Visual texts

Typical questions:

What impact do the visual images make on you?

Which image is most effective in capturing the theme of _________.

Imagine this series of images is to be published in a book of photojournalism.

Which one would you choose for the front cover and why?

Analysing a photo is a very specific skill. You will be expected to make reference to at least some of the following elements which the photographer may have been aware of when taking the photo. Some photos are set up in a certain way deliberately, others are taken in the moment and only afterwards reveal brilliant composition, lighting etc.

Facial expressions

  • eyes (line of vision)
  • mouth (smile / thin line / open / drooping)
  • tilt of head
  • eyebrows (raised / drawn together )

Body language

  • Arms (folded / down by sides / on hips)
  • Legs (crossed / apart / knees together)
  • Walk (long stride / quick steps / stroll / run)
  • Hands (twisted together / fists clenched / stroking chin / praying)
  • Shoulders (hunched / slouched / thrown back)

Setting – where and when

  • Weather
  • Props / objects / landscape
  • Clothes & hairstyles (these can reveal the era)
  • Accessories (bags / jewelry / phone / keys / book)


  • What is your eye drawn to immediately? What’s in focus? What’s blurred?
  • Within the frame (what’s in the foreground / background / left & right of centre)
  • In relation to the camera (view from front / side / behind; close or far away?)
  • In relation to the other people/things in the photo (close or distant? Why?)


  • Colours – primary colours (red/yellow/blue), black & white, sepia
  • Lighting – bright lights for emphasis / use of shadows / photoshop?

Connection to theme / written element

  • What aspects of the theme / subject matter are captured in the image?
  • Is there a caption? What does it reveal / how does it enhance the image?
  • Is the image relevant to the theme? In what ways?
  • In what way does the image reinforce the written message? Or illustrate visually
  • some of the points made in the written section?

When discussing a film (or even just a single scene) you need to consider some of the following:

  • Placement of camera (same as for photos) & framing of shot.
  • POV – from whose point of view is the story being told?
  • Camera movement – does it pan across, tilt up or down, track, zoom?
  • Lighting / mood (same as for photos).
  • Editing / mood – fast (lots of cuts), slow (long shots), smooth (continuity) or jumpy?
  • Sound – music, sound effects, ambient noise, voice over.
  • Acting, costumes, make-up.
  • Locations, props.

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