Correctly identfying image subjects

Discussion in 'Casual Photo Conversations' started by natureslight, Jan 3, 2012.

  1. Although I've been lurking on the forum for some time, this is my first post. I'm a writer and photographer, mostly focusing on travel and nature. I also do a lot of work for educational organizations and schools. Perhaps it's this background that has given birth to one of my pet peeves. Perhaps I'm just an old grouch, but when I see an image hanging in a coffee shop, resturant, gallery or elsewhere, I get peeved when the subject of that image is incorrectly identified or identified too vaguely. Example: an image of a sand-hill crane labeled "heron" or an image of a woodpecker that is merely labeled "woodpecker", when there are many different species of woodpeckers. I'm very far from perfect and have been known to capture an image of a subject I cannot immediately correctly identify or, more likely, one I think is one thing and later learn is another. However, before posting, hanging or, certainly, selling the image I make it my business to find the correct name for the subject. If my usual online sources aren't helpful, I head for our local Audubon center, or submit the image to Cornell's online ornithology lab (in the case of birds) before sharing the image. Is this nit picking or do others share this obsession?
  2. It is nit picking, but it's also a pet peeve of several people I know. Personally, it doesn't bother me. It used to, but I've gotten over worrying about little things I can't control.
  3. I think taxonomy and such should be accurate for certain subjects. Such info should be kept with the picture even if it isn't posted. Its a gage of your professionalism particularly for nature and identifiable scenic.
  4. Perhaps it depends upon the context, and audience. Is it a scientific or an educational image, or one in which the animal is just part of a broader scene? I don't want to be facetious, especially as you have taken this welcome first step of posting your idea, but say someone took an environmental portrait of you or someone in his or her familiar surroundings and simply said "woman, or lady, at (such and such) activity".
    Without sounding self-centred I can imagine my being a subject of a restaurant wall image and described simply as "field photographer and camera on tripod" or even a more specific "mature Canadian male with Nikon camera and Benbo tripod", or even more specifically "Anglo-Quebecker at July 2009 field shot in the Charlevoix mountains". Would the extra information (instead of just "Photographer, 2009"), detract or really add much to the information? Elsewhere, an abstract image might even be best without a title.
  5. Some photographers are more interested in the image than in the subject. Whether that is a problem depends upon the context in which the photograph is intended to appear (as Arthur also points out).
    Vagueness doesn't bother me much, even though I am a veteran nit-picker*; better vagueness than incorrect specifics. I see genuine mistakes all the time in photographic labeling: species misidentified; artistic subjects misinterpreted; historical structures mislabeled; objects incorrectly dated; &c. This is true even in high-end image libraries. That is where it becomes genuinely troubling, because the errors are liable to be perpetuated in publication. With photographs hung for decorative purposes (for sale or otherwise), it bothers me only to the level of a tsk or sigh (and, if I am in company who would care, perhaps a verbal remark). It does, however, tell me something about the priorities and focus of the photographer and, sometimes, the intended viewership of the photograph. I can't really blame a non-specialist photographer for not wanting to spend hours trying to distinguish between gulls or researching the pattern of the flow blue platter being used in a still-life. Just because they are not inclined/trained/able to perform such research doesn't mean they shouldn't shoot such subjects--and even offer the photographs for sale, in the proper context.
    *Try watching an Egyptological "documentary" with me sometime. I am told it can be quite entertaining!
  6. I like to add the technical information at the bootm of prints so people know where they were shot, and what the subject is. The casual viewer may not know what the subject is, but having the information present for the interested viewer could be a nice addition.
    There are no shortage of waterfall pictures. Seeing a picture of the nice sight might make you want to visit it. The information can be helpful. Calling it a "Ten Hour Waterfall" might intrigue the viewer to know more -- like it took the photographer ten hours of hiking to get to the waterfall.The least you can then expect is they understand the effort needed to get the image. :)
  7. I make mistakes like that all the time. But the reason for the title is not to present some avian expert a picture of his favorite bird. It's basically to give the picture a title so when someone refers to it, I know which one they're talking about. Also so I can keep track of my pictures.
    Also, my pictures sometimes refer to a feeling not an object.
    Anyway, welcome to PN. When are you going to post your pictures? I'm curious about the titles you give them ;)
  8. A good point: the title of a photograph certainly need not refer to the scientific/academic/etc. identification of the animal/object/locale/etc. within it!
  9. It just makes me laugh - just proves the photographer is a headless chicken and approaches their photography with a snap happy 'oooh that looks nice' point of view. Nothing wrong with that, of course - I do it with subjects I know little about ..... 'racing car' is one I might use for a old ford with a go faster stripe down the side.
    More seriously, I think we need to understand why you/we get upset at such things, not why they couldn't be bothered. I wonder if it's because the individual is getting some recognition for doing a 'slap dash job', when of course, I would have done it 'properly'.
    As I'm quite keen on wildlife photography it often frustrates me when I don't see correctly labelled photographs of 'Great Tit', 'Blue Tit', 'Marsh Tit', Willow Tit', Long Tailed Tit','Azure Tit','Bearded Tit','Crested Tit' and instead I see photographs labelled 'Tits'. ;-)
  10. I didn't realize the was such a variety of tits. I'll have to pay better attention in the future.
  11. Thank-you for the great responses! When someone labels an image "Bird in field" or "mountain in sunrise" I don't feel irritated at all. I'm also not irritated by vague or even incorrect labels when the subject is part of a larger context - a bird in a tree where the photographer is trying to capture a mood or feeling. I like the question about why this bothers me and suspect the answer says something about my personality. Thinking about it, I realize the real issue is probably not just one of mislabeling an image, but the sense the photographer is being lazy and/or sloppy. I have the same reaction to images where the horizon is quite obviously uneven. BTW: My own images have many faults and I certainly do not believe I'm the best or even close to being good. But, I put an awful lot of myself into my work and I suppose I'm a bit impatient with those who don't pay attention to the details. Wow - I sound like such a snob! I'm really not, but I suppose I do need to practice a bit more patience.
  12. Headless chicken!
    ....'racing car' is one I might use for a old ford with a go faster stripe down the side.​
    I've sat bored witless with my photo friends looking at work and gotten bogged down arguing over exact details of subjects such as locations of waterfalls. It sometimes got a little tense. Once I found myself arguing over whether a car was a 'fifty-eight or 'fifty-nine for much too long. Ended up having to email everyone with an apology. It WAS a 'fifty-nine!
  13. Irene - rest assured that less than accurate titles in the natural history club comps will get a good pasting from most of the judges.

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