Titles?


Titles – to be or not to be? That is the controversial question.

  1. “Titles aren’t needed if the image is good enough. The viewer should be able to see what they can or want to see in the image.”
  2. “Titles help lead the viewer to my point, or it makes them think another way.”

Two very good arguments, and indeed, in number 1, if the image shouts emotion, and/or obvious elements that help build the point, then it does its job well and you might think a title is unnecessary. Think again!

Why? You want to make the viewer look longer and deeper, so a title jogs the subconscious into thinking more about it. It’s secret mind’s business and you should take advantage of that. There’s an art to that and this article and others will help expose the secrets. (Check out Smart Thinking)

Exercise: OK, first of all – look at the image below (click to enlarge it) and imagine you’re standing in front of the real thing.  What do you get from it?

(Click image to enlarge)
By Ken Walker (Critique coming soon)

Now, here’s an interesting point: An obvious thought might arise, like, “Oooh, I like that tree”, and you click/chimp away. You might see what you saw in your photo in the first place, whatever it was, (phew) but unless you highlight elements that excited you, no one else is going to see what you thought you saw. (phew)

You’re in trouble if you look at a subject and can’t identify important elements and a title that depicts them – apart from a gorgeous sunset or pretty girl etc. Ever took a shot and later thought, “What the (insert your appropriate word) was I thinking?” Nah, me neither…. 🙂

Important bit. But if you knew, that before you pressed the shutter, that you HAD to title the image because it’s going in a posh gallery – then you’d be more inclined to ask yourself,

  1. “What do I like/feel about this tree,
  2. what are its defining elements, and
  3. what techniques do I have to use to highlight those elements?
  4. What helps to accentuate, and detract from, those elements?”

Then all of a sudden, it will force you to really try to understand that you might like about it in earnest – the bleakness of it, its starkness, its resilience and so on. Now that’s a different story to just liking the tree for some unknown reason and being a hit and miss affair.

Take Ken’s beautiful photo here. If it didn’t have a title, you might appreciate the technical aspects like contrasty, mono treatment, the starkness, and whatever else you see on the surface. If you’re arty, you might see with adjectives instead, or as well as. Strong, striking etc.

But knowing that Ken saw and depicted perfectly the idea of the tree “Standing Proud”, would subconsciously make people look deeper, and hopefully you did too. Exercise: Take a few seconds and consider the words/feeling/ramifications of Ken’s title please.

Finished? OK. The subconscious mind can’t help but associate the words “Standing Proud” with ideas like strength, standing there upright/steadfast, the dark ground gives a solid base, arms out in defiance, black for solid………..  Your mind unwittingly, subconsciously looks in the image for associated elements to words, and you might nod your head in agreement – or wonder what he was on if he hasn’t highlighted the important elements, or enough.

But what if the title was “Beaten”? Exercise: Take a few seconds and consider the ramifications of that title please.

Finished? OK. Now your mind can’t help but associate that word with entirely different feelings and it will subconsciously look in the image for elements depicting “beaten” – stripped branches, loneliness and isolation, black/colourless, harshness of the light down on it…….

By the way, downer emotions like sad, angry, gloomy etc evoke stronger and longer lasting reactions than happy, pretty etc. More on that in another article.

Two emotionally different feelings from the same image but you’ve been manipulated by the sneaky photographer. 😛 Adjectives make the difference. It’s secret mind’s business at play again.

So you might say that proves that titles aren’t necessary. But even if you don’t actually title the image physically, at least use the process for yourself.  By taking the time to think of a descriptive, adjectival title before you shoot. it will make you look deeper, shoot better, and create an image that portrays its essence with more depth. Take control and learn to use all the significant free tactics of your art and your craft to augment the not so insignificant moolah you’ve spent on gear. Art (mind and heart) with Craft (Technique) equals a masterpiece = positive reaction and recognition.

Important bit –  But it’s been shown that adjectival titles attract, prompt, evoke emotions, stir opposition, intrigue and more – in the subconscious – we can’t help it – we’re hooked. You can move mountains with a word or phrase. People will linger longer and think why you’ve used that title. Whether they agree or not, they’ll think more about your image. It’s better than them scrolling past after assuming they got it, heck, they might even Like you.

Interesting bit – The rules of advertising are: Attract/bait (title and content) – hook (title, relevance) – action prompt (=Like button) Another article on this topic coming soon.

Homework – Try to think more, shoot less as per below:

So instead of, “Oooh, that’s nice”, click/chimp,click/chimp, click/chimp –

  1. take your time,
  2. get “into the zone” of the subject, get to know “it” and maybe its surrounds,
  3. think thrice (what do you feel, identify defining elements that make you feel that way, determine the best title to suit),
  4. then shoot once using the appropriate techniques to shoot smart.

It’s the makings of a master and a masterpiece. 

Have fun, Adrian

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