Thursday, August 13, 2015

5 Ways to Title a Photograph.

"Gone with the wind..."
Many people (both photographers and viewers) think that a good photograph speaks for itself and doesn't require a written narrative, inspirational quote, or string of hashtags to prop it up.
 But sometimes a viewer sees the title of a photograph as the integral to the image.

You probably wouldn’t read a book without a title, would you? So you might want to think about whether you want to release your photographs into the world unnamed.
 To me a title is a hint to the viewer of what the image means to me (but surely the viewers can have their own interpretations). Creating a title can add to the sense of story.

First we must contrast titles with captions.
Titles are brief one liners that need not have any grammatical structure.
Captions are a few lines of text used to explain or elaborate on published photographs. A photo can have just a title, just a caption or both. 

The purpose for a title is to guide the viewer to see the photo in a particular way. We use titles to evoke a suitable response to the photo (curiosity, surprise, amazement empathy, etc.)
In creating a title we need to answer the questions:
- how do we want the viewer to understand the image?
- what reaction are we trying to create in the viewer?

The purpose for a caption is to provide additional, explanatory information.
In creating captions we need to answer the questions:
- does the photograph need context for understanding?
- will additional information be helpful?

So how do you come up with a good title/caption?

Sometimes a title or phrase from a book (or a movie) really works. There are many websites with different quotes. Just make sure you put the name of the author in caption. (P.S. I’m talking here about non commercial use as I’m not sure whether usage of quotes would be considered as copyright infringement, but I hope not). (“Gone with the wind…” Take a look at the photo above.)

The common phrase
Common phrases are an excellent source for a provocative title. (Two-word phrases in particular) 
(Make a wish! - the title; A tiny dandelion fluff is flying away…  - the caption)
Make a wish!

Subject’s Name
 Often you can insert the name of the person/the thing in your photograph into the title.
A yellow tulip.

 Irony and word play can frequently work together to create a thought-provoking title.
(We are ready to pose for fee - the title; These horses were pasturing near the motor road. Of course I couldn’t just pass by… I have some bread with me, so they were ready to pose for fee… - the caption)
We are ready to pose for fee...

Less is More

On occasion, leaving out a piece of a well-know phrase can create an interesting title.
"...every leaf is a flower".
(“...every leaf is a flower” - the title; “Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower” (Albert Camus) - the caption).

I don't think there is a right or wrong way to name your photos and I’m not sure that it is wise to title them if they don’t speak a title to you. If they don’t, well, maybe the images aren’t as strong as we thought…

You might want not to use any titles on your photographs.
If the photograph has much to say, a viewer might want to explore the picture himself/herself.  Sometimes a viewer sees a photograph and thinks of a story in his/her mind and  might get various emotions from that ... and then he/she sees a title that is completely different to what he/she is thinking and feeling.
So you might prefer to have no titles and let your viewers see and understand you from your photographs...

 How do you choose a title for your photographs? I invite you to share some of your strategies in the comments section below.
Thank you for reading! Stay tuned!