On the Picture or In the Picture? Which is Correct?

You are looking through a family photo album, pointing out funny pictures and memorable moments. You go to point at a person and you wonder if you are talking about a person “on the picture” or “in the picture”?

If something is a graphical part of the picture, you would say that this something is “in the picture.” If something is touching the physical picture, or laying on top of it, you would say that this something is “on the picture” to describe that. 

As you would probably guess, the physical location of the subject in relation to the picture determines if you say “in the picture” or “on the picture.” Keep reading to learn more.

What Does “In the Picture” Mean?

When you are looking at a picture, the image that you see is “in the picture.” If you were going to point out a tree or a boat, for example, you would use the phrase in the picture to do that.


  • The boat in the picture over here is really colorful.
  • The tree in the picture right here is larger than the house.

Notice that the speaker is talking about something in the image, not on the image. This has a completely different meaning.

What Does “On the Picture” Mean?

Imagine that you are looking at a picture, and you notice that the picture is dusty. The dust that you see is “on the picture.” This is because the dust is not a part of the picture. It can be wiped away from the picture, so you would say that it is “on the picture” instead of “in the picture.”


  • Look! There is a bug on the picture. There, in the corner!
  • I found it and pulled it from the box. There was a mountain of dust on the picture, but this was it!

Notice that the bug and the dust are not a part of the image of the picture. These are things that are on top of the picture, on the outside of the image.

Final Thoughts

Both “in the picture” and “on the picture” are correct depending on what context you are using.

In most cases, you will use “in the picture” if you are referring to something in the image of the picture. 

For things that are on the physical picture itself, you would use “on the picture.”