Tag Archives: Title

Picture titles prompt your viewer

Picture titles - Quiet contemplation

• Quiet contemplation •

It’s all about communication.

It’s a great feeling when your point is understood. This is true with pictures too. When we show people our picture we want them to understand what it is about.

Sadly, pictures are often shown out of context. Then the meaning can be misinterpreted. For example, social networks and art sites show pictures. When posted with lots of other pictures the viewer sometimes needs some idea of the picture’s meaning. That is where picture titles come into their own.

Picture titles give context

A pro-photog tries to make sure their images have a point. They work to make their point from the moment they approach a scene. The final image is the result of a composition that pulls the essential elements together. It crystallises the point for the viewer.

In completing the composition the photog has a clear idea of what he wanted to achieve. It is that ‘idea’ that can be used to make picture titles. For the viewer it is the idea they need to explain the point of a picture when it is out of context on a gallery wall or where-ever.

How do you use picture titles?

The most important thing about a picture tile is brevity. To be effective you need to say it all in a few words. If the viewer has to read a long text about the point of a picture the meaning will be lost. A picture is worth a thousand words. It should express the point. The title is a sign post, a clue.

Your title will achieve two things. It will express the point of the picture. It will also give the viewer an insight into how your thinking went while making the image.

Think carefully. Leave out your brief clue to the meaning of the picture and you may leave the viewer clueless. I am sure you would not want them to miss the point of your lovely picture. Would you?

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Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photographer and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.

How to write great captions for your photographs

A caption about captions

• About captions •
A picture and caption from 365Project, a photographers social networking site.
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About captions – By Netkonnexion on 365ProjectExternal link - opens new tab/page

The power of the image is not just in the picture.

Often the image itself is not the main reason for displaying a picture. Sometimes there is a need for an explanation about your picture or something associated with it. Diagrams, an illustration of a point in the text, secondary ideas, are some of the many good reasons to have a photograph on display. However, to make the point clear you frequently need a caption for the picture.

In What about the title? I discussed how titles impart meaning and context about the picture. They capture an essence of the image in a short phrase.

Captions on the other hand are about good communication. The image, the title and caption together speak to the viewer conveying full meaning. So writing a good caption is essential. If you say anything in your caption that is at odds with the reason for the rest of the communication (picture/title/caption) you will confuse your viewer. So here are some ideas to help your captioning…

  • Think first… Captions like all communications need to be planned. Think about what you want to say, structure it logically, say only what is needed. Once it’s clear why you want it and what it should say, then
    write the caption.
  • Be brief… Say no more than you need. Reserve long explanations for the wider text.
  • Stick to the point… Explain the point of the picture and its relevance. Make other points outside of the caption.
  • Match the text to the purpose… Make sure that the tone of the writing is consistent with the main text, the purpose of the image and the title. If the caption is in a different style to the rest of the communication it will confuse the viewer.
  • Use appropriate caption format… Headshots might just be captioned with a name. Products may be fully captioned. For example “Useful Thingy-Widget showing rear wiring arrangement” explains the product shot. Diagrams should be captioned with a precise abstract of what they show. Detailed explanations go elsewhere.
  • Layout your caption neatly… If the text is arranged in a lopsided way, or if there is a mixture of fonts or other imbalances these will be obvious in a short caption. Try to make the layout attractive to the eye.
  • Resist repetition… If you have a picture of a cake the pointless caption, “Picture of a cake” serves only to frustrate the viewer. “A moist carrot cake is an ideal mid-morning confection”, says a whole lot more and still points out it is a cake.
  • Avoid replication… Do not simply write something in your caption from the main text. Complex explanations in the main text are usefully off-set by a succinct summary in the caption.
  • Avoid cliché… The tired or clichéd phrase in a caption will put off your reader. Try to make captions fresh, invigorating and crisp.
  • Explain or name groups… Six different widgets, three people or four piles of different beans all need to be explained. Name them, number them, explain them – whatever – but make sure the viewer knows which is which and in the correct order.
  • Be consistent… Each of the photographs you use should have a caption. Make sure they are all formatted the same, written in the same style, use consistent references (eg. Dia. 1, Dia. 2 etc) mounted in the page using the same graphical scheme. Deviations will confuse the reader/viewer and throw off their concentration.
  • Include credit, attributes, acknowledgements and links… You would feel cheated if your work was used and not credited. So afford the same courtesy to others if you are using images by other authors.
  • Fact check… Mistakes are glaringly obvious in captions because they are so brief. Check everything, of course, but be especially careful about captions.

Remember, your caption is one part of the communication. The reader sees the picture, title and caption as the full communication. So treat them as a single method of making a point to your reader/viewer. Make all three carry the same message overall. Use this diverse way to communicate with as much impact as possible. Your caption is a vital part of the overall delivery of your point.

By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.

What about the title?

Pictures are like jokes. If you need to explain them, they don't work.

Pictures are like jokes. If you need to explain them, they don’t work. However a title provides context – not explanation. It is a part of the communication.

Explain your picture? Really?

All too often I come across pictures that are untitled. I think a title is very important. I would like to take a little time to explain why I think a title helps the viewer.

My image above is quite a strongly defined image. However, if you have no idea what it is, then no matter how strong it is, or how well it is exposed… you don’t connect with it. Pictures are like jokes. If you need to explain them, they don’t work. Every picture is a communication. The author, in seeing something and then photographing it, has made a picture they want to show others. To leave a picture untitled, or un-captioned, may be a type of statement. However, to leave the viewer hanging, is also a statement – one of disconnection.

It is true that some pictures explain themselves, or at least explain something of themselves. An untitled sunset for example is still a sunset. More to the point, it is just another sunset. There are millions (billions?) of sunset images out there. So one more untitled one is, well, just another. Unremarkable.

The title however, conveys the feeling the author has about that picture. It may not explain the picture. It will explain the point of the authors commitment to the picture or the context of its meaning. That is worth a lot to the viewer. A couple on a sunset lit beach entitled “The Power of Love” explains the authors meaning and connection to the image. Suddenly the image comes alive in the viewers mind. An insight is gained into the vision of the author in their dedication of the title.

In everything there is meaning

If you want your picture to be depersonalised from you, then by all means leave it untitled. Everything has meaning. Human nature reaches for explanation. An untitled picture allows the viewer to own the picture by projection. They put their own meaning into the image unguided by the author. If that is what you, the author, intended then the title should be a dedication to the viewer.

The title is a part of the communication of the image. Good communicators take every opportunity to pass the message. Think carefully next time you leave an image untitled. You are saying a lot about your ability to communicate and nothing about the image.

Oh! By the way. My image above is called, “New Rugby Boots”.

By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.

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