This is something I often come across, question that have barely any text (usually no latex at all) and just a picture taken to the problem (sometimes is not even a screen captures, I've seen pictures taken to books too).

What is the general procedure with this kind of questions? Should I edit them and write question of the book "latexfied" or flag them to be deleted because of the laziness to even copy the problem properly?

For example, the question I just saw that made me write this post: https://math.stackexchange.com/questions/789559/fine-generalized-inverse-of-a

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    $\begingroup$ If it's reasonable (e.g. not a page of text, and the question is of good quality otherwise), I'll just Latex it myself; I'll usually leave a comment linking to the MathJax tutorial page. If it's very long, like this one, I'd probably just leave a comment with a link and explain that pic-questions should be avoided. $\endgroup$
    – user61527
    May 10, 2014 at 21:42
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    $\begingroup$ If latexifying is too much effort, I vote to close and move on. $\endgroup$ May 11, 2014 at 0:34
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    $\begingroup$ Perhaps a duplicate of: Question where the question is an image? $\endgroup$ May 11, 2014 at 4:55
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    $\begingroup$ related: «On the inclusion of pages-of-text-as-images in questions» $\endgroup$
    – Grigory M
    May 12, 2014 at 18:15
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    $\begingroup$ I think closing for laziness in this case is a bit harsh. Can you really blame people for not wanting to copy out and entire paragraph of text, complete with complex formulae that need to be Latexed? $\endgroup$
    – Jack M
    May 14, 2014 at 23:06
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    $\begingroup$ The problem with these is that they don't age well, and people's work is wasted. I definitely would blame the OP! $\endgroup$ May 15, 2014 at 5:46
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    $\begingroup$ Words like "laziness" send me into a chain of rhetorical questions. Are we objecting that laziness is against our community's moral standards? Do we have a community definition of "laziness" then? Is it lazy to look up a question in Stack Exchange rather than work out every answer oneself from first principles? $\endgroup$
    – ajm475du
    May 15, 2014 at 15:14
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    $\begingroup$ What are the advantages of latexifying formulae? I can't see any SEO advantages, nor have I ever found myself needing to copy and paste latex. $\endgroup$ May 23, 2014 at 3:06
  • $\begingroup$ @user147263 Fair point. Maybe this could be of use to people? $\endgroup$ May 23, 2014 at 15:38
  • $\begingroup$ See also: Should I edit a question everytime I see an image in it? $\endgroup$ Mar 14, 2016 at 19:18

6 Answers 6


We have a special close reason for questions consisting only of a copy of an exercise from a textbook:

This question is missing context or other details: Please improve the question by providing additional context, which ideally includes your thoughts on the problem and any attempts you have made to solve it. This information helps others identify where you have difficulties and helps them write answers appropriate to your experience level.

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    $\begingroup$ This isn't closing because of the image-only post, though. It's because it's specifically an image-only post that also happens to not include effort or context. You could have a question where the problem is a photo taken of a book, but the questioner then adds their own thoughts. $\endgroup$
    – Jack M
    May 14, 2014 at 23:07
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    $\begingroup$ @JackM It wouldn't be a image-only post then. $\endgroup$
    – Grigory M
    May 15, 2014 at 8:38
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    $\begingroup$ There is the particular case when the user has posted a picture of their work... $\endgroup$
    – apnorton
    May 22, 2014 at 3:35
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    $\begingroup$ @anorton Well, yes, this is not the situation from the post («just a picture taken to the problem»), and in this case the close reason doesn't apply. $\endgroup$
    – Grigory M
    May 22, 2014 at 6:54

My thought process:

  • If it's TeX-ifiable, do so.

  • If it's too long to texify and it's recent, link the OP to the LaTeX guide.

  • If it's too long to texify and it's old, too bad.

  • If it's too long to texify because it's simply a lazy "dumping" of a question onto SE, then vote to close.


People should be encouraged to avoid putting the main content of their question in an image. This makes the question harder to find using search and inaccessible to the visually impaired, which is less than ideal. Making something harder to find via search is especially unfortunate, as it means that others who might be interested in the same question won't be able to benefit from the answers and knowledge accumulated here. It's also bad for the site, as it means the site loses a chance to attract new users through Google search.

Instead, people should be encouraged to transcribe text and mathematics themselves, using LaTeX as appropriate.

As another reminder: people should be reminded to give proper attribution to all sources, when appropriate. I've noticed that it's common for such images to be a screenshot or scan of a textbook, lecture notes, or other source that is not written by the original poster. In these cases, it is important to provide attribution in the question to credit the original source of the material, as plagiarism is problematic on this site.

Here is a template for an example comment you can leave for the poster in these situations, if you deem it appropriate:

Don't use images as main content of your post. This makes your question impossible to search and inaccessible to the visually impaired. Please transcribe text and mathematics (note that you can [use LaTeX](https://math.meta.stackexchange.com/q/5020/)) and don't forget to give proper attribution to your sources.

Don't use images as main content of your post. This makes your question impossible to search and inaccessible to the visually impaired. Please transcribe text and mathematics (note that you can use LaTeX) and don't forget to give proper attribution to your sources.

For reference, you can find similar discussion on the network-side Meta site: How to handle images containing text (vs text)? and Allowed to post scanned page from text book on SE and Using (only) scan/photograph/screenshot of text as an answer?. The conclusions there are similar. On this site, On the inclusion of pages-of-text-as-images in questions and Are pictures of hand-written drawings allowed are related and helpful as well.


It's a judgement call. For a new user posting a picture that wouldn't be too much work to convert to text with TeX, I would just go ahead and change it over. For a more experienced user who should know better, or when it would take way too much work to do the conversion, I would post a comment to that effect.

Once in a blue moon I see a question where the use of pictures of text is very appropriate: What does the symbol |_ mean? The asker in this instance did actually type some explanatory text, but couldn't be sure "|_" is the appropriate way to render this symbol.

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    $\begingroup$ Why exhume this thread? $\endgroup$
    – Lord_Farin
    Apr 2, 2016 at 20:42
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    $\begingroup$ @Lord_Farin Because of the |_ symbol question. $\endgroup$ Apr 4, 2016 at 0:53

I happened to be the one answering that question. Probably a mistake, because my attempts at a hint just met more "explain me this" questions.

In general, however, I wouldn't judge all the picture questions. Just the lazy ones.

  • $\begingroup$ Hard to say which ones are lazy... $\endgroup$
    – vonbrand
    May 22, 2014 at 20:57

I believe its counterproductive to judge the quality of the question by its format. You shouldn't care whether the question is in the form of pic, or three pages of latex.

In that light, your question is pointless to me.

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    $\begingroup$ Agree about not needing LaTeX to write a good question, but at least to me a scanned page is always a major turn-off. I think it is a sign of laziness. Your mileage may vary. $\endgroup$ May 12, 2014 at 10:21
  • $\begingroup$ The culprit is not in the pic, in my opinion, but in the question as a whole, for that example. But, in general, the format of the question should be of little importance. $\endgroup$
    – VividD
    May 12, 2014 at 10:24
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    $\begingroup$ @VividD It is very important to me that a question be formatted in raw latex and not as some external link or image file. Raw latex not only makes the question more searchable and self-contained, it makes it so that when answering it I can access and edit the source for the equations in the question. This is VERY important, especially for cases where a question requires editing. $\endgroup$
    – 6005
    May 13, 2014 at 23:31
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    $\begingroup$ I think a person who asks a question should be expected to ask it in an acceptable form, maybe even to learn basic TeX. $\endgroup$
    – Alexey
    May 17, 2014 at 9:52

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