“Every day Times editors conduct dozens of weddings, uniting words and images, in print and online. / As in any marriage, the two parties should not just speak to each other, but seem as though they belong together. / “Let us start with the advice of The Times’s stylebook: A caption should normally explain what readers cannot see for themselves in the picture and should omit the obvious.”
This is yet another reminder that your pictures frequently need written context for maximum effect. They are usually not worth a thousand words.
I talk about the way I use captions to book more weddings in Wedding Mind Tricks. The basic gist is:
- You need to communicate your style to prospective couples online as quickly as possible. We are long past the days when a photographer could sit on her office couch with an engaged couple and explain each portfolio image while they’re looking at it (a la the great Joe Buissink).
- Captions allow you to narrate a richer, more original story about your work. Couples can’t figure out the depth of your shooting approach just by scanning your images. They need your help.
- Explaining yourself in a block of text is a sad waste of time. Web viewers just aren’t willing to suspend the downward pace of their eyes to read entire paragraphs. Especially when they’re still deciding whether they even like your pictures. People are far more likely to read captions.
Captions are one of the reasons every couple who hires me has a complete understanding of my shooting style before I ever speak. (See hundreds of captions at work on my site.)
You have to turn on your brain to write a meaningful caption. Just try your best. Even New York Times editors struggle to get them right all the time. It’s not easy but it’s absolutely worth it.
Right now I’m listening to a lot of recorded rain sounds in my office. I find it incredibly relaxing. It quiets the ambient noise of yapping pets and rumbling delivery trucks in my neighborhood. (Is it bad that I think school buses = two birds with one stone?) In my ideal world I’d live far enough into the countryside that I’d hear neither.
Everything about this short film is good! It’s a very enjoyable introduction to Stephen Shames‘ style of photojournalism.
I liked it so much I just bought his digital monograph (aka ebook) Bronx Boys. The quality is great and it’s a steal compared to the paper books I buy. (You can save a few bucks by getting it in the iTunes store if you’re willing to view on the iPad only.)
Shames spent decades documenting the lives of the young people he met in the Bronx. Back when I was a television reporter I lived in the Bronx for a stretch and reported on it extensively. I have great respect for everyone who dedicates themselves to telling stories there; it’s no picnic. The body of work he created is spectacular.
Here are a few of his best-known frames from the Bronx Boys project.
“Photography has always reminded me of the second child trying to prove itself. The fact that it wasn’t really considered an art, that it was considered a craft, has trapped almost every serious photographer.” - Richard Avedon
Never forget that wedding photography is a rather adventurous pursuit compared to a typical desk job. You have a front row seat and a backstage pass to one of the greatest forms of improvised human theater: a wedding day. No cast of characters, no stage, and no cocktail of emotions is ever quite the same. Your job and your life are inherently interesting. Use this advantage!
When you’re not sure what to ‘say’ online…
- Go through your full catalog of pictures and pick the ones with the best stories attached. Not the most creative compositions or the most technical lighting, the best stories.
- Use captions to give your viewer enough background and insight. Remember, they’re good stories to you because you know the context. You know details about the characters that aren’t visible in the photographs. Online viewers don’t have any of this knowledge so you have to provide it.
Something magical happens when you tell your favorite wedding stories online. Suddenly you’re telling people what you find important and significant. You’re expressing your sensibilities as a one-of-a-kind human. You’re sharing your view of the world.
You’re using photographs to express something about you.
That’s what great artists do.
me, via Hexar AF + Tri-X
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Wedding Mind Tricks