Skip to main content

Chapter 6

Photographing the process

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. They’re right. Don’t just tell readers how to do something—show them.

Historically, photos haven’t gotten much love in manuals—even in service manuals where photos might be the difference between poorly installed brakes and a car that stops when told. The holy grail of standardization, ISO 9001 documentation, is usually text only. Given the historical expense of printing costs, this made sense. But that was then, and this is now. Welcome to the digital revolution: the world is your high-resolution oyster.

A digital camera.

iFixit teaches people how to repair their electronics. That’s dicey business. After all, there are tons of little components and little connectors in any given device. Take Zero-Insertion Force (ZIF) connectors, for example. Not only are they tiny, but they’re equipped with even tinier, delicate flaps that have to be pried up and flipped over. Do it the wrong way—a common mistake made by newbie technicians—and you could break the entire device. Those are some pretty high stakes.

Here are iFixit’s text instructions for freeing the ZIF battery connector in an iPod Nano:

Hold down the light-colored socket with your finger. Then use the tip of a spudger to flip the ZIF cable lock 90º upwards.

And while those are good instructions, they aren’t enough. There’s too much room for error. So, iFixit includes high-resolution, color photos with every single step. That way, you can zoom in and figure out exactly what the component looks like, where the flap is, and how to pry it up. Photos like this one have saved the life of many a ZIF connector:

detatching a ZIF connector

Photography brings instructions to life. It makes things more clear. Compare an Ikea manual to iFixit’s self-repair guides. Depending on the level of clarity, repairing your iPhone can be more accessible than assembling a set of cupboards.

comparing an iFixit photo to Ikea's manuals

Tips for photography

Not a photography expert? Not to worry! Modern cameras make it surprisingly easy—and fast—to take useful photos. Our tips and tutorials will have you shooting like a pro in a flash. Each of the links below have in-depth, step-by-steps guides from Dozuki on product photography.

Camera equipment

Setting up the photoshoot

The most important component for taking pictures is choosing the right camera. We highly recommended that you use a digital single lens reflex (DSLR) camera to take professional-quality guide images. If you don’t have a DSLR camera, any point-and-shoot camera with at least 6 megapixels will capture images with sufficient resolution.

No matter what camera you decide to use, every hand-held camera is prone to shakes and vibrations that cause blurry photos. Using a tripod, even a cheap one, keeps your images sharp.

A tripod.

The better your lighting is, the less you have to post-process the photo. Unfortunately, your old bedside lamp just won’t cut it. Despair not! You can construct a relatively inexpensive DIY photography studio out of simple light fixtures, the right bulbs, and a clean, white surface.

If you’re investing in a professional lighting setup, a proper photographic light fixture should house three or four individual light bulbs. To cut down on harsh glare, slip a diffuser over the front of each fixture.

A professional lighting setup.

Taking the perfect photo

Zoomed in on the details.

Using your hands

If you are documenting instructions, we recommend that your images include hands whenever possible. Hands are great at demonstrating the actions described in each step. And not drawings of hands—actual hands attached to actual people performing the actual tasks that users actually want to do. User manuals that feature photos of hands working on intricate components give users a better idea of how to replicate the desired action.

iFixit manuals have trained millions of novices in the craft of electronics repair by using step-by-step high-res, color photos of hands demonstrating the process. Seeing those pictures makes it easy for users to repeat the same process on their own.

demonstrating hand placement

Processing your photos

iPhone screw diagram