Home » To Title or Not To Title?

I like to title my images but recently I’ve questioned why I do. I think that titles for images are extremely important as they give the viewer a sense of what the image images they are looking at is about, however I feel that they should only do that: give a sense of the image.


For me, there is nothing worse than images with a super obvious title. I think that titles should be just as suggestive and ambiguous as the image they represent; they should make the viewer question why the photographer/artist chose this title for their images. A good example of this is my latest image, entitled Still:


It took me at least 6 hours and a lot of dictionary searching to think of a title for this image. I wanted a simple title for this image without giving away my interpretation of it.


So why the title “Still”?

Well, in my mind, the image is about a person on a journey to this location that they have visited several times. They really want to get to the building (which peeks out at them mockingly from amongst the trees) yet these vividly green trees block the person’s access, so he must turn back and try again another day. The idea of the word ‘still’ really resides in the fact that I wanted to highlight this idea that the person is still trying to get to this place, which they may never quite reach.

I am very conscious that using this title could really alter how people see it. The word still is often referred to images which are film stills, so someone could perceive my image to be my interpretation of a film still, which is something that interests me as I like to think that my images have a cinematic quality to them.

Another definition of the word still is “Without moving or making a sound” (from the Word web dictionary). I feel that this definition really relates to the general spectrum of photography as an unmoving medium and also because it is hard to tell whether the person within my image is standing there or moving. I also feel my image, and really all of my work, relates a particular silence.

I took a long time to get to the title. Other possible titles included “Ignis Faatus”, ) which means an illusion that misleads), or “The King’s Guards” (derived from the fact that my brother told me that he read the image as a game of chess where the tree’s were acting a pawns to protect their king (the building). I like this analogy as this image was actually quite a spontaneous and I was worried when I first started to edit it that it didn’t really say anything.


I find that titling work is really a necessity, particularly as I plan to sell my work as prints. If I don’t title my work, how am I going to know which image people are referring to if they are all called ‘untitled’?


In conclusion, titling work has both benefits and downfalls. People will either get the titles or understand your images, or they’ll be even more confused at what they are looking at. Either way, I’m going to stick with titling my work, mostly for my own purposes than anyone else’s.



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