PHOTO ANALYSIS: How to Go About It

PHOTO ANALYSIS: How to Go About It

By studying the different ways artists approach photography, you can learn things that will help you in your own work. Developing the ability to know what to look for a photo is extremely important. And evaluating what you see in a picture gives you an understanding of how different photographers work. It also helps you to know what makes a successful photo.


Provide the general details such as title, name of artist and date of work. Give a detailed description of what you see in the photo in a way that a person who hasn’t seen the picture can visualize its content just by listening to you.


How is the work made? What are the techniques, equipment or materials used? Which camera was used? Was it a SLR, mirrorless camera, medium format…or what? Has the picture been manipulated? Was the image shot in a studio or outside? And how was the image lit?


Evaluate the placement: The foreground, background and the focus point. How much depth of field is in play? What can you say about the printing technique? Which print material was used?


How has the photographer used the 6 elements of design?

The elements of design are –

Lines      –             How has the photographer used lines to add interest in creating his artwork?

Colour   –             Colours convey a great deal of emotional impact on the viewers, and they can be                                     symbolic. What colours are dominant in the image?

Texture –            What can you say about the texture?

Shapes –             What roles are the shapes playing? Do they contribute to the balance within the work?

Space    –             How much of positive or negative space exist in the composition?

Tone      –             Artworks that exhibit a full range of tone are generally successful. Are the shades                                  in harmony with the light values?

How was the composition structured? What’s the most relevant design element and principles in the photo?


Here’s the part that reminds of a course I took as an undergraduate – Stylistics. Evaluate the theme: What was the photographer trying to achieve? Was he trying to tell a story or pass an opinion? Was the scene staged or natural? Which style was adopted? And how has the style influenced the image? Focus on the subject matter and the symbolism. Besides colours, subjects have symbolic, as well as functional meanings.


This is the conclusion of the matter. It is where you get to decide if the picture is important or not. You can tell what the successful – and unsuccessful – elements are in the photo. And you can also tell what the unique qualities of the image are, and how the photographer has been influenced by other photographic traditions.

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