How to insert automatic numbers, captions, and cutlines for photos in Word

Word 365
Unlike most images, pictures, and charts captions, photo captions (also often called cutlines) have multiple lines of text. Many publications share the title of the photo (caption) and a more detailed description (cutline). The terms Captions and Cutlines are often used interchangeably, particularly in magazines.

The caption requirements for a figure and a photo is are different because photographs usually attract more attention than the rest of the text in the document. Moreover, it is important to tell who is represented in the photo, when, where, and under what circumstances it was taken. Often, it is also important who made the photo, as well as some prehistory (or history) of the photo:

Caption for photo in Word 365   and   Caption for photograph in Word 365

Adding captions for a photo also provides you an opportunity to include additional information that you might not otherwise be able to include in the document.

Many guidelines describe what information and details order should be for good captions and cutlines. Most of them recommend:

  • The caption (title) should introduce the photo and grab the reader attention,
  • The cutline (description) should tell the reader names, stories, dates, places, significance (the 5W's and H who, what, when, where, even why, and how).

Attention! We highly recommend checking the formatting requirements, accepted by your college, university, company, or established on the project, etc.

Preparing a photo (optional)

Microsoft Word helps automate numbering but does not tie the caption to the object in any way. Like a regular paragraph, the caption cannot be moved easily “together” with the photograph. Also, it is not easy to leave all parts of the photo description on one page when editing, deleting, or formatting the document.

We recommend inserting photos as floating images (images with text wrapping) for grouping the caption text box with an image below.

Ensure one of the With Text Wrapping choices is selected (see Text wrapping in the Word document) to group a photo and its caption and cutline later.

Layout Options button in Word 365

Note: If you don't need photo numbering, skip the next step.

Insert a caption for photographs

To add automatically updated numbers and a title (caption) for a photo, select it and do one of the following:

  • On the References tab, in the Captions group, click the Insert Caption button:
    Insert Caption button in Word 365
  • Right-click on the selection and select the Insert Caption... in the popup menu:
    Insert Caption for pictures in popup menu Word 365

In the Caption dialog box:

Caption dialog box in Word 365

Select the label and its position

  • Under Options:
    • From the Label dropdown list, select the item type you need:
      Labels in Caption dialog box Word 365

      Note: Remember that each type of object you labeled will be numbered sequentially within its group.

    • From the Position dropdown list, select one of the options:
      Position in Caption dialog box Word 365
      • Below selected item (selected by default for the Figure label), or
      • Above selected item (selected by default for the Table label).


      1. The document formatting requirements can regulate the caption's location for a photograph and any figure. Please check the requirements that you must follow.
      2. If you inserted a photo as a floating image (see the point Preparing a photo above), it would be easy to change the caption placement later.

Exclude label from caption

  • Select the Exclude label from caption check box if you don't need to add the label to the caption:
    Exclude label from caption in Caption dialog box Word 365

    The option Exclude label from caption hides the label from being displayed in cross-references or a Table of Figures.

Add a new label

  • Click the New Label... button to create a new label:
    Add new label in Caption dialog box Word 365

    In the New Label dialog box, type a new label name:

    New Label dialog box in Word 365

Note: See also how to delete a custom label.

Modify caption numbering

  • Click the Numbering... button if you want to change any of the numbering options:
    Numbering in Caption dialog box Word 365

    In the Caption Numbering dialog box:

    Caption Numbering dialog box in Word 365
    • In the Format dropdown list, select the numbering format you prefer:
    Format in Caption Numbering dialog box Word 365
    • Select the Include chapter number check box to include the chapter number in the caption number. After selecting this option, two more options will be unlocked:
      • From the Chapter starts with style dropdown list, select the heading level you need to include in the caption:
        Chapter starts with style in Caption Numbering dialog box Word 365
      • In the Use separator dropdown list, select the punctuation you want to insert between the chapter number and the figure number:
        Use separator in Caption Numbering dialog box Word 365
      • At the bottom of the dialog box, see how your choices will look in the Examples section. E.g., “Figure 2.7” means the seventh figure in chapter 2.
      • Click the OK button.

Note: See how to update caption numbering.

Add a description

  • To add the text of your caption, click after the number and enter your text. E.g.:
    Description in Caption dialog box Word 365

Note: See how to edit and modify a caption.

Using an AutoCaption

See Adding captions with AutoCaption.

Add cutlines

As mentioned above, photographs have such a feature that their description contains more than one sentence and even more than one paragraph.

If you have a floating picture (photo with any of the wrapping text options):

  • If you inserted a caption with numbering using the Caption dialog box, Word adds it as a separate text box:
    Cutlines for photo in Word 365
  • If you don't need numbering and skip steps for using the Caption dialog box, you need to add a text box with a caption.

    To create a new text box, on the Insert tab, in the Text group, click Text Box:

    Text Box in Word 365   or   Text Box in Word 365

    Select the Draw Text Box option in the drop-down list.

Click on the added text box, add a new line or paragraph, and add all text you need. See the differences in how to create a List of Figures.

See also how to change the Caption style.

Group a photo and its caption

Naturally, the photo and its description appear on the same page. To move objects as a single block, you need to group them by doing the following:

   1.   Select the floating photo (photo with any wrapping text options).

   2.   Hold down the Shift key and select a text box with the photo's caption and cutline:

Text wrapping for photo in Word 365

   3.   Do one of the following:

  • On the Shape Format tab, in the Arrange group, click the Group command:
    Arrange group in Word 365
  • Right-click one of the objects and choose Group -> Group from the popup menu:
    Group in popup menu Word 365

Word puts a single box around the objects instead of separate boxes around each object:

Grouped objects in Word 365

After these steps, a text should flow around the photo and its description, like one block. Also, the photograph, title, and description will stay together if you move them elsewhere on the page or document.

Delete a caption and an unnecessary label

If you need to remove some caption, select the caption paragraph (full line or several lines) and press Delete. Do not forget to update fields in the document!

To remove the unnecessary label, do the following:

   1.   Open the Caption dialog box.

   2.   In the Label dropdown list, select the label you want to remove.

   3.   Click the Delete Label to remove a custom label:

Delete Label in Captions dialog box Word 365

Note: You can't delete predefined labels: Equation, Figure, and Table.

See also edit or modify a caption.

We strongly recommend checking a document at least visually after changes!

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