Communicating correctly with photos

The viewer perceives a photograph of a technical product or an operating step as a mapping of reality. The fact that taking and processing photographs involves innumerable conscious and unconscious decisions, which have the power to influence the communication with the reader, is often forgotten. Technical editors who are aware of this fact can improve the comprehensibility of photographs and thus, the instructions themselves.

Text by Steffen-Peter Ballstaedt


Communicating correctly with photos

The technical photograph or object/product photograph was long suppressed by line drawings. The visual “diet” consisting of lines, corners and edges was considered to be better for visual communication in a didactic sense, since it offered only the most essential elements to the eyes and the brain. Technical photography experienced a renaissance with the emergence of digital photography and the related digital image processing [1].

Analogous as well as digital photography undergo a multi stage design process before we catch the first glimpse:

  • analogous photos – taking a picture, developing it, retouching, printing
  • digital photo– taking a picture, photo-editing, printing

The photo designer takes decisions at each of these stages, which define the appearance of the end product. If we compare a technical photo from the 1930s in image 1 with a modern technical photo in image 2, we can ...