RE: User documentation - drawings or photographs?

Subject: RE: User documentation - drawings or photographs?
From: "McLauchlan, Kevin" <Kevin -dot- McLauchlan -at- safenet-inc -dot- com>
To: "Al Geist" <al -dot- geist -at- geistassociates -dot- com>, "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 22 Jan 2008 16:28:10 -0500

On Behalf Of Al Geist was in a contrarian mood (borrowed from me, I'll
bet...) when he said:

> " ...a photograph is a complete representation of the real thing.
> react to a photograph differently. If you don't yet have a production
> version when you create your docs, you pretty much have to go with a
> drawing."
> Not necessarily. I use (shoot) photographs all the time of product
> development units. Some of the images are replaced just prior to
> publishing.
> Some are shot of components that I know will not be changing as the
> systems
> move from development to production. All are available to the other
> members of the writing staff.

I'm writing from the perspective of a lone writer who has normally
finished his docs and moved on to another project by the time the true
production units are becoming available.
I get to work with prototypes and the occasional pre-prod unit... that
might still not have finishing touches like the silk-screening or the
ultimate choice of finish on the metal-work (brushed, anodized,
powder-coated (which color?)).

> "For a photo to look professional, especially among other photos in
> same document, it must be of the same style - thus, either you must
> all the photos done by a competent photographer with the expensive
> lighting equipment, the nice, seamless backgrounds, etc., or else you
> must take your own photos and then Photoshop/GIMP them to match
> lighting, remove shadows and variations of background, and so on."
> I shot product shots for a company that has a virtual monopoly on the
> high-end (read Emmy Award/Academy Award level productions) wireless
> microphone manufacturer. I used a Canon Pro digital camera and a
> that consisted of a table, an innovative home-made light baffle
> three run of the mill tungsten shop lights and a variety of
> and
> I didn't spend a lot of time cleaning things up in Photoshop. My shots
> were
> used in the company product catalog through convention banners. The
> cost about $50 to put together. If you know what you are doing, have a
> creative mind, a little knowledge of photo composition, and a few
> practice with a digital camera, you don't need expensive lighting
> equipment,
> seamless backgrounds, etc. BTW...even the best photographers can't
> every shot without shadows, especially if it's the innards of a
> manufacturing system.

You were goin' good, putting me in my place for not having a
sufficiently creative mind and photographic knowledge/skills, but then
your last sentence re-made my case for preferring drawings.
I find that a photo is great for the outside of a box, but once you get
the cover off and start messing in the innards, the reflections and
inopportune shadows and the lack of contrast in exactly the places where
you want it most... all point to a simple line drawing as the way to
portray/emphasize what you want portrayed and emphasized.

> "Photos can easily become dated, when somebody decides to change the
> silk-screening on the product, or change a component (even
> a different brand of connector, indicator, card-reader, etc. With all
> the extraneous detail fully present in a photo, the person looking at
> - against the current version of the actual hardware - might wonder if
> they received the right equipment, or if they're reading the
> for the right model. At our place, managers won't sign for
> the purchase-from-inventory of a new $20,000 appliance just because
> cosmetic bits have changed."
> Each place is different. I never had a problem with dated photographs
> drawings, because I reshoot whenever I can and put the new images in a
> library for all writers to use. If I can't reshoot, I use Photoshop to
> update if I can't. (Updating often means erasing extraneous stuff.)
> "It's easier to tweak a vector drawing than to acquire a clean-looking
> sample of the current hardware and schedule a photo shoot."
> Our company moves so fast in development that the SolidWorks drawings
> always months behind, so tweaking a vector drawing may be nice, but it
> ain't
> gunna happen 'cause there ain't no time.

Oh, well I just draw an outline drawing in Visio or Illustrator, and
update it as necessary. We don't GET the equivalent of SolidWorks
drawings anymore.
I think your company and mine produce product in a different order. We
do the design, have prototypes made, refine them, and finally get
pre-product... preferably around the time we're testing the software
that goes with.
We don't make product and then catch up later with engineering drawings,
such as a skunk-works shop might do.
> My staff and I also don't schedule photo shoots, we either have the
> engineers shoot the images we need/want, or we shoot them ourselves.
> always shoot my own images and then put them in a library for others
> writers
> to use.) As I said, each place is different. Sometimes, when we get
> desperate, we borrow images from Marketing.

Staff. He's got staff. I'm my staff.
We have a "Creative Services" group in another country, and it takes so
long to schedule work with them that it's often simpler and quicker to
just do it myself.

Different worlds, Al.
I haven't worked in a multi-person documentation-and-graphics department
this century. Not since the eighties, in fact. One-man-band, here.
I really, really, really miss having an editor though. A _real_ editor,
I mean. Sigh...

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User documentation - drawings or photographs?: From: SB
RE: User documentation - drawings or photographs?: From: McLauchlan, Kevin
RE: User documentation - drawings or photographs?: From: Al Geist

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