How to be Honest in Your Photo Captions

Educate Your Viewers on the Process Behind Your Image-Making

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Blend shot by Aaron Martinez in Southern New Mexico. Pentax K-1 / D FA 15-30mm f/2.8. Sky: 15mm, f/2.8, ISO 6400, 20s. Foreground: 15mm, f/2.8, ISO 6400, 150s.
Blend shot by Aaron Martinez in Southern New Mexico. Pentax K-1 / D FA 15-30mm f/2.8. Sky: 15mm, f/2.8, ISO 6400, 20s. Foreground: 15mm, f/2.8, ISO 6400, 150s.

Since before the introduction of the program, we all know as Photoshop, people have been creating remarkable images and art with their computers. However, with great power comes great responsibility, as the saying goes. In this Tuesday Tip, I will tell you how to be honest in your photo captions for your work, especially your night images.

Yes, you can still use Photoshop and create freely. But when you share your work with other photographers, there are a few definitions you should consider including in your image description. This will educate your viewers on the process behind your image-making. I’ll explain how below.

Single Exposure

Single Exposure Example from How to Be Honest in your Photo Captions. Copyright 2020 Aaron Martinez.
A single exposure shot by Aaron Martinez at City of Rocks State Park, New Mexico. Pentax K-1 / Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art. @ 35mm, f/2.0, ISO 6400, 10s

As the name implies, a single exposure is one frame captured in the field and your final image contains data only from that one file. 

You can make adjustments. Maybe double-process your image (edit the sky and foreground separately as I did in the image above). Or go through as complicated of a workflow as you’d like. As long as the source of everything you do is in that single raw file and nothing is added to the image from elsewhere.

Blend

The writers at MilkyWayPhotographers.com and I have concluded the best definition for a “blend” is as follows:

“A blend is made up of two or more images shot from a single position with a single focal length at a single time.”

That means your tripod does not move, your lens does not change, and you are shooting the images consecutively. Blue hour blends aren’t true blends. Sticking to that definition does not limit what you can do. You can most certainly shoot panoramas from a single location, exposure blends/HDR shots, AND track and stack images.

I employed a method used by Paul Schmit in the image below, which is tracked, stacked, and a blend. This vertical pano is made up of three horizontal frames; each frame is a stack of three tracked images made with my Pentax K-1’s built-in Astrotracer tracking feature.

After the last frame of the following image, I turned the tracking feature off. Then I shot a longer exposure to get detail in my foreground, which I then blended with the final pano in Photoshop.

Blend Example from How to Be Honest in your Photo Captions. Copyright 2020 Aaron Martinez.
Tracked/Stacked Blend/Pano shot by Aaron Martinez in Southern New Mexico. Pentax K-1 / D FA* 50mm f/1.4. Sky: 3 horizontal frames that are stacks of 3 images at 50mm, f/2.4, ISO 2200, 20s. Foreground: 1 frame @ 50mm, f/2.0, ISO 2200, 300s.

Composite

Composite Example from How to Be Honest in your Photo Captions. Copyright 2020 Aaron Martinez.
Composite/Panorama shot by Aaron Martinez in Southern New Mexico. Foreground: DJI Mavic 2 Pro. 4 image pano @ 24mm, f/7.1, ISO 100 1/30. Sky: Pentax K-1 / D FA* 50mm f/1.4 @ 50mm, f/2.4, ISO 2200, 20s.

A composite essentially includes everything that does not fall under the single exposure or blend definitions. An example is a “blue hour” blend that uses a blue hour foreground combined with the sky at night. It also encompasses focal length “blends,” where the sky and foreground use different focal lengths. And it includes traditional composites where you do a sky replacement or something similar.

Panorama

Panorama Example from How to Be Honest in your Photo Captions. Copyright 2020 Aaron Martinez.
Panorama shot by Aaron Martinez in Southern New Mexico. PEntax K-1 / D FA 15-30mm f/2.8. 8 vertical frames shot at 15mm, f/2.8, ISO 6400, 20s.

Panoramas, or “Panos” for short, are images stitched together using several vertical and/or horizontal frames to create one image. Panoramas can fall into the “blend” and “composite” category for the reasons mentioned above. However, they are not single exposures, but the individual frames that make up a panorama can be.

How to Include These in Your Posts

As much as I like telling the story behind the shot or as others love cheesy quotes about the outdoors, it doesn’t take much room in your caption to quickly describe your image.

For example, if your image is a single exposure, you have little work to do as the name is already pretty self-explanatory. Adding “single exposure” under the name of your image is all the work you need to do. You could also start your caption off with the phrase, “This is a single exposure taken in/at…”

If you shot a blend, you may need to describe what you blended for any of your followers that don’t know what that means. An excellent way to describe a blend in your caption is to simply say, “This is a blend of two images, (one taken for the sky, or a sky panorama) and a foreground shot…” 

For those of you creating composites, you need to go into a little more detail about how you created the image. For example, “I shot the foreground at blue hour and the sky at midnight for this composite…” OR “I created this composite with two images I had on my hard drive. The sky was shot at (Time/Place), and the foreground was shot at (Time/Place).”

For panoramas, it’s as simple as starting the post with the words, “This Panorama…” or “ I shot this panorama…” For Panos that are blends or composites, it is easy to say, “This panorama is a blend/composite…”

https://aaronmartinez.myportfolio.com/after-dark
Composite/Panorama shot by Aaron Martinez in Southern New Mexico. Pentax K-1 / Pentax D FA 15-30mm f/2.8 / Pentax D FA* 50mm f/1.4. Foreground: 18mm, f/2.8, ISO 1600, 2 minute Sky: 3-Image Panorama @50mm, f/2.0, ISO 1600, 50 seconds

Why I’ll Include These in My Posts:

One word. Honesty. It’s easy to be honest in your photo captions.

Many photographers nowadays like to get that line that separates photographers from digital artists and play jump rope with it. Being upfront in how you created your work is a simple change we can all make to give ourselves some credibility in a time of blatant composites and one-click sky replacements.

It gives credibility to those that put in the labor to make difficult single exposures work as well as to those that put in a ton of effort to create true blends.

But it also gives credibility to those that create composite images. Your honesty in how you made your work of art means you aren’t afraid to hide the fact that you’re a creator and artist. Even the most hard-headed purists can appreciate honesty.

Hopefully, you learned something useful from this Tuesday Tip. And we can all start being honest in our photo captions about how our work was created!

Keep exploring and creating! And be honest in your photo captions.

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