Words that matter in a photograph

There are a bunch of things in life that we often take for granted. They are usually the little things which we sometimes never notice but they play a significant part of our lives & they are often never talked about or expressed in words. I for one like to capture precious moments in the form of images using a camera. While many people would simply walk past something interesting, I choose to capture & document moments like these… untouched, un-posed & unique in its own way. I often tell people that I shoot nothing… nowadays when I look back at the images I capture whether it’s using my trusted iPhone or my DSLR, it would seem so. But I would like to think of it as a documentation of life in its most raw & unbiased way possible.

Words that matter

A picture is worth a thousand words”… We hear that said quite often. That may be true but at times it’s difficult to know how each individual interprets an image. Our different personalities & life style or even upbringing alters each individual’s perception & interpretation of things that we see, touch & hear… subtle difference in mood & timing will change the impact of an image. So sometimes it’s good to “steer” or guide the viewer towards the intended meaning of your interpretation of a photograph. A title or a caption helps in the story of the image you are trying to convey. Simple words or sentences, sometimes in the form of a question even, adds to the image. This is why in many photography competitions, there is usually a section when you submit a photo that asks you to talk about the photo & how you captured it. I’m not saying the EXIF information! It’s more about what went through your mind when you took the photo. Some of us may think that’s lame, but it means the world when you get it right in the way it hits the emotional bulls eye!

What kind of words?

Well…. Something is better than nothing! If you shoot a dog & call it “A Dog”… it’s better than leaving it blank, I feel. But when I shot this photo, I just felt like giving the little guy a voice…

I called this, “Lazy Dog“… the caption I used was “Dude… please point that lens at some other dog’s face will ya?” Not ground breaking but rather than leave it as Dog, I added a little humor & gave the little fella a personality.

This I called, “Hey You!“… as if the statue was coming alive out of the wall & called out to you. Rather eerie the churches in Barcelona… lol!

This was taken by a friend who was fiddling with my camera while we were at a cafe for drinks. She never used a DSLR before so this was one of the very first shots she fired with my camera that day. Hence, I called this photo “Through another person’s eye“.

Some simple words can make wonders for some of your images. Choosing the right ones can be challenging at times, but used wisely it will make the photo stand out a little more.

Words to avoid

I found that the choices of words to use as the title or caption for a photo can make or break the intended meaning of your interpretation. If we are not careful, it is possible to spoil the beautiful sunrise shot by making remarks that don’t add to the image. Let me give you examples of how this can happen.

Putting the EXIF/gear information in your caption

Some may disagree with me, but EXIF data as a title or caption does not enhance the image. It’s technical terms which adds very little artistic value to it. While you are required to ensure an image still has the metadata information when you submit it for a competition, it does not influence the judge’s decision to award it with a winning vote. It is there merely to satisfy that you are within the boundaries of the competitions rules & regulations. Gear also almost never determines a winning photograph from another. No sane judge will rule in favor of a photo captured by a L lens simply because the photographer used a better piece of glass versus a better composed, more captivating & emotional photo taken using a cheap plastic lens.

Random shots!

This is quite classic… and I see a lot of people using this term to name their albums & photos! It cracks me up to think how exactly do you actually take a “random” photo? Is it anything like giving your camera to a trigger happy chimpanzee Joe who has Parkinsons after 5 shots of espresso? Jokes aside there are bigger implications to this than just a word. As a potential client, I may be browsing websites like Flickr or Facebook looking for potential photographers for jobs & recommendations. If I were say someone who wants to hire a wedding photographer, I am most certain never going to hire one who calls his photos “random”! The word simply suggests you do not care about your photos & couldn’t care less what people think about them. Another term used which closely relates to this is “simply shoot”… it’s basically the same thing. All I can say is *facepalm*… sigh!

Captions which demonstrate lack of confidence

This is quite similar to saying that you are shooting random shots. Comments which say, “Mine isn’t as good as what Jack shot that morning…” etc doesn’t help. You can perhaps say that yours is a different interpretation of some of your friends photos. Let the audience decide which they like more. You don’ t have to admit defeat even before people have seen your photo. You may never know, you might have a masterpiece with you!

Leaving the filenames as they are

This happens I can see on Flickr accounts. Folks upload a photo but leaves the title as the original filename in which the photo was captured. It’s funny that people spend time going on outings to take photographs, come home to upload them onto their PCs & perform all sorts of HDR rendering & post processing… all that creativity, but they can’t spend 10 secs to name a photo. Very odd indeed!


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