COLUMNS,  iSights,  News

iSights – ‘It Was a Total Fuster Cluck’ – By Janine Graf

She’s done it again! Our wonderful Columnist Janine Graf graces her wonderful iSights Column with this latest article. Expanding on the importance of image titles for photographs, a very hot topic right now and speaking of hot, I’d like to find out a little more from Janine regarding her last sentence – maybe all will be revealed in a future column article 😉 Over to you Janine… (foreword by Joanne Carter).




‘Hi everybody! For this month’s article I decided to expand upon the hot topic of the importance of image titles. If you had missed it, I recently wrote a Tip of the Day for The App Whisperer on the subject; I believe it was Tip #15 . . . maybe you should go read it before continuing on here (I’ll wait). So my tip was maybe more of a suggestion, but one I feel pretty passionate about. I had two readers disagree with me, so actually I’m not sure if that really qualifies as a “hot topic” . . . “lukewarm topic” perhaps? Hey, it was either write about this or share the story of my vitamin C overdose . . . oh Hell, I’ll do both.

So here’s my stance on the subject of image titles: in my humble opinion, I think artists should name their creations, whether it’s a photograph, a painting, a sculpture, or a song. I feel this way for two reasons; the first one being that, to me, a creation simply feels unfinished if it’s left unnamed. A thoughtful title can really up the “wow” factor of an image; helps tell the story. Sure, sure, a single picture should speak 1,000 words, be open to the viewer’s own interpretation, etc., but an image can do and be both of those things and still have a title. I’d be lying if I said that a title has never swayed my interpretation, but if anything it made me feel more passionate about the piece. Secondly, and possibly more importantly, if you don’t give a piece of art a title, a name, then how do you identify it later on down the road in your portfolio; how do you catalog it?

Let’s look at the notion of naming an image from a technical standpoint, let’s leave artistry out of it. In this electronic age, don’t you want your images to be easily discovered? It’s all about search engine optimization, or SEO for short. I’m a sucker for statistics so I’m all over this stuff; statistics are the reason why I’m bummed out over the probability that I will most likely die from a heart attack and not by being crushed by a falling piano. So, I did two searches in Google (for images only); the first one using the name of one of my photos I have uploaded to Flickr. It came up in the second row (not bad, not bad). I then did a search in Google just using the word “untitled” and what I saw was everything from messy, unidentifiable ink drawings to nude gender bending photographs to pictures of fruit. I motioned to my husband who was across the room and said, “Look at this total fuster cluck my search just produced.” He stood there, staring at me from across the room with the condemning eyes of someone who feared I was strung out on Visine, again. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I want my images to be easily found. I’ve had some really great opportunities come my way all because my work was discovered in a search. C’mon metadata don’t fail me now!

In conclusion, I’m not saying I don’t enjoy an image that has been left untitled. My eyes feast upon beautiful creations every day, some of which are without titles; it doesn’t leave me thinking the image is any less beautiful, it just feels unfinished to me . . . like a painting that’s missing its frame . . . or a cheeseburger that’s missing its cheese.

Now in regards to vitamin C, allow me to be your cautionary tale. I was 22 years old and working as a secretary in a real estate developer’s office (this was back before the word “secretary” fell into disrepute – we are talking typewriters, carbon paper and white-out). Everyone in my office was dropping like flies due to a nasty cold bug. I had the brilliant idea to run to the drug store on my break (which was after picking up my boss’s dry cleaning, but before I typed up his son’s book report) and buy a bottle of chewable vitamin C. Because I wanted to be proactive, and because I’m like a puppy with dog treats, and because I have that warped “if a little is good then a lot is better” mentality, I ate the entire bottle within several hours. By nightfall the whites of my eyes turned yellowish (and of course no amount of Visine got the yellow out . . . yep, fell head first off the Visine wagon). Then my joints swelled up and I broke out into hives. For an entire year, I couldn’t take a drink of orange juice or anything else containing any amount of vitamin C without breaking out into hives all over my joints. True story. I did not, however, catch the office cold so all-in-all I consider that a win.

So remember, it’s all about the metadata, “fuster cluck” was a happy accident not brought on by Visine abuse, and eating an entire bottle of chewable vitamin C in one sitting is really, really stupid. Speaking of stupid, maybe next time I’ll share the story of how I ate 24 Twix candy bars in one day and then threw up all night long while sharing a house with a bunch of really cute sailors. True story . . . ‘


‘The Nonconformist’ – © Janine Graf

Janine’s mobile photography has been exhibited in art galleries across the United States and in Europe, has been featured on various websites and in publication. She is currently a proud member of the traveling iPad photography exhibit called “Light Impressions” along with 40 very talented mobile photographers. In publishing news, Janine was honored and delighted to have participated in an upcoming book about creating surreal digital photography. This book is set to be released in the spring of 2013 by Ilex Press. Janine is a mobile photographer who enjoys belly dancing, bacon cheeseburgers, cappuccinos, the smell of old books, slapstick comedy, the color orange and movies about gladiators. Since discovering mobile photography in the early fall of 2010, Janine has set aside her professional DSLR and desktop editing programs in favor of the iPhone and its myriad of wonderful editing apps. In regards to subject matter, she tends to gravitate towards subjects that allow for a whimsy feeling or vibe; she likes to have fun!


  • David

    There you go again…with the fuster clucks. And the vitamin C stories. When all I want is to read about bacon and b…s

    Great article Janine! Really!!! And I say this before I’ve had my second cup of coffee!

    • Janine Graf

      Oh my gosh I cannot believe I never got around to responding to comments here! I am the worst! I’m sorry everybody.

      Thank you David! You said that before your second up of coffee?! I’m extremely flattered my friend. 🙂

  • gina costa

    What a way to begin a Friday morning, reading Janine’s wonderfully articulate and hysterical piece! I think I peed in my knickers from laughing so hard! Thank you Janine, I agree on the need for a title for works..for all the reason you indicate (I am guilty of NOT doing this some of the time). I will heed the cautionary tale on the vitamin C…indeed. Thank you for making me laugh so hard….but now…….

    • Janine Graf

      Hi Gina! I’m so sorry I’m just now responding! Like I’ve said before, I suck. 😉

      I’m so happy your liked the article! Making someone pee in their knickers is what it’s all about . . . that and the meta data. 😉 Oh, speaking of pee, I have an image posted on Flickr wherein I talk about peeing my pants. I even used “pee” as a tag for the image. I kid you not, every – single – day that image gets viewed due to people searching for “pee”. Isn’t that crazy? Who searches for pee? It’s all about the meta data . . .

      Thanks again my friend! xoxo

  • David Graham

    I agree completely about the value of titles. It’s not just Google that will have a hard time finding an untitled image, of course: if I don’t put titles on my own photos I often have a very hard time locating them later on my computer. I may decide I really want to try editing that landscape photo I took, when was it, 3 months or 7 months ago? And I really don’t know if I’m looking for IMG230731178.jpg or maybe it was IIMG7776391854.jpg But if I’ve thought to label it “Old barn” or “Sunset lake” at least I have a chance of finding it without scrolling for an hour.

    That’s just the practicality of it. Even a dull or merely informative title is better than none, to my eyes.

    But what about the art? I really don’t fathom why artists would want to abandon one of the tools in the toolbox. To my mind a good title is a title that does some work. A good title is like a good metaphor: it doesn’t limit a viewer’s imagination; it expands the possibilities. A friend of mine who is an art historian once remarked to me “If you leave your painting as Untitled it won’t remain that way. You’re just ensuring that some curator or gallery owner will give it a title. It might be awful.”

    • Janine Graf

      I know, right David?! I couldn’t imagine what a cataloging nightmare not having titles would create. Sure, sure, we could put similar images in named folders, but that wouldn’t be enough for me. My brain would go bonkers!

      And I agree, a lame title is better than none at all.

      Wow . . . well said! So incredibly true too. I currently signed on with a company called Demurez Cover Arts. The owner recently sent out an email to us artists saying we must supply a title to go with our images. If we didn’t, he’d supply one for us and we may not like it. So yeah, it’s best we name our own work before someone takes a crack at it and butchers it horribly! 🙂

  • Charles Maclauchlan

    Almost everything we do in life has as it’s root an attempt to communicate. What other possible reason could there be for photography? Titles? Well yeah.

  • Positivepauly

    Cheeseburger without cheese. Bacon burger without bacon.

    Diet, caffeine-free Coke…

    There’s an art to titling. I’ve had several discussions in an old photo critiques site I used to live on. Even using a lack-of-title (aka “untitled”) is awesome when done correctly.

    So, very important!

    Arrrrr! No scurvy for you!!

    • Janine Graf

      I know, right Paul? Oh the horror!!!!

      There definitely is an art to titling, no doubt. I won’t make an image live until I have at least some sort of title for it. It’s tricky sometimes.

      I’m the poster girl for the Anti-Scurvy Campaign. 😉

  • Cat Milton


    I don’t really title my shots but you can be as sure as (there should be) cheese in a cheeseburger ~ Tia Maria in my coke ~ that I shall give it some thought.

    Just before I submit, it crosses my mind that giving an image a title seemed /s very grandiose … and therein lies my personal hesitancy. I wouldn’t have dreamt of being so bold when I first started sharing images (that unto itself a sizeable hurdle).

    Thanks again ~ I am challenged 🙂

    • Janine Graf

      Damn right there should be cheese in a cheeseburger! 😉

      Baby steps to titles perhaps?

      Thank you so much for your comment Cat!

  • teresa cesario

    Dear Janine
    I reallt enjoy your writing and your photography!! Thank you