How to Read a Photograph

How to read a photograph?

Photographs can be difficult to interpret and many people don’t know what the images actually mean. Here are some simple tips to help you make sense of a photo.

Study the lighting.

The light source in the picture can help to identify the type of environment the photo was taken in. Is the person in the picture wearing clothes which match the background? Did they go for a walk or go to a party? You might even see something that tells you whether the image was taken indoors or outside. If the picture shows a bright, sunny day, you can expect the person to be outdoors, but if it is overcast, you might be looking at a photo that was taken inside.

Make notes about the person.

You might notice that the person in the photo is wearing a certain type of clothes and shoes. Is the person carrying something unusual, such as a briefcase? If the person is holding a particular item, try to identify what it might be. Can you find a clue in the background? For example, is there a clock? A calendar? A newspaper or a book? Is there something unusual, such as a flowerpot?

Look for the following elements.

•The composition – what is happening in the scene? Is it single focused, multi-focused or is there a blurred space in the middle?

•The light – is it natural, artificial or is it a combination of both?

•The details – is there something unusual or unexpected in the image? For example, a shadow, or a reflection, or the use of colour

•The theme – what does the picture tell you? Is it funny, sad, interesting or does it show how you feel?

There are many other ways to interpret a photo, including using the information in the written text, if there is one.

First, imagine the photograph is a story. Look at the composition and try to imagine what scene the photograph is from. Then look at the details in the photograph and imagine what the person or thing in the photograph is doing. Finally, read the text that is accompanying the photograph.