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The title: The magic of a magical photo

The Individualist © Andre du Plessis FRPS


I’m a huge fan of super titles on photos.

There’s just something so special about seeing an image, studying it for a few moments and then reading a title that makes me think, “Of course. I totally get it!” I get a warm, fuzzy feeling inside, kinda like I’m in on the secret. I understand what the photographer wanted me to know, and I gain some insight into not only why he or she made the photo in the first place, but also who the person is behind the camera and what makes them tick.

Think of a great title as tying up a present with beautiful, red satin bow.


Eternity of the Moment © Jure Kravanja


It is true that a title is unnecessary in some cases. Some images stand on their own merit without words, and then it’s up to the viewer to piece the puzzle together. But when the author provides a title, and when it sings to me, that image is etched into my memory forever. And isn’t that what we all hope for our photography — that it stands out from the crowd?

So play along with me here. We’ll turn this into a little game.

I’m going to show you 25 images. Take your time scrolling through them, but don't peek at the title at first. Instead, look at the photo, take it in, and then scroll down to see the title beneath it. Some will surprise you; some will make you laugh; some will make you think twice; and some will seem so simple and obvious — that’s precisely how ingenious they are.

I like to believe that all of them will show you how words, in any language, can instantaneously wrap up an image into a perfect little package that stays with you … forever.


Facebook Update © Marsel van Oosten


Jewelry Box © Barbara


Just the Two of Us © Piet Flour


Drained © Dave Nitsche


The Window Cleaner © Koen Pieters


The Divorce © Miles Morgan


Last Train © Tatsuo Suzuki


World's Worst Hunting Dog © Mircea Costina


The Sensuality of a Boeing 737 © Jan Gravekamp


Freedom © Daniel Alonso


AIDS © Philippe Put


Chasing Happiness © Photography by Jonas Kroyer


Speed of Life © Markus Studtmann


An Elephant in Sheep's Clothing © Marina Cano


Scar © Lionel Orriols


Us and Them © Adrian Donoghue


Ikebana © Olga Mest


Sun Salutation © Christine Frick


Waiting for the Miracle © Matjaz Cater


The Picture of Dorian Gray © Irina Csapo


Courageous © Sergey Kokinskiy


The 13th Apostle © Andre du Plessis FRPS


Vaginae Terram © Carlos Perez Vasquez


Interested © Stergios


Last Night on Earth © Fabien Bravin


I almost always struggle to come up with a good title for my photos! I don't consider myself a witty person. I'm pretty dry in my titles though I do try to be expressive with them. It definitely is a skill some are better at than others. Even though I may feel a strong emotion or feeling attached to one of my images it's difficult for me to apply anything but a dry explanatory quip. Keep on trying, I suppose!
I was happy you showed an image from David N. I was just looking at this website the other day. A great conceptual photo is not easy…..and his are amazing..some i have never forgotten…like the one you used. Kudos to you…for remembering him. :) And yes agreed about titles being a help. Usually, more often than not they are a help. When they are gimmicky (is that a word) then that is crying shame. :)) You chose Andre's photo The apostle…well one of my personal faces of his…and the title seems pretty near perfect for the whole scene and what the man looks like…Nice article. :)
I totally agree with you, Phyllis. Conceptual photography is so much more difficult than it appears, and Dave Nitsche's images have always made a huge impression on me for that reason. He makes it look so easy, right down to the title he chooses, but to pull that off — from start to finish — as well as he does is no simple task. Andre does a great job with his titles too, you're right. I imagine he doesn't feel an image is completely done until he finds the perfect words for it. Gimmicky titles don't do it for me either, but neither do unimaginative ones. I know we can't always get it right, but if you're going to attach words, it's so worth the effort to at least try. Thanks for adding your thoughts here. Always a pleasure to hear from you :)
Excellent and fun selection of aptly-titled images Mandy. Especially that monkey:) I agree that a title rides with a photograph, much like in other divisions of the arts. As long as the title is not there to add substance to an image that might be lacking ... a sort of a band-aid measure.
That's a good point, Andre. A title can only serve as that little added bonus to send the message home to the viewer. If a photo misses the mark in the first place, the title surely won't improve matters. Speaking of that monkey, I imagine Marsel was pretty happy with himself when he came up with that jewel of a title :) And rightly so. Good to hear your thoughts on this, and thanks for chiming in.
Facebook update, that's it :-) Thanks, Mandy for this fine blog !
:) FB Update makes me laugh every time I see it. Great to hear from you Hans-Martin. Glad you enjoyed it!