Why Adding Text Over Photos is the Next Big Thing

One of my favorite lifestyle bloggers has done it f-o-r-e-v-e-r: written text over her images. When I started to use this technique at work at our company intranet, I got from almost zero responses to A LOT over night. And when I played around with Labelbox on my Facebook pics, everybody asked me what tool I used to put the label in the photo.

Andy Warhol once said: “I never read, I just look at pictures”. He was way ahead of his time. But today, it applies to almost everyone. Especially on the web.

text over photos

Text on photos is the Next Big Thing. Since the Instagram revolution, we love to share all the small details that our lives are made of. And we want to do it even more. We want to share our emotions too. A really good way to do it is combining text and photo. It allows people to put their pics in a context. It allows them to be serious, light-hearted, funny, ironic. Whatever they feel the second they take their pic. All new iPhone or Android apps has made it accessible too. You don’t need to import your photos to your computer and edit them in PhotoShop anymore. You have every tool you need in your handbag or pocket: right there in your phone.

In times of no time, photos with text over them is a fast way to send information out or to digest information. I think that’s why my co-workers reacted so well to the photos with text that I published on our intranet. Employees seldom have time to actually read the full articles on the intranet, and not taking part of company information stresses them. But like this, they can do as Andy Warhol: only look at pictures, and get the whole picture (!) at the same time! It’s time-saving for everyone.

Have you picked up this trend yet? In what context do you write text over photos? Please share in the comment box below!



About the author

Anna Rydne is an award winning and highly skilled communications specialist with +13 years of experience in the field of internal and external communication, PR and marketing. What distinguishes her from others in her field of expertise is that she treats communication as entertainment. It's simple to explain why: if it isn't funny or relevant enough, people switch channel. Anna has a special interest in personal branding and she believes the road to success is trying. Based in Stockholm, Sweden, she's determined to uncover the secrets of how successful people and companies communicate. She tweets about all things comms, social media and marketing @CoSkills and writes for SteamFeed.com once a month. She holds a bachelor's degree in psychology. Contact her at communicateskills@gmail.com.

21 Responses to Why Adding Text Over Photos is the Next Big Thing

  1. Good post, have it in my feed for Tuesday. Lover of Instagram and pictures do tell the story but sometimes a little boost helps!

  2. I think it’s illegal as it won’t pass accessibility standards without alt tags. For this reason, it has no place on corporate intranets.

    • Anna Rydne says:

      Hi Jonathan! Your reply made me curious: if I take my own photo, write some text over it and use it on the intranet, how can it be illegal? Have I missed something important here? Please explain your comment further!

      • Chad Miller says:

        Even if you do use another persons photo, and the proper permissions were allowed by the “owner” (such as creative commons on Flikr), there shouldn’t be any problems applying text or quotes over the image. Unless the corporate intranet is using the image for monetary gains, which I’ve never heard of such, I’d also question how it can be illegal.
        I may be missing something as well, or not have a complete understanding. Can you elaborate, Jonathan?

  3. Hi Anna, very happy to explain. It doesn’t relate to copyright, but to web accessibility.

    The UK equality act covers websites, intranets or internets. If someone with a disability, such as impaired sight, cannot access your website in it’s fullest, then that might be seen as discrimination. This link covers this nicely from the RNIB, UK, but similar laws exist across Europe and the US.

    Text within an image, such as those examples you’ve posted here, cannot be ‘viewed’ by those with visual impairment. Blind web-users often use screen reader software that creates audio from the text, but as your text is physically embedded within the image, the software cannot read it. Alt tags for images can be read.

    Now, I’ll confess that you’re incredibly unlikely to embed significant business information into an image, so an employee might find it hard to argue that they’ve been discriminated against, but really, you don’t want that ill-feeling in your organisation, you want to be inclusive. Images like this, unless handled properly, are not inclusive.

    It’s for this reason that my intranet guidelines make the express point that one should never embed text in images.

    We’ve written about the law and intranets here.

    • Anna Rydne says:

      Thanks Jonathan, I have never thought of this as a problem and didn’t know about the law you’re referring to.

      As you say, it’s unlikely to put significant corporate information on photos only, but it’s definitely worth considering. Thanks for sharing this valuable information!

      • ls says:

        On the other hand, for millions of us who are deaf, deafened, or have a hearing loss, or use “captioning” (subtitles) for so many reasons (equal communication access via real-time speech-to-text) so sorely needed on all Internet media for example, we like this idea very much. It’s not what we call “captioning” per se, yet it’s related. A photo tells the story – with text, one is pulled in more?
        At the same time, as others say, what about access for blind and low-vision users? Can “audio description” be added also?
        http://ccacaptioning.org has more information about us, cheers, ls

  4. I am sure it will be the next big thing, but how long after that will it be the latest passe?

  5. […] Why Adding Text Over Photos is the Next Big Thing (communicateskills.com) Sharing is caring:Like this:LikeBe the first to like this. […]

  6. kmstrand says:

    Photos with Text http://wp.me/p2q94H-1 via @kmstrand

  7. […] Why adding text over photos is the next big thing: Anna Rydne discusses how adding text seems to be the next ‘big thing’ and how internal comms and intranet professionals can adapt this technique for internal campaigns. We recognise this is a growing trend, but is this a good thing? As pointed out in the comments by Jonathan adding text over images could discriminate against your colleagues with visual impairments. […]

  8. Jonathan is right on the money here, placing your text in images is a hug no-no in accessibility terms and illegal in many countries. Most developed countries have web accessibility (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_accessibility) legislation that covers this. I believe Section 508 and WCAG would be most relevant in the US.

    This also negatively impacts search engines as, like people using screen readers, search engines cannot ‘read’ the text content of an image.

    Do the web, and yourself, a favour and don’t do this.

  9. […] that highlights the need for raising awareness around accessibility. Well, the article titled Why Adding Text Over Photos is the Next Big Thing isn’t the interesting part, it’s the comments associated with the article that you’ll find […]

  10. Jason says:

    Thank you for the interesting article! At Pogologos.co we are adding text to images in a unique and colorful new way. Our goal is to change the way people discover, create and share. Design and Music continue to evolve and change to stay relevant and fresh. Why should language be any different. Best- Jason

  11. Love this –thanks Anna! Does anyone know if google’s new algorithms will now recognize the text over the image?

    • Anna Rydne says:

      To be honest, Pam, I really don’t know. And I don’t know how the algorithm will rate it, if it’s able to recognize it. Does anyone else know?

  12. Andrea Crego says:

    I don’t see what the big deal is. The amount of text embedded in a photo would naturally be brief; that same exact text can be copied as “alternative text” when the picture is being added. And if that isn’t good enough, just make the text into a subtitle under the picture, and no one is left out.
    Am I missing something? I clicked on the link provided by Mr. Philips… tl;dr!

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