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, photo

Into The Unknown

Foggy Morning, Mendocino Headlands State Park, California

Awaking an hour before sunrise, I found myself on a narrow trail along the Mendocino Headlands with steep drop-offs on both sides which ended on this promontory overlooking large seastacks in a sea of thick fog. I didn't see any other photographers out there on this morning as they were probably sleeping in. When I see fog I embrace it and try to convey a sense of loneliness.

Year Photographed: 2019

calaveras big trees state park, giant sequoia trees, fall foliage, dogwood, california, photo, photo

The Land of the Giants

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

Giant Sequoia trees have long been thought of as the world's largest trees by volume. These big trees are neither the tallest nor have the widest circumference but their combined volume of height and width makes them the largest known trees in the world. Their close relatives, the coast redwood, are the world's tallest trees.

Year Photographed: 2013

peter lik zion style photo, The Watchman and the Virgin River, Zion National Park, Utah, photo

Virgin River & The Watchman

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

Arguably the most famous scene in Zion Canyon, The Watchman looms high above the mighty Virgin River as it has for thousands of years.

Year Photographed: 2019

Monument Valley, Arizona photo, photo

The Navajo Tree of Life

Cottonwood Tree, Monument Valley Tribal Park, Arizona

My family and I hired a guide to take us into the backcountry of Monument Valley. He explained that since this was a very arid region, cottonwood trees tend to only grow along the few streams in the area. Also mentioned that since the people live off the land that they learned how to cook and make medicines from just about every plant you can find in the desert. It was fascinating to learn about Navajo culture.

Year Photographed: 2019

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

Walden

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

"We need the tonic of wildness...At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature." - Henry David Thoreau, Walden: Or, Life in the Woods

Year Photographed: 2019

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

Dad's Ring

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

While on a summer family trip up the California Coast in the early 90's, my dad lost his wedding ring in the fine white sands of Carmel Beach while building sand castles with my brother and I. I can't help but think of lost memories every time I visit this beach.

Year Photographed: 2010

Thor's Hammer, Bryce Canyon National Park Photo, photo

Thor's Hammer

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

The most iconic hoodoo from Bryce Canyon National Park, Thor's Hammer has a strong resemblance to the weapon of choice from the mythical greek god that bears the same name.

Year Photographed: 2019

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

Left Leaning

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

Marin County is located directly north of San Francisco just across the Golden Gate Bridge. More than 50% of the 828 square mile Marin County consists of protected open space preserves.

Year Photographed: 2017

fog, three threes, yosemite valley, yosemite national park, california, photo, photo

Family

Limited Edition of 25 Prints

With my wife due with our son in a few months, this Yosemite trip was my last solo trip before becoming a father. In the morning on my way out of Yosemite Valley I noticed these three trees covered by a low layer of fog which helped to create contrast between the trees and dark background. A fitting way to foreshadow my future life.

Year Photographed: 2016

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

Unbearable Headache

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

The most memorable adventure of my life, spending time up close and personal with the resident brown bears at Lake Clark National Park was something I'll never forget.

lonesome cypress tree, alameda, san francisco bay area, east bay, photo, photo

Lonesome Cypress Tree

Limited Edition of 25 Prints

Living around the San Francisco Bay, wind is a common fact of life. Since wind is invisible we're left with photographing the result of the wind; gnarled tree limbs in this instance.

Year Photographed: 2014

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

Storm Mountain

Storm Mountain, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

The Canadian Rockies will always occupy a special place in my heart as my parents took me on a trip here when I was a young child. Less than a decade later, my dad was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease so the following two decades until my dad's passing was tumultuous to say the least. This photo, Storm Mountain, is dedicated to the memory of my dad.

Year Photographed: 2012

Black Tears

"Black Tears" Oil on Water at USS Arizona Memorial Site / Pearl Harbor, Oahu, Hawaii

The site of the Pearl Harbor attack, the USS Arizona is still leaking oil to this day. Visiting this location has a very sobering feeling.

Year Photographed: 2016

Ansel Adams Half Dome style photo, photo

Bierstadt's Playground

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

Albert Bierstadt (1830 - 1902) was a famous 19th century artist known for his dramatic depictions of the American West. Bierstadt along with Thomas Moran pioneered a genre of art called "The Hudson River School". My landscape photography is a post-modern variation of the Hudson River School of art.

Year Photographed: 2018

peter lik tranquility style photo, middle mccloud river falls, shasta-trinity national forest, california, photo, photo

Whispering Waters

Limited Edition of 25 Prints

I first visited the Mount Shasta region and hiked to McCloud Falls in 2004. Unfortunately for me, I decided to camp in near 100 degree weather during this trip. Despite staying in the shade and going through almost an entire 24 pack of water bottles, I could not keep myself hydrated enough and had to return home after just one day due to severe dehydration. An asian man like myself should not be pale white color.

Returning in the spring of 2015, a wiser and now-married man, I was able to thoroughly enjoy my visit to Middle McCloud Falls in more comfortable weather conditions. This is truly an amazing waterfall to experience.

Year Photographed: 2015

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