Technical Writing



Choosing between line art or photograph

Use photographs if you need detail or realism . Use drawings if you want to show your reader only selected
features of an object.

Consider if you were creating a design about a Gothic cathederal. Photo shows the carvings well, but a line drawing would be better to point out specific aspects of the work, such as points where the carving is damaged, or carving techniques etc. Of course, this is for the art student who wants to closely examine the work and not someone who wants to just look at it. The choice between line art or photograph depends upon the audience needs.


Line art

Line art are drawings that show varying level of detail about an object.


Advantages of line art

Can provide a view that a photograph simply can't provide, such as this exploded view.

Line art can show images which can't be photographed.

This drawing of ocean edge represents a cut-away view that can't be captured by a photograph.

Line art allows artist to highlight areas of interest, to make them easier for the reader to focus on.

In this drawing, by drawing the insect's body and wings in different colors, the points of interest can be seen better.

Multiple levels of detail can be provided in one figure.

Here three levels of detail of DNA can be shown.


Disadvantages of line art

Requires a graphic artist which can be expensive.


Photographs give a true picture of the object, but because of lighting problems, lack of contrast between elements, or background clutter, they can present too much information or be hard to grasp the important parts.

With digital camera, photographs are cheaper to produce since an artist isn't required. However, the cost saving could be more than offset by the poor communication.

Advantages of photographs

Gives a real feel for the size or shape of an object, especially for large objects.

This photograph shows the huge size of the FedEx hub that a drawing couldn't capture.

Gives a realistic image of the problem.

A drawing of the damage would not be be as effective. However, if it was a report of how the damage occures, then a photo combined with a drawing showing the stress forces, etc. would be best.



Disadvantages of photographs

Difficulty to showing needed detail.

This photo is suppose to help you install a hard drive into your computer. Yet, you can't tell what's the drive, what's the computer bay, and how you were suppose to get to the place imaged or how to proceed.

Difficult to clearly see the various components the author has labeled.

Texture and shadows of the background are distracting.

Low contrast image looks muddy.

Different cultures respond differently to parts of the body, or even male/female performing the actions. On a photograph, it's harder to neutralized the gender/ethnicity of the person.  

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