Should Photographers Use Art Titles?

Whether you should create art titles or not depends on what type of photography you do and what the intent is with your artwork. Photojournalists and editorial photographers for example probably shouldn't nor would have a reason to create art titles for their work. Being factual is the most important part of naming an image within that context. However if the photographer's primary intent is to market fine art prints then I would argue that creating art titles for photography is beneficial.

For the first 15 years or so of my photography career I went with an editorial caption based approach and also included the photo ID# on my webpages. That made sense at the time since my primary market was licensing to publishers and commercial clients. While I did sell fine art prints as well, the sales process between art buyers and myself was a bit awkward when talking about the artwork. "Hi Richard. I'm interested in purchasing a print of Mount Rubidoux Sunset, Riverside, California" or "I'd like to purchase the following prints: RW2051 and RW1880." "RW1880 was the result of me having to fighting off a serious case of altitude sickness in freezing conditions." As you can imagine it's not easy to have a conversation about a piece of artwork when you can't easily identify it by a relatable name. When you go to buy a pair of sneakers for example, you probably don't to the store and say you want to purchase the SKU number. No, you say "I want a pair of xx Air Jordans". SKU numbers and highly technical descriptions do not roll off the tongue easily nor are memorable.

With art titles, my objective is to either describe the location or subject in as few words as possible. Sometimes that simply means naming the photo after the formal location or subject name. In other instances I want to use a memorable, descriptory word or two that describes the concept of the piece. If the photo was a special meaning to me then sometimes I'll create an art titles that relates to feelings that I had experienced. Not all art titles have to be serious either. In some instances I'll create a play on words. The whole purpose of this is to open up a dialogue with the art buyer and hopefully they will find some artwork that resonates with them both from a visual standpoint and an emotional standpoint. A lot of photographers show disdain for art titles but I suspect that's because they are looking at it from their own standpoint and not from an art buyer standpoint. I personally think art titles are fascinating. Here's a gallery of some of my own favorite art titles.

Foggy Morning, Mendocino Headlands State Park, California, Photo

Into The Unknown

Giant Sequoia and Dogwood Fall Foliage, Calaveras Big Trees State Park, California

The Land of the Giants

The Watchman and the Virgin River, Zion National Park, Utah

Virgin River & The Watchman

Cottonwood Tree, Monument Valley Tribal Park, Arizona

The Navajo Tree of Life

Fall Foliage In Forest / Walden Pond State Reservation, Concord, Massachusetts


Carmel Beach, Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, photo

Dad's Ring

Thor's Hammer Rising Through Sunrise Fog, Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Thor's Hammer

Tree-Lined Hiking Trail, Cascade Canyon Open Space Preserve, Marin County, California

Left Leaning

Three Trees in Fog, Yosemite


Grizzly Bear Cub Covering Face with Paw, Lake Clark National Park, Alaska, photo

Unbearable Headache

Lonesome Cypress Tree, Alameda, California

Lonesome Cypress Tree

Storm Mountain, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada, photo

Storm Mountain

Black Tears Oil on Water, USS Arizona Memorial Site, Pearl Harbor, Oahu, Hawaii, photo

Black Tears

Fall Sunrise at Sentinel Bridge With Half Dome in Background, Yosemite National Park, California

Bierstadt's Playground

middle mccloud river falls, shasta-trinity national forest, california

Whispering Waters

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Posted in opinion, technique and tagged artwork, fine art.