Naming Your Photographs, the Art of Titles.

Photography is a well recognised and appreciated form of art. With that said, you should treat your masterpieces with the same respect that any other artist in any other media would give their work. I am referring to the concept of giving your photos a TITLE. I do not mean that every shot of your dog, cat or kid needs a creative title but, special shots should qualify for a name.

When a car manufacturer builds a new car, they give it a name. The name is part of the image of the car. The Ford “Explorer” already has a personality just with the name alone. It congers up an image of the great outdoors and going too hard to find places. Why have we not had a car with the name, “Slug?”

Images that are displayed in galleries, entered for competitions, sold to collectors or hung on your wall should have a title. It allows the artist to show they value their work enough to give it a name and it also presents an opportunity to give the image greater depth. A work that has the title of “Untitled” is missing something.

How To Name Your Work
As an artist it is totally your creative choice to name your work in any way you wish. Feel free to disregard anything I am about to say, but there are some ideas for helping in deciding how to title your work.

Start by deciding what you want the focal point to be, and then explore that. From there you have a couple of ways to continue.

1. Say What It Is

  • What is in the image and then call it that?
  • Give it the name of the location or subject.
  • Do not give it personal names like the name of your dog.  It is very important to you but irrelevant to the majority of the viewers.
  • Will the person who dies not know you, and lives half way across the world, understand your title?
  • That is my litmus test for a title using this process.
  • Photo Titled, “Dear Crossing

2. Think About How The Picture Makes You Feel.
Decide the emotion, feeling or mood that you were trying to capture in the image and use them as motivations for names. When I use this technique to name my work, I use a Thesauruses.
Photo Titled, “Here She Comes

3. Common Phrases
Use something that is already common in our society that has an emotion or feeling already attached to it. An example of this is using a song title. “Pretty Woman” It is already an established idea so our brain does not have to work as hard to gather meaning from the art work.

From my own experience I normally have a collection of 15 to 30 works that I need to title, per year. My process is that I will lay out all the images and each one will have a sticky note attached. Over the course of a week I will record possible titles that come to me on the notes. I start by looking at the image and decide the focus of the photo. Then, do I want to be direct to the point or do I want to make the viewer work.
This Activity is not just limited to me. My wife is a very creative language person and I will have her brainstorm as well. All the ideas are collected and then I pick the best one. I do not throw out the sticky notes when I am done. The rejected names are all recorded for possible future use.

A Warning in the Art of Naming.
You as an artist can negatively narrow the perspective of the viewer with a name. An example was seen in the February meeting of the South Sask Photo Club, using an image of an old car with a nice country background. One person named it rust, which was accurate but some were looking at the way the car fit into the landscape but when we heard Rust. The viewer was directed inward to the car and lost the background.
Now for a challenge. What Do you think I should name this image? I will use one as the title and the person who gives me the winning name, I will send them an art card of the below image.  Good Luck.

11 responses to “Naming Your Photographs, the Art of Titles.

  1. “BEE’S DELIGHT” !!

    tee hee hee

  2. “Prairie Sunshine”

  3. “Here Comes the Sun”

  4. Title 2 “Undercover Sunflower”
    (Not a true sunflower, Ox-eye Sunflower is found in native tallgrass prairies and at the edge of brushy or wooded areas. Easy to grow and a good source of cut flowers, it produces large quantities of large, brilliant orange-yellow flowers up to two inches wide. Excellent for clay soil!)

  5. Title 3 “Herbal Identity Theft”

  6. “Three of a kind”

  7. “Who are you looking at ?”

  8. “Prairie Flowers”

  9. “Brown Eyed Beauties”

  10. “Once, Twice, Three Times A Lady”

  11. “She Loves Me….”

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