Associate Professor of Art & Photography.
How to Title Your Photographs
Titles can serve many purposes for your photography. Some photographers start with a title and use it as inspiration to create a photograph. But, I think most photographers title their photos after they’re created. In this case, a title can come up by critiquing your work with the intention of discovering a title.
Having a title as part of your photograph sets up an added dimension of consideration for the viewer. An effective title forms a kind of poetic relationship with its image.
The image stands connected to the title and together the two communicate something different than the title or the image would separately.
You offer the viewer a more enriching experience with an effective title because a title can serve to expand and enrich the story within your image. The viewer may be inspired to find the connections you have implied by emphasizing a relationship between the visual image and the narrative text. In this way, the viewer gets to participate more in the experience.
Lines from poems or songs are resources some photographers like to use.
I don’t recommend titling an image “untitled” because it is so commonly used that it puts your photo in a common category. Less interesting titles simply describe the image. I also recommend staying away from cliché titles which everyone else has used to death, like “Home Again”, Ace in the Hole”, “Down to Earth”, “Wake-up Call”… you get the idea.
If you want to check your idea against a good list of clichés, here is the site to go to:
So, how do you start titling uniquely and creatively? Start by looking more deeply into your photographs and take note of what words come to mind. You might respond emotionally. It might spark memories. You might even experience smells or sounds associated with the image. All of this information is material for a unique, personal, and pertinent title. Write it down, make a list and brainstorm. When you have some material use it to put something together.
You can also ask someone else to respond to your photos using single descriptive words. Or they might imagine some titles for your photos. This can be a great way to encourage someone to engage your artwork and help you see something you might not see. Write it all down and start putting words together.
If all else fails, you can try this website which generates random titles for artwork.
http://noemata.net/pa/titlegen/ It’s entertaining and strangely intuitive.