PetaPixel

8 Ways to Title an Online Photograph

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 photo above which I’ve titled 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.

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?

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.

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.

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

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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.

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’.

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?

About the author: Kip Praslowicz is a Minnesotan street photographer, humorist, and a lover of cold weather. Visit his website here.


Disclosure: This post contains an Amazon affiliate link that compensates the author if products are purchased through that link.


 
  • Elias

    You forgot option 9: untitled. That’s my go-to.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=821223738 Masharno Wolfe

    Haha, this is so true. I’m more often than not at a loss of how to title photos that I just randomly select something that’s in the photo and put that as a title.

  • http://twitter.com/blabbermoth Blabber Moth

    Gross dirty morning snow in the middle of nowhere.

  • Vanessa

    I think I’ve used them all and at this point in my brief time as a photographer the “Stephen Shore” combined with “fauxtojournalism” is definitely appealing. You can get tired of the talking-blog-social netwrok over your shoulder all the time and just want to shoot the picture. Good post.

  • Shawn Hoke

    I’m a Stephen Shore/Gearhead’s Delight, so I would have titled it: E 4th Street, Duluth, Minnesota. December, Fuji GW690III. 90mm EBC Fujinon. Fuji Pro 400H

  • Lew

    Probably something referencing the season and location, like “Winter sunrise through the bus stop glass”. Glancing through my, admittedly sparse, photo site, it seems like I’m guilty of a combination of Gearhead (which is automated) and anthropomorphism (see: http://click.goettner.net/#14 for an example).

  • http://www.cml-brown.artistwebsites.com/ CML Brown

    LOL! I absolutely would have gone with Bus stop and Shadows. I remember reading once that Ansel Adams hated it when photographers gave a poetic name because sometimes it would distract from the image; I think he pretty much used The Stephen Shore.

  • http://twitter.com/jeremiahjw Jeremiah Warren

    I do a mixture of Stephen Shore and Blank and Blank, I like my photos to be description of the location, especially for SEO/Google searches. 

  • Anonymous

    Seems like I am a cross between “The Second Year Artist” and “Blank and Blank”. I am ok with that. haha

  • Anonymous

    Seems like I am a cross between “The Second Year Artist” and “Blank and Blank”. I am ok with that. haha

  • Zachary Fam

    lol I just give it a one word name haha I can’t think of anything else :( http://500px.com/WasabiNinja

  • Zachary Fam

    lol I just give it a one word name haha I can’t think of anything else :( http://500px.com/WasabiNinja

  • Michael Rasmussen

    3rd Year Artist: untitled #20080819
    4th Year Artist: untitled

  • Michael Rasmussen

    3rd Year Artist: untitled #20080819
    4th Year Artist: untitled

  • Michael Rasmussen

    3rd Year Artist: untitled #20080819
    4th Year Artist: untitled

  • http://twitter.com/whitehotphoenix White Hot Phoenix

    God forbid you try to actually convey meaning in your titles… In my opinion the title should compliment the photo like colours compliment each other.

  • http://twitter.com/whitehotphoenix White Hot Phoenix

    God forbid you try to actually convey meaning in your titles… In my opinion the title should compliment the photo like colours compliment each other.

  • Ade

    THE ANAL SERIAL NUMBER TECHNIQUE
    I title everything by anally generating a serial number based on the exact date and time of the photograph, but conforming to ISO 8601 basic format, i.e. reverse notation, without separators. The more digits, the more pedantic. It makes everything look so boring people will instinctively ignore the title. My band uses a similar technique to name track titles. (20110818165631726)

  • Tarmo

    Empty Bus Stop in the Morning

  • Anonymous

    I usually try to get creative with my titles. The only time I go “plain” is when i want to get more eventual hits through search engines (most of my photos are from Disney World). And as for this shot, I’d probably go with something like ‘The Sun Stops For No One’, to play off what’s actually in the scene.

  • Anonymous

    I usually try to get creative with my titles. The only time I go “plain” is when i want to get more eventual hits through search engines (most of my photos are from Disney World). And as for this shot, I’d probably go with something like ‘The Sun Stops For No One’, to play off what’s actually in the scene.

  • DLuker

    “Bus Hits Pedestrian Photographer In 3…2…”

  • DLuker

    “Bus Hits Pedestrian Photographer In 3…2…”

  • DLuker

    “Bus Hits Pedestrian Photographer In 3…2…”

  • http://grotesqa.net Rui

    I don’t title my photos. I just leave the title field blank.

  • http://mine.antorra.com/ antonella

    Too early. Too cold.

  • John

    I’d go with Cold Morning – Bus Stop. Great post! Titles are a pain; captions are even worse, but important, worthwhile, and often necessary. Fauxtojournalism? Love it!!

  • http://alexmatz.com Alex

    I’ve definitely done the Stephen Shore minus date and Blank and Blank.  What I do more though is title the series and leave the individual images untitled.

  • Lili Wanderlust

    I’m a The Second Year Artist/Pop Culture reference/Blank and Blank kind. Sorry :-P

  • http://twitter.com/Soiden Sebastián Soto

    Sunrise Stop.

    I usually use the Second Year Artist :P

  • http://twitter.com/Soiden Sebastián Soto

    Sunrise Stop.

    I usually use the Second Year Artist :P

  • http://twitter.com/Soiden Sebastián Soto

    Sunrise Stop.

    I usually use the Second Year Artist :P

  • http://photos.jonathangazeley.com Jonathan

    I don’t post my photos on Flickr. I post them on a personal blog where the individual photos don’t have titles – instead I give a title to the blog post which usually covers an event, a place or an occasion, and has several photos. I try to keep the titles short and descriptive.

  • Todd Klassy

    Um, there are two perfectly logical reasons for naming photographs if you are in the business of selling prints and rights to your photographs. Think.

  • Todd Klassy

    Um, there are two perfectly logical reasons for naming photographs if you are in the business of selling prints and rights to your photographs. Think.

  • Jack Tomlinson

    Apocalypse Rising.

  • http://www.skinnerphotographs.com Skinner Photographs

    I often lambaste my Dad for his cheesy titles on his Flickr page… you can NEVER go wrong with Untitled. Isn’t a picture supposed to be worth a 1000 words anyway???

  • http://www.skinnerphotographs.com Skinner Photographs

    This is a funny post.

  • http://twitter.com/SailTheTethys kelli g

    I like this post. I am a big fan of Blank and Blank.
    You forgot the One Word method. It’s both lazy and pretentious at the same time! This photo, for example, could be:LuminanceFrozenAglowBereftOr any other word at all, really. Glass. Road. Morning. Tangerine.**Bonus points if you use a word that has virtually nothing to do with the photo and pawn it off with an explanation of “It’s what I was feeling at the time” or some convoluted backstory (“Every morning an old woman with three fingers on one hand would eat a tangerine as she waited for the bus at this stop. This was the first day in five years that I didn’t see her. I haven’t seen her since.”)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=512657237 Andrew Braithwaite

    I usually go with your original basic description of the loose elements in the photo. Or other times, if nothing jumps out, I just leave it blank.

    I quite like the Stephen Shore approach though, and might use it on some more of my stuff.

  • R. Weaver

    I would probably call this one “Morning Bus Station” or “Before the Rush”. If my title can take viewers in a certain direction, giving the photo layers of meaning, that’s what I (try to) go for. It could also be called “Empty”, “The Next Morning”, or “Afterwards” – if I was going for a concept like, say, some kind of disaster. I’ll often take photos with some concept in mind, in which case naming is relatively easy. If you know what your picture is trying to communicate, it helps in the naming. If you don’t know what you’re trying to communicate? *shrugs*

  • http://jeffwspencer.com Jeffrey Spencer

    “Don’t sit here, because you’ll freeze your nuts off”

  • http://www.facebook.com/dpfoy Dan Foy

    The ‘second year artist’ one is both hilarious and accurate, love it :D

    I use Peter Krogh’s naming conventions from The DAM Book, and leave my online titles like those.  Makes it easy for me to find what people are talking about if they ask about any of my online photos.

    If I took a photo today and it happened to be the 5241th photo I’d taken on the camera since it last reached 9999 and reset, the title would be danfoy_20110822_5241… for online use I’d just take off the ‘danfoy_’ prefix.

  • Ibleda

    I pick whatever comes into mind XD. Yea, random words. Probably nothing to do with the photo… so what?

  • http://twitter.com/OfficialDan Dan Howard

    I would have titled it trash… and deleted it.

  • Fab

    I don’t title my photos, but if I had to title this one it would be Shining Through. Good post… it made me realize that SOME photos come up with a titile by themselves if you just stop to think about it, while others don’t unless you put in an effort to make it happen.
    As in some photos stand alone, while others only make sense as part of a group (and then the title would be the group’s).
    Food for thought :)