How To Name Your Photographs

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What’s in a photographs name?  A description perhaps?  Maybe you merge a couple of words together to create a funny name like a picture of a cat in Italy named Catily.  Maybe it’s DSC001299?  Naming a photograph is an important part of any professionals workflow and it should be an important part of yours as well.  Naming your photographs helps people who are interested in your photography find a specific photograph they may be interested in.  Not many people will remember DSC001299, except perhaps Dustin Hoffman from the Rain Man.

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A name is defined as a word or set of words by which a person, animal, place, or thing is known, addressed, or referred to.  When you name your photograph you give it an identity beyond what the viewer sees.  In fact, the name of your photograph can completely change the way your photograph is interpreted by viewers.  What’s important to remember is that a name is how you know or refer to something not define it, descriptions are used to define things.

What A Name Isn’t

Descriptions are not names, I can’t stress this enough.  When you name your photograph remember that there is a place for a description and a place for the name of the photograph…  They are not one and the same.  Writing a description beneath your photograph can alter the way it’s viewed by influencing the interpretation of the viewer.  If I wrote “This is a building beside a parking garage with moss and pollen covering its walls” I would take away any interesting, imaginative interpretation that the viewer may have had when viewing this photo.

What’s The Difference?

Example of Names
1.) White Rabbit
2.) Boy Wizard
3.) Haunted House
Example of Descriptions
1.) A small fluffy animal with a button nose and floppy ears… loves carrots
2.) A small boy with magical powers and possibly a wand and broom… enrolled at Hogwarts
3.) A house full of ghosts, goblins, and spiders who put webs right in the middle of doorways so you get a face full of web when you walk from room to room.

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The How To

There are a number of ways you can approach the process of naming your photographs.  Let’s forgo the “description as a name” strategy since we’ve already discovered that a description is not the same as a name.  For the purposes of this article lets clump the different methods of naming photographs into 3 categories:  Abstract, Descriptive, and Uninspired.

An abstract name does not necessarily have to name an abstract photograph.  You could name a photo of a bunny rabbit hopping around as “The Velveteen Fur-ball” and you’d have yourself an abstract name.  Abstract means existing in thought or as an idea but not having a physical or concrete existence.

Having a descriptive name is not the same as describing the photograph as the name.  The same photograph of a white bunny rabbit would be called “Joyful Bunny Rabbit” if you use a descriptive name.  Descriptive names are the most common names you’ll see (right next to DCS0001097 or similar file name).

An uninspired name is just that…  It’s something like “small animal” to describe the small bunny rabbit, or “Captured 2014”.  Avoid naming your photographs like this, it makes it incredibly difficult for anyone to ever find them again if they like them let alone remember them.

Attention Grabbers

There are certain words in the English language that garner more attention than others.  These words act as a beacon in the title of your photograph, they grab people’s attention and sit more firmly in their memory.  Words like free, instantly, new, and difference are all good words for grabbing attention.

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Using Punctuation

Using punctuation makes a definitive statement, it can clarify your meaning or point of view to the viewer.  At the same time it’s a great way to influence the viewers interpretation of a photograph.  Adding something as simple as a question mark at the end of your photographs title can invoke thought and consideration.  With that being said, you’re liable to irritate grammar nuts by using punctuations in your photos name.

Abstract WallBetter Than New?

Now that you’ve given a little more thought to the process you use when naming your photographs you can decide which is right for you.  Avoid using descriptions when naming your photographs…  If someone asked you your name would you say “I’m medium height woman who is rather petite wearing sweat pants and a hoodie”?  Probably not, that’s a description not a name.  Put a little thought into your photographs and people are more likely to remember them.

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