This is much easier to explain by example. So you might hear someone say this photo of her is ok, but she looks much better in person.

I am looking for the equivalent of "in person" that applies to things, e.g.,

A photo of the house is on the museum's homepage, but it is more impressive [in person].

There doesn't seem to be a concise, elegant way to say this, though it seems there should be, perhaps a latin phrase like in corpore (that's not it).

  • A photo of the house is on the museum's homepage, but it is more impressive in real life/if you are there/when you see it personally.
    – Greybeard
    Commented Oct 23, 2023 at 22:22

7 Answers 7


I can't find a reference to back this up, but I would sometimes use the phrase "in person" for an object because in order to experience it that way you have to personally go see it. Since there is at least one person present it makes sense to me even if it might not be 100% technically correct.

I would not use it when there is no other person present:

The museum is more impressive in person (i.e. when you visit, it's impressive).

The curator of the museum was there in person (this works even if he's alone).

*The Mona Lisa was there in person (this doesn't work because no people are there).

So, depending on your needs, "in person" gets you half-way there.


'In person' refers to the entity experiencing the observed item, not the item itself.

So 'in person' doesn't matter whether that item is a person, inanimate, or whatever.

Use 'in person' since you expect (probably) that it is a person doing the experiencing.


At first hand or at firsthand is an appropriate phrase to indicate "when seen directly".

Example: "A photo of the house is on the museum's homepage. The house is more impressive at first hand than in the photo."


It jars when people say ‘in person’ for inanimate objects. I think ‘in real life’ or ‘in reality’ or ‘the actual [painting/building/thing]’ work better.

  • 2
    I think your answer is the correct one and should have been the accepted one, but it would have benefited from a couple of examples and some supporting authority.
    – Greybeard
    Commented Jan 22, 2022 at 10:43

You can use in actuality for your example sentence.

A photo of the house is on the museum's homepage, but it is more impressive in actuality.


Although 'in person' works fine for things and people, an alternative would be 'in reality'. The photo is a (possibly inaccurate) representation of the house, not the real house.


I cringe when sellers online say something is prettier "in actual" but I can't find a better term. If "in reality" is the most appropriate, it sounds awkward. I think I would opt for in person when commenting to online posts.

  • Your answer could be improved with additional supporting information. Please edit to add further details, such as citations or documentation, so that others can confirm that your answer is correct. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center.
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    Commented Oct 23, 2023 at 22:45

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