Tracking names of subjects in photos
September 29, 2009 10:47 AM   Subscribe

How do photojournalists keep track of subjects names?

I'm doing some shooting at an event shortly where I want to keep track of the subject's names, so I can do captions like you see on wire photos ("Fred Bloggs and his wife were the first in line for XXX") after the event. I expect that I'll be shooting a lot of people, though so what's the best way to keep track of the names of people in photos?
posted by baggers to Media & Arts (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
How about using a small notebook or a voice recorder to link your exposure/frame numbers to the name of the subject?
posted by o0dano0o at 10:53 AM on September 29, 2009

Most of the photographers I work with just take a reporter's notebook with them and keep a list: "Fred Bloggs, glasses, red shirt. Jane Bloggs, blond curly hair, blue shirt." The list winds up roughly in the order of the frames you shot, so once it's time to upload the photos, writing captions is no sweat.
posted by Ladybug Parade at 10:56 AM on September 29, 2009

Ask them their names while the camera is rolling. It's foolproof.
posted by Kangaroo at 10:57 AM on September 29, 2009

Since you used the word "event," there's always the possibility you're talking about a tradeshow. In that case, I always take a photo of the person's badge immediately after shooting the pic, then the chronological numbering of the pics takes care of it for me.
posted by jbickers at 10:59 AM on September 29, 2009

When I've shot things for my alma mater they've provided an assistant whose job was to go around with me and get names. This has happened twice. Once the assistant tried to write down every single shot I took. That was a pain for me. Once the assistant (someone different) just wrote down enough so that she could ID people later.

The key here is to write down enough so that you'll be able to match up later. If it's someone you already know then don't write them down. If it's someone you can easily find out who it is then don't write them down.
posted by theichibun at 11:02 AM on September 29, 2009

I always shoot a photo of their name on paper before or after photoing people. Same thing with my watch for time.
posted by Doug Stewart at 11:08 AM on September 29, 2009 [5 favorites]

When they've had the time, some of the photogs I've worked with have actually printed out the subject's names in big letters, and had the subject hold the paper up like a mug shot, and took a second shot.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:10 AM on September 29, 2009 [2 favorites]

Two different questions here. Photojournalists that I've worked with tend to have a notebook to write down people's names; they often will show the person their name to ensure spelling and age, hometown, etc. are correct.

Event photographers, as far as I've seen, shoot name tags. I write slowly and messily--so I tend to carry a tiny voice recorder. I'll get people's names, recite the names into the recorder with a quick description (as above: curly hair, glasses, red shirt), along with a frame number from the camera.

I have never seen a photographer get a subject to hold up a sheet with their name, and I have to say I find the idea somewhat appalling, whether you are a photographer, subject or handler: wasting a subject's time as the photog writes out their name (or get the subject to write out his/her name) and then pose for a mug shot. Maybe if you're dealing with extras on a film or something, but at an event? No way.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 11:42 AM on September 29, 2009

I've had my picture taken a few times as part of an event, where I wasn't wearing a nametag. The photojournalist wrote my name in a notebook, along with a brief description of what I was wearing.
posted by Lucinda at 11:54 AM on September 29, 2009

Notebook and a pen. Shoot photo. Go ask names. As you are writing them hold the notebook towards the subject so they can double check the spelling. Check the file number on the camera write that next to the names. If there is a big group make sure you get names in order and write what order they are in (L_R, R-L, Front-back etc). Or use small descriptors for each person. This is not ideal for a red carpet event or even for parties because it is time consuming and can be disruptive. You may want to get an assistant to help with names.


If you have a camera with voice recording capabilities then use that. Ask the name hit record and spell it into the recorder. Go slow and don't talk too loud and blow out the sound. The mics on those things are touchy.
posted by WickedPissah at 11:55 AM on September 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

Also when writing descriptions of people, keep that to yourself. Sometimes folks don't appreciate how you may describe them.
posted by WickedPissah at 11:56 AM on September 29, 2009

Sync your camera's clock with your cell phone's clock and use the voice recorder on the phone.

Something like iView Media Pro (er, Expression Multimedia) lets you mix file types together, so you dump the voice notes in with the photos, sort by capture date, and tag photos with names right there.
posted by paanta at 12:06 PM on September 29, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for the tips, all. This is not a tradeshow, so no nametags. But I'll try just pausing to jot down names and descriptions.
posted by baggers at 2:03 PM on September 29, 2009

I usually kept track by the clothes; John Jones(red shirt), Jane Doe(glasses), etc
posted by JJ86 at 2:27 PM on September 29, 2009

If shooting buildings, a lot of them have some kind of signs / descriptions out there. As for people, nthing the pen and paper. I've seen a tiny pen-shaped voice recorder - just keep it in your shirt pocket or on your sleeve while shooting. If you shoot in order and record in order, you'll also play them back in order...
posted by chrisinseoul at 1:41 AM on September 30, 2009

When I worked for a newspaper, I used the four digits in the file name.

The clothing description thing will lead to inevitable confusion when you have shot lots of people. When you're in a hurry, writing down a accurate description wastes time. Any digital camera will show you the file name of a picture you just shot. It will likely have a four digit number. It's way faster and there won't be any confusion unless you shoot more than 9999 pictures at the event!

Take a minute to find how to see the file name when you hit the playback button on the back of the camera. All the Nikons I've ever shot could be set to display the file name whenever I hit the playback button.

One button on the camera, four digits to write down. Nothing faster.
posted by thenormshow at 5:42 AM on September 30, 2009

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