Many years ago, when the only things that were digital were your fingers or your watch, I won a photographic magazine’s cover girl competition. Not me personally you understand – one of my photographs.
A couple of weeks later an excited young photographer and his girlfriend, who just happened to be the scantily clad subject of the winning photograph, arrived at a posh Park Lane hotel for the prize giving. I don’t remember much about the event apart from one rather disparaging comment from the editor. ‘Your picture won because you were the only one who left space for the title.’ This was probably not the most tactful thing to say to an aspiring young photographer about his first competition win.
I did not know at the time but I was going to hear some very odd things from editors; ‘I like your work because you make the backs of womens’ knees look good,’ and ‘Your pictures are so much better than the guy I’m using at the moment but he is free,’ being two that I remember.
Over a hundred book and magazine covers later, ‘You won because you left space for the title’ turned out to be good advice. As photographers we strive to create a well composed image which often means tightly cropped. At the time of my competition win the only way to create space around an image was to step back (zoom lenses existed but were, mostly, awful optically and photographers carried several prime (fixed focal length) lenses in their bag).
For those of you under forty; we also established the correct exposure using a light meter, sometimes one built in to the camera, but often a handheld Weston and advanced the film by pushing a lever which also cocked the mechanical shutter. If you wanted to make a phone call you had to find a red box and have some change handy.
Leaving space for a title caption or other text is still good advice. Not just space but blank space. Plain blue sky, sand and other plain backgrounds are all useful to designers. They can simply plonk the desired text on the image and, if they need more space, the image is easy to extend in editing software.
The stock picture library Alamy even encourages you to use the keywords ‘copy space’ when appropriate in your images. These are a couple of articles from their blog.
If you want to try it with my images click on the alamy link and type in the keywords ‘copy space’