When a Picture is NOT Worth a Thousand Words

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A Picture Worth a Thousand Words

I have a love/hate relationship with photos. Especially photos of pets or people. As a photographer, my photos leave a lot to be desired. For instance, people’s heads. Or dog’s paws. Somehow I manage to cut out the best parts of a picture every time I take one.  I think I’m clicking the button at just the right time, and then… when the picture is delivered, everyone laughs because someone’s head is missing. Who needs heads, anyway?

The good folks at BlogPaws have provided me with extra training on how to take good images, and then how to tag them and brand them in Canva. Anyone who isn’t using Canva, raise your hand. Okay, I see a few hands going up. To those folks who are not yet using Canva, or a program like it, I recommend taking some time this weekend to check it out and to play around with it. It’s really neat. Can I say that…neat? Y’all know what I mean right?

Okay, then. Let’s go back to the lesson for today. And that is: A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words in a pet blog. Except when it isn’t.

If I show you a picture of a cat, face front to the camera with one of those, “I’m in charge here,” looks on his face, lying on a fully set table that is decorated for Valentine’s Day…and there is no caption, what would you think?

You might think it’s cute. Ha, look at that cat! He’s just like my cat.

You might think it’s atrocious–a cat on a table! You wouldn’t be part of the BlogPaws Community, in that case, but some people might find having a cat on a table atrocious.

You might think the pet parents are not at home–or have left the room and will be mighty surprised when they return. You might chuckle and wish it were a video so you could see what happens when Dad and Mom return.

You might think all of these things and more.

Without a caption, I submit that you do not know what to think.

Art is like that. Go to a museum and admire the beautiful landscapes and statues. Surround yourself with beauty. Be happy. It’s your choice to think or feel what you wish. That’s what art in a museum is about. Art touches your soul in deeply personal ways.

In a blog post, you’re writing to share a message. Your images support that message. I believe your image needs a caption or an explanation, if you want the reader to understand why you put it there. You could decide to be mysterious and leave the explanation off. You might want to allow the reader to supply her own explanation. But, generally speaking, our blog posts perform a specific task; to teach, education, entertain, or inform. Our images should support our content.

Wikipedia talks about the phrase, A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words, by saying:

“More recently it has been quoted as “One showing is worth a hundred sayings”,[6] and was published in that form as early as 1966 discussing persuasion and selling in a book on engineering design.[7]

The word ‘persuasion’ jumps out at me in that explanation. While I agree that a picture has the ability to persuade, I also stand by my belief that we likely need to explain our pictures to have that persuasion be effective.

Words and Pictures Together

An article titled, As It Turns Out, a Picture Is Not Worth a Thousand Words, in Wired Magazine agrees with me.

“The vast majority of activities we do online are still fundamentally based on reading text: social media, news, search, e-mail, product reviews and many others. It has been estimated that more than 80% of the activities we do online are text-based. While many of these online activities are enhanced by multimedia content, the bulk of the information still comes from text, and that’s unlikely ever to change.”

They go on to note that words “convey clear, (mostly) unambiguous information.”

For those artists among us who are superb picture takers, I ask that you remember some of us appreciate the written word as much as the imagery. If you might add a caption or put some thought into the words leading up to the image, and the words after the image, it would be so helpful. They direct us. Yes, we will still conclude what we wish, people are like that; but, we will also be glad you helped direct us where you want us to go.

I ask folks who are fond of the written word, as am I, to also appreciate the time and effort good artists put into their images, and not depend solely on the caption to understand the message being shared. Sometimes, yes, sometimes, the image is worth a thousand words and if you take more than three seconds to look at it, you may come up with a few of those words.

My sincere desire is to promote words and pictures together. You can learn more about that concept and share what you know by participating in our February SLC Challenge.

***I am not responsible for the images in this post. Okay… yes, I am. You can probably tell which one I took and which ones other people took. I strive to do better!

Words and Pictures Together

Interested in improving your photography skills? The Boost Your Blog 10K challenge for February is all about photography. What you say online is important, but how you illustrate it with photography can make or break your blog.  Join us in the community to learn more. 

Yvonne DiVita is a Co-Founder of BlogPaws. She is dedicated to storytelling and the human-animal bond. When not working on BlogPaws, she writes at Scratchings and Sniffings and The Lipsticking Society. You may contact her at Yvonne@blogpaws.com .