Functional design for photographs

Acknowledge the source

For copyright reasons, it is usually necessary to acknowledge the photographer or image source, if known. You should include the source or credit either with the image or somewhere else in the publication, such as in the imprint text. Cover image details should be included in the imprint text or as close to the inside cover as practical:

Photo without a caption:

Photo: B Smith

Photo: B Smith, CSIRO

Photo with a caption:

Groundwater monitoring bores (photo: B Smith)

Groundwater monitoring bores (photo: B Smith, CSIRO)


Photo: B Smith

Groundwater monitoring bores

Numbered figure:

Photo: B Smith

Figure 1   Groundwater monitoring bores

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Label, when necessary

Some photographs require information to be included on the image itself, such as a scale, a compass point or text labels. For example, a photomicrograph or electron micrograph needs a scale bar. Since any change from the original size will alter the magnification as stated in the caption, it is preferable to draw the scale directly on the photograph.

Images will look more professional if this information is styled consistently with the rest of the designed publication. If the information is embedded in the image as pixels, it cannot easily be edited.

Include only the necessary information on the image, and place the information in a clear area of the image so that it does not obstruct the subject and can possibly be edited by a designer. It might be worthwhile supplying the image with the information and a copy without the information so that the designer can add the information consistently with the rest of the document, and ensure that the scale and any other features are respected if resizing is required.

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Take care with placement

Photographs should be located close to the relevant text, but may be set partially or entirely outside the text area, such as in a side bar.

However, photographs used as figures should be placed within the body of the text area, with the same margins and alignments, and in a way that allows the text to flow neatly and squarely around them. Images that span text columns should be placed at the top or bottom of the text area, rather than breaking columns of text through the middle.

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Ensure consistency

Photographs placed as figures should be styled consistently with other figures – for example, avoid heavy borders or high-contrast background shading, or effects such as drop shadows. These distract from the content of the image.

Decorative photographs can be used in many ways, but should be designed with a look and feel that are appropriate to the publication’s content and intended effect on the audience.

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