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8 Ways to Title a Photograph


Filed under Musings on Photography.


I love what the Internet has done for the sharing of photography. Social websites such as Flickr make it so easy to get our work in front of the faces of people on the other side of the Earth so easily that it boggles my mind sometimes. This incredible ability of technology has one horrible side effect however. I’m talking about title fields.

Back in 1972 if you wanted to share a stack of fifty photos with someone, did you have to provide a title for every single image? I don’t believe so, but if any old timers want to chime in, please do.

These days the method I use to title a photo is fairly straight forward. If I can think of something clever within ten seconds up looking at a photo, I use that. If not, I just give a very literal and unbiased description of what is being depicted in the image. A Man With A Brace Watches A Tall Ship or A Swimmer Swims for example. Or the following photo which I’ve titled An Empty Bus Stop.

An Empty Bus Stop

As a fun experiment, I thought I’d see how many additional methods I could utilize to title the same photo. Lets have some fun shall we?

The Stephen Shore

This titling strategy is a simply the location and date of the photograph. Named in honor of Stephen Shore’s Uncommon Places.

An Empty Bus Stop
E 4th Street, Duluth, Minnesota. December 12th, 2010

Gearhead’s Delight

Why bother making the title have any relevance to what is actually depicted in the photograph when you can use it to squeeze out every last technical spec about the equipment used to create the photo?

An Empty Bus Stop
Fuji GW690III. 90mm EBC Fujinon. Fuji Pro 400H. Tiffen 67mm 81B Warming Filter

Fauxtojournalism

For when you want to come off looking like a photojournalist, but in reality you’re not. Make up a story to go along with what is happening in the image, and eschew things that a professional journalist might take into consideration. Such things as fact checking or not including personal bias.

An Empty Bus Stop
The poor status of Duluth’s Central Hillside neighborhood has gotten so scary that no one even waits at the bus stop any more out of fear of crime.

The Second Year Artist

Perfect for people who are newer to photography. They may have just scored their first show at a local coffee house, but are yet to build up a decent body of work around a single concept. The artist will then attempt to compensate for this by titling the photographs with excessively deep or poetic titles in an attempt to inject a higher level of grandeur.

An Empty Bus Stop
Majestic morning awoken by golden illumination.

Data Dumper

A method used by those who go straight from their camera to a photo sharing website. Why bother even try to name the photographs when the website will figure one out based on the EXIF data? Photographs titled with this method also tend to travel in packs.


DSC_0667.JPG

DSC_0668.JPG

DSC_0669.JPG

The Pop Culture Reference

This one is always a favorite with the teenagers. Take any object shown in the photograph and find some sort of pop culture reference that is vaguely illustrated by the photograph. Movie titles or famous quotes are good, but this method is truly dominated by song titles or lyrics. If a song title is used, bonus points are given for including all of the lyrics as the photograph’s caption.

An Empty Bus Stop
In the cold light of morning

Title taken from the band Placebo. Here is a fan video for the song which coincidently enough is a slide show of vaguely related photographs.

Blank and Blank

When all else fails, just pick two objects depicted in the photograph and implode them together with the word ‘and’.

An Empty Bus Stop
Bus stop and Shadows.

I leave you with two questions.

  1. What kind of naming strategy do you use with your own photography?
  2. If the photo I used in this post was your own, what would you have titled it?