Reading a Photograph
How to Analyse a PhotographA photograph is a representation of something real however because it has be created by an individual it will often reflect their own values, culture or beliefs. After all the photographer chose to take that photo, but why?
Because we are all different from each other they way we interpret the photo and the meaning or message we get from it my be different from the next person as we have different experiences, feelings and beliefs to draw upon.
When you are required to analyse a photo use this guide as a starting point.
Step 1 – Content – looking at the subject of the photograph
What is the name of the photographer?
What is the name of the photograph?
Where and when was it taken?
What can you see in the photograph?
What do you think that the relationship between the photographer and subject/s is?
What does the photograph represent?
Does the title change the way we see the photograph?
Is it a realistic depiction?
Have any parts been exaggerated or distorted? If so, why?
What is the theme of the photograph?
What message does the photograph communicate?
Step 2 – Form
Colour -Is the photograph colour or black and white? How does this affect the mood?
Tone -Is the photograph high or low contrast?
Shape -What sorts of shapes are there in the image? Do they remind you of anything? Do you think the photographer meant this?
Pattern/Texture -What kinds of patterns and/or textures are there in the photograph?
Line -What sorts of lines are there in the photograph? How have they been positioned in relation to the rest of the composition? What effect does this have?
Composition – have they used the Rule of Thirds? If so explain how.
Step 3 – Process – how the photograph has been taken, developed/manipulated and printed
Was it staged or spontaneous?
Was the photograph taken inside or outside?
What time of day?
How was it lit? How may light sources can you make out? What is the evidence for this?
What materials and tools have been used?
Has the photograph been manipulated or distorted in any way? How and why?
Have they used any special techniques?
Are there any other factors the photographer would of had to consider?
If the photo was staged is there anything the photographer would need to have organised beforehand?
Step 4 – Mood – looking at the communication of moods and feeling
How does the photograph make you feel?
Why do you think you feel like this?
Does the colour, texture, form or theme of the photograph affect your mood? How and why?
Step 5 – Cultural Influence
Where was the photographer from?
What do you know about the photographer?
Were there any significant events that happened before the photograph was taken that may have influenced the photographer?
Does the meaning of the photograph change when we look at it now, compared to when it was created?
The following links contain useful information for analysing a photograph:
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