How to analyze an image or photograph?

caught off guard

An important and often fun technique in fixing new vocabulary to memory is learning the skill of analysing an image. This develops the ability of critical thinking and once mastered will be a skill that you can use for many years to come if not your entire life. Interestingly, many students that are not art lovers seem to enjoy these sessions. This page provides the bullet points for describing an image. To go much deeper into the subject you can take my classes on English through photography.

  • What is the principle subject and what is the scene showing? “Its some people caught off guard by a wave walking along a seaside promenade.”
  • Is there a noticeable foreground, middle ground and background? If so describe each position in the image. Note that “middle ground” is two words.
  • Possible location and time of year.
  • Talk about colour. Monochromatic, colour harmonies, colour psychology.
  • Mention any visual design elements. Shapes, textures, form and patterns.
  • Does it follow any of the rules of composition?
  • Is it flat or high contrast. Is it lowly or highly saturated?
  • What emotions are present or what impacts the viewer? What five senses are stimulated? Is it a happy, sad, tense or relaxing scene?
  • Does the art work reflect a period in time? Impressionism.
  • What type of art is it? Realism, modern, contemporary, surreal, abstract, documentary, lifestyle, landscape, cityscape, portraiture, still life, etc.

What is the final message the photographer, painter or artist wanted to convey?


juxtapose = to put things or people next to each other to make a comparison or compare them. To place objects that are different next to each other.

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