How to Take Photos for wikiHow

In a how-to manual, there is no question that a picture is worth a thousand words. Good photos can even mean the difference between a featured article that is easy to understand and a sea of incomprehensible text. (Imagine doing origami or braiding hair for the first time without the guidance of images!) To take photos for wikiHow, use these pointers.


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    Go step-by-step. Just as in the article, take a photo corresponding to each step, or at least to each important step. If a step involves multiple, distinct actions, take multiple photos or break up the step.
    • Most readers won't need a photo to figure this out.
      Use your judgment about which steps need photos. If you're not sure whether to include an image for a particular step, it is probably best to include it anyway. For instance, even something as apparently simple as "turn the paper over" might warrant a photo to show which way to turn the paper. On the other hand, it's probably not necessary to include a photo for "let the glue dry thoroughly."
    • Do the real project. As much as possible, really do whatever the article states (or will state). Avoid simulating, mocking up, or approximating things, which will make it hard to tell whether or not the instructions really work; instead, make the photos and the text that goes with them both as accurate as you can.
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    Find a neutral, plain background. If you don't have or want to create a light box, find a plain background against which to take your photos. Try a table, tablecloth, desk, workbench, floor, or counter, or even a sofa cushion, plain bedspread, or blank piece of paper.
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    Get plenty of light. Natural daylight is best; flash can make images look harsh, uneven, and unappealing. If you're working indoors, work during the day near an open window. Bring the subject closer to the light or the light closer to the subject. Turn on the lights. Use your flash if you need to, but be aware that it will create glare and bright spots.
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    Zoom in. Get close to your subject or use the zoom to get as clear a photo of your subject as you can. Not all cameras do a great job of close-ups, so take some experimental shots with different settings and conditions to see how close yours can go.
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    Use your macro mode. If your camera has a macro mode (often indicated on buttons or displays by a little flower symbol), try turning it on whenever you are close to your subject.
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    Use contrast and color. If you can choose the color of your material or your background, choose a visible combination. This may mean using brightly-colored materials or it may mean putting something that is bright or light-colored on a darker background or vice versa.
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    Image titled Contrast Color Pleated Empire Dress with Belt
    Get the entire subject in the picture. Don't cut off half of what you're trying to photograph or describe.
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    Take photos of your subject, not yourself. Go ahead and photograph the hand holding the screwdriver, but think twice about uploading a photo of your smiling mug. There are two reasons for this. You want your subject to take up most of the image, especially since your image will appear first in a small thumbnail view. Also, before you upload a recognizable image of yourself, remember that thousands of people might see it.
    ...or the food?
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    Take multiple photos of each step with various angles, positions, and settings. Then, choose the best shot for each step. It's much easier to shoot several photos for each step than to go back to the middle of a process to take another photo of something that came out blurry. The article Make Jam shows about 20 photos, but about 120 were taken.
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    Get help. Many tasks require at least two hands to perform. If you can't set up the shot and then take it, ask someone else to help you take the photo while you demonstrate the action. Alternatively, place your camera on a tripod and use the timer setting.
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    Edit your photo. Even a simple photo editor should help you with some basics.
    • Crop out unnecessary background. Remember that your photo will appear in a small thumbnail on the page. Sure, folks can click to zoom in, but try to make your subject take up at least 75% of the space of your image. An expanse of empty tabletop (or worse, unrelated background clutter) is not informative. Cropping can also help to center the subject in the frame.
    • Brighten up the image. Try adjusting the brightness and contrast if your image is dark. If your images are consistently too dark, work to get more light on them in the first place. By far, the most common correction needed is "adjusting the histogram." Most photo editors have a button that will do this for you. For example, in Picasa (Google's free photo editor), the button is Auto Contrast. In Microsoft Digital Image Editor, it is Levels Auto Fix. However you do it, many or most digital photographs are missing their brighter pixels and need their contrast range expanded.
    • Rotate your image so that it is right-side up.
    • Small and difficult to see.
      Don't reduce the size of your image – at least not too much. If your digital camera puts out so many megapixels that the image overflows your screen, consider scaling it to 75% or 50% of the original size, provided that no detail is lost in the process. Don't make the image a thumbnail size, though; let wikiHow do that. The maximum image size you can upload at wikiHow is 2MB.
    • Add an arrow or circle a relevant part, but only if it will inform beyond the original contents of the photo, as in pointing out a small or subtle detail or the direction of motion.
    • Don't add text directly to your image, since the article might be translated into many languages. Text is also very hard to read in small thumbnails. Instead, use numbers or numbered arrows to indicate items and put the details into the caption, where they can be changed easily if the article is translated.
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    Name the file with a descriptive name; the more specific, the better. If your article has many photos, it helps to name them as a set; for example oil_change_1, oil_change_2, oil_change_3, and so on. Even if the numbers don't correspond one-to-one with the steps in the article, it will help you keep track of them, and it will help anyone translating the article to keep track and keep your images with the right steps. See Put a Photo in a wikiHow Article for more details.
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    Upload the photo with an appropriate free license.
    • The best choice is for photos that you yourself took is I made this myself. I hereby license it CC-by.
    • Be sure to provide some description of the photo.
    • In the description, add that you took the image yourself and supply a date, either today's or the date you took the photo.
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    Make sure to choose an appropriate license for your work from the drop-down menu at the bottom; it will automatically be applied to all the images you upload.
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    Add the image to your article. Copy and paste the link from each image into the appropriate step. Remember that the image link goes at the beginning of the step, just after the # and that there should be no line break between the image and the step. Don't forget to change the caption.
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    Check how your image looks with the preview button before publishing. If necessary, make adjustments.


  • This article is about taking your own photos for wikiHow. If your article could use a more general photo as illustration (a picture of a tree, somebody wearing a hat), try the Find Free Photos link on the left side of every page. It will help you find, select, and upload appropriately licensed images.
  • Especially if you are taking photos for an existing article, don't be afraid to rewrite the steps so that they match up better with the photos. Reorder them if it's appropriate, combine them, or break them up.
  • Try the {{inuse}} template if you will be editing an article extensively. To use it, add {{inuse}} to the top of an article, then publish the page. It puts a notice at the top of the page telling other editors to leave things alone for awhile. Don't forget to remove the template when you're through editing.
    Image titled The inuse tag as displayed by the template as an image.
  • Take photos of the same setup in the same light whenever possible. It will help to lend the page a consistent appearance throughout.
  • Watch for reflections, shadows, and bright spots. You may need to change the angle of the light, subject, or camera to avoid glare.

    A lot of background reflection on the left.
    A better angle.
  • Taken with a cell phone, but a good one.
    Use a cell phone camera to take photos only if yours does a particularly good job of it. Many cell phones are secondary to cameras and take low-quality, low-resolution photos, though others are much better. It's best to use a digital camera.


  • Always license your images appropriately. Unlicensed images cannot be used on wikiHow.
  • Think twice before uploading a recognizable photo of yourself to wikiHow. Remember, thousands of people will see your picture. Instead, show just the action or the hand performing it.

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