follow and it always helps me come up with at least 3 captions so I can recycle my content.

First, I look for the focus of the media. Usually a photo has something in focus especially if the photographer used a camera with high aperture and blurred the background. I list everything that could possibly be in focus.

Then, I look for the positioning of the items within the photo. I look for elements within the photo that are placed in a front/back fashion, side by side fashion, top and bottom fashion or other ways of positioning.

After, I look for the background or surrounding of the focus. I like to know if I can make a connection of what’s in focus and out of focus so that the customer feels that there was a reason why this media is being posted.

I also like to list out all of the ingredients of everything in the photo. This can be ingredients of any foods or parts/materials of any item, even the table or floor.

Lastly, I list out all the colors and numerical values that are relevant to the media. For example, if there are four dishes, I write down four. If there’s a lot of red, I literally just write down red. This may seem pointless to you now, but wait til you read why I do it in the next step…

Rhyme, Ono, Puns, Pop Culture,

Now that you have a bunch of keywords within your media. You can now get creative by matching the keywords you wrote with what I know is the most entertaining and memorable ways of writing: with rhymes, onomatopoeias, puns, wordplay and pop culture references.

For each word that you extracted in the previous step, use them in a couple of Google searches:

  • Words that rhyme with [keyword]
  • Words that sound like
  • Words with [keyword] in it
  • Puns for [keyword]
  • [keyword] wordplay
  • [keyword] pop culture references

And last but not least, say the word to yourself 10 times. See if you automagically think of something that someone hasn’t thought of yet.

With all of these words, you now have at least a dozen angles for writing your caption.

Sentence structure

Now we’re at the fun part. Formulating the first part of your caption. You have a bunch of rhymes, puns, and wordplay that you can now put into a sentence.

Here are some examples of keywords from some photos I had and then some captions I wrote based on the keywords.

Call to action

Every piece of content you push should have an objective, whether it be to get your viewer to take action or even if you’re just brand building and promoting other content.

Know your objective for the content that you are writing a caption for.

By knowing that objective, you can now write an effective Call To Action, which is a way to ask for an action from your audience.

Here are the most-used calls to action:

Learn more by clicking here.

Sign up by clicking here.

Like if you think the left dish is better.

Comment what you think our next daily special should be.

Tag a friend that can eat a dozen donuts!

Save this post and show it at the cash register to claim the coupon!

The call to action should always be at the very end. It serves as giving your viewers the next step if they are still interested in what the next step may be.

If your content was so good that your readers are still intrigued and curious after reading your caption, you will have a lot of people taking you up on your call to action.


What if you want to convey an emotion that isn’t in your photo and also can’t quite be explained in words without being too wordy?

You use emojis!

Emojis have become very popular in text messaging and the use of them has expanded to social media posts and even advertisements.


Well, the first reason is the one I mentioned above. With caption writing, there is very limited space to work with.

Think of it like real estate. You want to put the maximum amount of value in the area that you have.

The second is because they convey emotion. Remember the EMV I was talking about earlier? Usually, headlines and captions with emojis increase EMV, of course only if used correctly and relevantly.

The last is because emojis are colorful. On most platforms, caption text is black. And on most platforms, people type letters and words in their caption without any expression. Some people don’t even use CAPS to capture attention.

Lastly, don’t overdo it with emojis. As with anything if you annoy people with too many emojis or make it seem spam-like, your readers will turn their attention away.


Your marketing channels all do one thing really well collectively: they tell a story about you or your brand.

If you notice that a brand has connected a couple of consecutive posts in a row regarding the same topic and you feel like it’s leading up to something, it’s probably some kind of announcement or product/service launch.

This is what I call a sequence.

When it comes to big announcements and launches, it is much better to build up the excitement over 1-2 weeks rather than surprise people on launch day.

When you build up excitement over time, people are literally looking for your next post, therefore guaranteeing reach and engagement for your brand.

One way to think of it is watching a movie versus watching a TV series.

While watching a movie, suspense builds and they keep you curious during 75% of the movie, then the whole story unfolds in the last 25%. The suspense is short-lived and even though you might have had a bit of a rush, you scratched your itch very quickly which made it less memorable.

While watching a TV series, suspense builds and they keep you curious during 75% of each episode. Literally every single episode gives you suspense and some episodes even leave you at the point of a cliffhanger…

Which means you have to wait until the next week in order to scratch that itch.

It’s something that you’ll be talking to your closest friends and family about until that new episode comes out, which also might build even more suspense and give you another pending itch to scratch.

So, you can see now how have a series of content to build up excitement and emotion is much more powerful.

I highly recommend considering sequences when you’re writing a caption.


Last but not least, it’s always good to output at least 3 captions for each picture. That way, you can recycle your content and test it at least 3 times before you keep it or dispose of it.

If it doesn’t reach your expectations by the end of the life of the 3rd post, you can keep it in your content library but move it to a different folder and darken the row in your spreadsheet.

So that’s how I’ve written my food captions which have increased engagement by up to 564% per post.

Is there anything that I missed which can generate even more creative and attractive captions?

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Wilson Muh

Wilson Muh

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