The first step to getting a ton of Instagram likes is posting a great photo. But photo quality isn’t enough if you want to join the best of the best – you also need a killer caption. Great Instagram captions push your post over the top. They make your audience laugh, cry, and above all, identify with your photo. But more importantly, they help your account get found, so you can get more followers.
Still, crafting a funny Instagram caption isn’t as easy as it looks. Not only is it easy to second guess yourself, but if you second guess yourself over and over again, it’s easy to lose confidence. And a lack of confidence can be enough to discourage posting altogether.
Our solution? Look at the funniest users on the platform, and study how they craft their captions. We pulled the 33 best captions from a handful of well-known Instagram users, and grouped them into four categories. Once internalized, you’ll be able to easily adapt these categories to your own content—and post witty and engaging blurbs at a moment’s notice!
One of the best ways to come up with a funny caption is to practice self-deprecation. People use self-deprecation to get away with posting pictures of themselves—i.e., it can’t be self-aggrandizing if you’re poking fun at yourself. As a method, it’s super easy—simply pick out a detail about yourself, small or large, and poke fun at it. The key is to not take yourself too seriously. Let’s start by looking at the king of not-taking-himself-too-seriously, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
Caption: “We’re all fatigued and tired. Long week.. I get it. But no matter how many days and nights you do it…you’re only as good as the last one you do. Grateful to grind. Let’s get to work. And my left knee looks like I’m smuggling a human head. #SaturdayNightFunk #WestCoastIronParadise”
Some people are self-conscious about their knees. Some people might hesitate before posting a gym picture of themselves wearing skin-tight leggings. If we asked The Rock, maybe he’d count himself a member of both those groups. We’ll never know—because by posting anyway, and making fun of himself before anyone else has a chance, he redirects our attention to the intended message of the post: The Rock is an inspirational badass.
Caption: “My warm up face is always different from my game face. Both are sexy & effective. T-minus 15min ’til game time. #ProjectRock #UnderArmour #ChaseGreatness”
Staying for a moment with the king of action thrillers and 4am workouts—“Sexy and effective” is probably not the first thing that comes to mind when you see the face The Rock is making here. You know what is sexy? Humor. Comfort in one’s own skin. Those are what make this Instagram caption a winner.
Caption: “What I look like after scrolling thru my comments for 5 minutes..”
Football fans across the country know Johnny Manziel. Many of us feel personally slighted that he’s spoiled his God-given gifts and eschewed NFL stardom for a life of partying. What’s disarming about this caption? It shows that Johnny Manziel also knows Johnny Manziel. The guy can’t even post a #ComebackSZN photo in earnest these days for fear of getting cyber-eviscerated. So here he is, attempting to steer into the skid. We just hope he posted this from a gym, after working on his throwing motion.
Caption: “Bringing heavyweight drama to premier for the #LIFE movie… #SXSW. These guys are obviously wearing white tube socks under their suits.”
Ryan Reynolds is a handsome man. I know it. You know it. The guy who pumps your gas knows it. He’s so handsome, in fact, that it’s almost rude, him throwing his handsomeness all up in our social feeds. How does Ryan Reynolds get away with posting his well-manicured mug on Instagram without drawing the ire of his followers? By reminding us that deep down, he’s just another normal dude with deep-seated sock insecurities. As you were, Ryan.
Caption: “Congrats to @zkass09 on his new deal. Can always respect a guy who’s been through a lot. We never ended up fighting in my NHL career because he’d always tell me I sucked and the coach told him to not waste his time when I’d ask him. Although I hate to agree with him and his coach, he probably would have beat me up anyway. So congrats again and thanks for not beating me up. #WasThisPostAboutHimOrMe”
If you’re not a hockey gal or guy, here’s an analogy to describe Paul Bissonnette: Paul Bissonnette is to professional hockey as Cobra is to 80s cult action flicks—so bad, he/it will never fall out of favor. Bissonnette revels in his role as a washed-up, skill-less scrapper, and has accrued hundreds of thousands of social media followers as a result. Here, he endears himself to his audience by belittling the one skill that allowed him to play professionally in the first place—his ability to fight. The hashtag also shows great self-awareness. Yes, the post is about him. But he’s self-deprecating, so it’s cool.
Caption: “Trying to find my uber like…”
Ok. So Karlie Kloss doesn’t go too hard on herself here. But who among us hasn’t been a little rideshare-challenged? She gets high marks for this one.
Caption: “Facially Grace looks like a young Jared Leto & I look like an elderly postal worker who makes brooches for her close friends #sisters”
We can’t say for sure what an elderly postal worker looks like, but we can imagine it’s not good. Selfie quote strong. Selfie justified.
Captions: “Visited an Arab market and became an expert at haggling. If ‘haggling’ means ‘paying full retail and then crying.’ #ConanIsrael #Jerusalem?”
As a late night host, Conan O’Brien has a talent for (playfully) making light of his guests achievements. We love him because he rarely lets himself off the hook, either. Here, a strange man tails him as he haggles his way into some solid social engagement.
Caption: “I get a lot done at the gym”
You might know Kat Dennings as one half of 2 Broke Girls. You might not know her as girl who throws cups on her eyes to prolong hitting the treadmill. And truly: we’ve all spent an extra minute or two in the locker room to avoid hitting the weights. The best self-deprecating captions are the ones we can all identify with.
On to our next category. If you’re an avid user of the platform, you probably see several of these per day. “Imagine what they would say” is a technique by which—you guessed it—you imagine what a subject of your post would say if they had the ability to. This technique works best with babies and animals, but can also be applied quite effectively to grown human males and females. Let’s check out some of the best Instagram has to offer.
Caption: “Sharon, please just put down the phone and help me.” @icanteven
Why are animals effective subjects for “imagine what they would say” captions? Because animals are hilarious. Exhibit A: this beagle getting his head stuck in his doggie door. Without the caption, all we have is a beagle getting his head stuck in a doggie door—funny, but also kind of sad. With the caption, with have a beagle that’s probably a little embarrassed about getting his head stuck, and is demanding assistance. Definitely funnier, definitely less sad.
Caption: “Put me in coach, I got a nose for the ball” @icanteven
Continuing the theme of pups struggling to navigate human technology: here we have a very good boy showing very lackluster ball skills. That doesn’t temper his enthusiasm, though—and the caption reflects that.
Caption: “I love this footage with all my soul. Walking into the @ufcpi in Las Vegas with my son Conor Jr. in hand. Look at his neck and back muscles and his total body control. I’ve watched this too many times. He is a specimen. We are styling too…”
Conor McGregor is notorious for his bravado. It’s helped him earn deals, win fans, and probably, win fights. Is ascribing your very young son that same machismo a humorous social media tactic? For this writer, yes, very much so.
Caption: “Do you think bears remember going into hibernation when they wake up or do they just wake up scared and confused like the morning after I go to a Lady Gaga concert…”
Part-time comedian, full-time rising musician Armen Paul is always good for an online chuckle or two. This rarely-seen-but-effective tactic sees him substitute commentary for stream-of-consciousness monologue. Can’t think of anything funny to say about a solo shot of yourself? Simply select any one of the outrageous thoughts that occur to you throughout the day.
Caption: “Doggorino meets the beak boy (pls teach me ur ways)”
There’s a new dialect emerging on the internet. Some find it incredibly annoying; some live by it.
If you can stomach it, Doggo™ is quickly becoming an Instagram like machine. And don’t feel bad about using your pet for social validation. We all do it.
Click to watch.
Given that Doggo is not the easiest dialect to master, we figured we’d give you another chance to see it in action. We saw this video spread to multiple accounts and news feeds, and get mounds of engagement along the way. If you can somehow situate your pet in a majestic wildlife predicament, and set the scene with a psychedelic keyboard number, get ready to see even more likes roll in.
Caption: “I told her that she’s the only thing I cared about evacuating with. ‘My drink won’t refresh itself, peasant’ she replied”
It’s easy to play on the over-zealous and occasionally dim-witted demeanor of dogs for the sake of a good Instagram caption; but it might be even easier to play on the demeanor of cats. Evil cat—conniving cat, jerk cat, what have you—is always good for a laugh when you’re posting a picture of your fuzzy calculating one. Just look at that face. That is an animal that will maul you in your sleep, then all but ruin the chiffarobe.
Caption: “I leave my phone alone for 2 seconds… #DogSelfie #BeautyFilter”
This is less an “imagine what they would say” than a “imagine what they would do,” but the premise remains the same. You probably know Allison Williams from Get Out and Girls. You probably didn’t know that her pup rarely misses an opportunity to hack her phone with a #DogSelfie. If you have a dog or a cat, the faux-selfie selfie quote / selfie caption is a guaranteed crowd favorite.
We’ve come to the category that’s my personal favorite—wordplay. Not only is wordplay funny, and not only is it obvious, but often, the more obvious it is, the funnier it is. So if you’re apprehensive about sounding lame—don’t worry. In the world of wordplay, it’s better to be lame than not.
Let’s check out some examples of great wordplay captions.
The New England Patriots were hard luck losers in the Super Bowl, but I think we can all agree they go home winners with this Instagram caption. “Minne-snow-ta” sounds like the punchline of the joke your Dad told at Thanksgiving. It’s so bad, it’s good.
Good on ya, New England. If only we’d seen this kind of execution on defense.
Caption: “Where do you take your board meetings? @freeconferencecall”
We didn’t know Anastasia Ashley had this #fire ad copy in her! Ashley is a pro-surfer-turned-social-influencer who uses her clout to help companies like FreeConferenceCall build brand awareness. This awfully punny bit of wordplay was enough to earn a spot on our list.
Caption: “I like turtles.”
If you were asleep in 2007, and missed the I Like Turtles Kid, do yourself a favor and click the link. As far as this post is concerned: it takes not only musical chops to make it in the music business today, but a stellar social media presence. Armen Paul knows that all too well. Wordplay like this has allowed him to gradually amass a solid Instagram following. Slow and steady wins the race.
Caption: “SHAQTIN A FOOL HAS EYES EVERYWHERE”
You’re forgiven if you’re not a sports fan and didn’t understand most of the words you just read. “Godzingis” is the nickname of Kristaps Porzingis, the 7’ 1” Latvian savior of the New York Knicks franchise. #Shaqtin is the social media hashtag Shaquille O’Neal uses to call out people for doing silly, clumsy, or idiotic things—i.e., Shaqtin’ a fool. That’s right. Wordplay has the power to change one’s own name into a social media movement. (Doesn’t hurt being Shaquille O’Neal either.)
Caption: “I just hate that feeling when…”
Looking for silly wordplay captions? Look no further than Tilda Lindstam. Tilda is a 24-year old Swedish model who gets damn creative with her captions. For the social media lay person, “bae” is another word for “love interest.” Nobody likes when bae leaves. (Definitely throw a couple bay leaves in your jambalaya too, though.)
Not too much to say here. Fit a popular two-word meme into a food item and you’re at the top of your game.
Caption: “Spruced up”
Ms. Kloss’ name is spattered all over this list—but it’s not for her tree-identifying abilities. If you really scrutinize this picture, you’ll notice that in it, there are in fact no spruce trees. Still, you have to appreciate the range. Karlie made this list for self-deprecation and wordplay. That’s a diverse caption portfolio, people.
Our final category is “call out a friend” captions. This method is best practiced by making a playful joke about a friend in your photograph; but as you’ll presently see, there are a few different ways to go about it. Let’s dive in!
Caption: “One more still from the @vanityfair photo shoot. I have to credit the brilliant photographer @markseliger who discovered me wedged between these two rocks. It took him all day to pull me out. I had been stuck there for hours. I had barely enough strength to stare pensively into the distance. I mean, it was bad. Anyways. I almost had to chew off the lower half of my body to get out. But I’m not flexible enough. Bottom line. I could have died. But thanks to the brilliant photographer @markseliger I’m alive to tell the story, which is currently being optioned for a movie.”
This caption is pretty indicative of Chris Pratt’s brand of humor—ridiculous to the point of defying a category. We figured we’d throw this one in “call out a friend” because, hey, the description bears a striking resemblance to James Franco’s 24 Hours. But truly, what makes this caption effective is that it turns the subject from a guy who earnestly looks off into the distance into a guy who earnestly looks off into the distance but has a sense of humor about it. If you’re ever looking for caption inspiration, Pratt’s Instagram is a good place to start.
Caption: “Yo thanks to @antheaking @briandmagallones and the insufferable @micahmarcus for making me purty”
As far as pointed jokes go, Sarah Silverman has certainly done better. Still, if you’re looking for a formula for how to call out a friend in an Instagram caption, you can do worse than this. Mention friend in post. Say not nice thing about said friend. Friend experiences embarrassment. Post experiences engagement.
Caption: “Stealing John’s photo haha she’s not even his anyway”
Who’s safe from Chrissy Teigen’s diabolical captions? No one. Not even her husband, John Legend. The “he’s not the father” is a favorite among celebrities—you might have seen Blake Lively’s dig at Ryan Reynolds—and why not? Those guys get some pretty big egos. A little cage-rattle every now and again is totally healthy.
Caption: “Happy Birthday to the ageless, one and only @thehughjackman”
Speaking of Ryan Reynolds—the guy just keeps bringing the Instagram caption heat. To wish Hugh Jackman a happy birthday, he paid homage to time Jackman weighed 130 pounds, lived in a one-bedroom apartment in the projects, and smoked $2 cigars. We’re sure Hugh appreciated the sincerity.
Caption: “About to have dinner at Alimento with this 14 year-old runaway I picked up at the reservoir.”
Pictured in this post is Patton Oswalt’s wife, Meredith Salenger. A talented actress in her own right, Meredith is decidedly not 14. Still, for her age (47), she has a youthful complexion. This caption is a good example of the fact that you don’t have to be totally facetious in your call out. You can be complimentary as well (even if that compliment is shrouded in sarcasm).
Caption: “Skiing with my girlies. #whistler with a man in the back pretending there’s a game on.”
There is an Instagram account out there devoted to men who have been forced to go shopping with their wives and girlfriends. We think there should be another devoted to men forced to take or be in pictures. Either there was a riveting game on, and this guy was too intrigued to notice Chelsea Handler’s picture, or he simply didn’t have the energy for a proper photobomb, and decided to feign interest in a faux-game to avoid having to get up. Whatever the case, he adds a funny element to the post, and good on Chelsea for having the wherewithal to call him out.
Caption: “Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. You gave birth to me an excruciating 468 weeks late. I was 9. We were both so happy to be free.”
You can’t keep this guy off this list! Reynolds comes back here with a dynamite Mother’s Day Instagram caption. Like Chris Pratt’s earlier post, the humor here sort of defies a genre. Is it absurdist? Mother-ist? Difficult to say. What we can say for sure: it’s eminently like-able.
Caption: “Happy birthday to my right hand man @davidspade this is us in a scene from Braveheart.”
There’s definitely a tragic sort of bravery in Benchwarmers, but we can safely say it’s of a different breed than that shown in Braveheart. We love this Instagram caption from Nick Swardson because it’s self-aware. Also, because he calls out himself as well as a friend. He’s not a big budget dramatic actor. Nor is David Spade. Thus, Swardson gives us the best of both worlds—the friend call-out, as well as self-deprecation.
Caption: “Still Love Ted Cruz’s work in FISTFUL OF DOLLARS.”
Patton Oswalt takes a break from his wife in this post to focus on his other love interest: bashing the GOP. This is a variation on the “call out” method we’ll call, “call out your enemy.” No, that is not in fact Ted Cruz at the end of this clip. But it’s really, really funny to imagine that it is.
In this post, we’ve outlined four different ways to approach Instagram captions on your next Instagram post. Internalize these categories, adapt them to fit your own life, and you’ll be well on your way to becoming an Instagram caption pro. Most important of all, don’t think too much about it. Take a page out of Spaghetti Western Ted Cruz’s book: fire from the hip!
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Gordon Donnelly is an SEO jedi who proudly honed his chops at WordStream for 5+ years. Today, you’ll find him at home in Boston, building Triple Whale’s world-class e-commerce analytics platform, or helping businesses of all sizes grow through SEO, advertising, and content marketing.
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