If a picture paints a thousand words…


Let’s talk clichés.

The origin of the oft-repeated phrase ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ is thought most likely to be in early 20th century USA, probably an advertising campaign or an editor’s mantra.

But does it still ring true today?

Yes, probably.

But it depends on the quality of the image and the value of the thousand words to which it is seeking to equate.

We can all remember graphic pictures from history.

To name just a few…US Marines raising the Stars and Stripes on Mount Iwo Jima in 1945; the 1937 Hindenburg disaster in New Jersey; terrified children after a napalm attack in the Vietnam war; the black power salutes at the 1968 Mexico Olympics; a protester stopping tanks in Tiananmen Square; the starving child in Southern Sudan being watched by a vulture; the 9/11 ‘falling man’ at the World Trade Centre.

But stunning pictures are not necessarily all of war or tragedy.

There’s the Twickenham streaker whose modesty was covered by a policeman’s helmet; Marilyn Monroe’s skirt-raising moment promoting The Seven Year Itch in 1954; Bobby Moore held aloft by teammates with the World Cup at Wembley in 1966; Albert Einstein with his tongue out in 1951; Buzz Aldrin on the Moon in 1969.

You can probably, in your mind’s eye, conjure up all these images fairly quickly, but can you recall the headlines that accompanied them?

It’s an unfair question as the photographs would have been used by a multitude of news organisations, but each would have utilised their own form of words.

That’s not to say, however, there haven’t been some cracking newspaper headlines over the years.

There are the serious…

Nixon Resigns; Up Yours Delors; Hitler Dead; Men Walk On Moon; Kennedy Assassinated; Beatle John Lennon Slain; Greatest Crash In Wall Street’s History, Premier Says ‘Peace For Our Time’.

And on a lighter note…

‘Freddie Starr Ate My Hamster’; Super Caley Go Ballistic Celtic Are Atrocious; Men Walk On Moon; The Filth And The Fury;

At Deep South Media we strive to provide strong, eye-catching images to go with our informative and interesting text.

Visuals are as vital for SEO as much as the text – and Facebook and content marketing is also all about the power of visuals.

We recognise that a balance needs to be maintained between text and pictures. Yes, and that’s even for radio – because stations have websites too.

It would be unforgivable to provide one without the other.

In my, rather lengthy, experience I have found that the reader’s eye is invariably drawn first to the picture.

Thus it is crucial for any important piece of news to be presented well with the picture at least as prominent as the text.

This is because, unless we are talking about front page news, I wonder how many readers actually connect with the headline before plunging into the copy.

I am often guilty of this myself and if anyone asked me, after I had read a paper, what the headlines were I would probably struggle to come up with many examples.

That, somewhat limited one-man opinion poll, leads me to the obvious conclusion – painful as it might be for an ex-hack whose headline-writing numbers must be in the hundreds of thousands by now – that the text is more important than the heading.


So, the picture takes precedence, but does not stand alone (except, rarely, in some of the striking examples above- and even then usually only years later when that picture has achieved iconic status and its context is generally known).

Yes, a picture may be stunning, but invariably will leave questions – to be answered by the accompanying text.

Therefore, the bottom line, of course, is that striking a balance between pictures and words is vital.

Even the most dry, most turgid textbook would always be improved by illustrations and the articles we read in newspapers, magazines and online are no different.

…and that’s not to mention video.