What are the general guidelines on when to embed a picture in an answer and when to link it?

F.e. If you post a pictured guide on how to solve a question, should you embed the pictures or just link to them? Another example are CWs over at SU which are collecting applications for different purposes, is it reasonable to embed the banner of the application in the answer?

  • Check out: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/9397/… – Grace Note May 3 '10 at 20:42
  • It depends on if waffles, bunnies, or unicorns are in the picture, in which case, always. It's like saying lol. If in doubt, say lol.... lol – Earlz May 3 '10 at 20:45
  • @Earlz It's statements like that which make me fear that one of these days, we will no longer have periods to end our sentences and must contend with an "lol" key on our keyboards... – Grace Note May 3 '10 at 20:48
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    Adding pictures is kind of a pain, so I just put a post-it note on my monitor where I want the picture to go. – user27414 May 3 '10 at 20:50
  • @ccornet: I missed that one in my search, nice find! – Time Traveling Bobby May 3 '10 at 20:54
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    @Bobby: I can't look at your name without mentally adding "Tables" at the end. I wonder if you hear that a lot. – Ether May 3 '10 at 21:05
  • @Ether there is a user on SO named little bobby tables – Earlz May 3 '10 at 22:01
  • @Ether: Not as often as someone might think...though, the first time I was called that was when I answered a SQL Injection question on SO...guess I asked for it. ;) – Time Traveling Bobby May 4 '10 at 6:22

Embed by default.

It's much easier to follow a question when what needs to be seen is right there, and you don't have to worry about people not bothering to look at it (either they ignore the link completely, or are afraid to click on it because it might be spam).

That being said, if you need to post a full screenshot, it's probably better to embed a thumbnail (of decent size, not overflowing the layout), and make it clickable to show the full version.

A word of caution: when doing this with images where you are not hosting them yourself, links can go stale, leaving you with nothing in your post. In these cases, I would strongly consider making a copy of the images and hosting them yourself.

Please allow image uploads directly onto the site


Whenever text or ASCII art isn't enough.

On meta: whenever you are feeling like making red free hand circles and drop shadow effects for a visual representation of a bug.

On SO: you should almost never need pictures on your answers, except when you are explaining a theoretical concept, and you are too lazy to do ASCII graphs.

  • If there was a question about GUI layout algorithms, a picture would almost certainly be highly appropriate as part of an answer. Layouts are typically hard to understand from just descriptions… – Donal Fellows May 3 '10 at 22:47
  • And TeX was done by a CS hater for printing biology books – Dr. belisarius Dec 17 '10 at 6:46

Only when they contain - argh! I can't say it... but let's just say it's a pony with horns. And the things you put on bunny's heads.

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    Pie crust? You would have pictures of pie crust? – Donal Fellows May 3 '10 at 22:49
  • He can't say a meme! Hurry poke fun! – Earlz May 3 '10 at 23:25
  • @Donal: No silly, not pie crust. It's the thing you cook in a waffle maker. I can't say what it is though. – uɐɯsO uɐɥʇɐN May 3 '10 at 23:58
  • Waffles? XD SCNR – Time Traveling Bobby May 4 '10 at 6:23

Whenever they're worth 1k words.

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    "So for today's essay, you're going to write a thousand word essay over this picture: " shows picture of instructor catching a fish – Earlz May 3 '10 at 23:26

Never, ever, for what ever reason, what ever.

  • I would have sworn you'd be in the "every answer needs a picture" camp! ;-) – James McNellis May 3 '10 at 23:23
  • @James Give me a whiteboard and marker, and I'll happily draw pictures illustrating my ideas all day long. But crappy bitmap manipulation tools and a mouse - no thanks. Also, the SO editing mechanisms don't really support group edits of pictures. – nb69307 May 4 '10 at 8:22

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