Tag Archives: photo

Sample Visual Text Answer

Your analysis of the photo should be so specific that the reader can picture it without seeing it. However, remember you are commenting on aspects of the photo not simply describing it (that’s the equivalent of telling the story instead of analysing it – never a good idea!).

The image of the lady passing the soldier (image 3) had the greatest impact on me. I think this woman decided to dress up because she is determined to carry on with her life as usual, despite the presence of soldiers on the streets of her city. Dressing up allows her to feel powerful and important. I particularly noticed her pearls in this image, as they are traditionally a symbol of wealth. Clearly as an unarmed woman in a besieged city, she felt powerless and threatened. Walking the streets of her city dressed up to the nines is an act of defiance against the occupiers – the caption under the photo says that it was taken during the siege of Sarajevo.

It is possible (but unlikely in my opinion) that she is trying to impress the soldier – her look is one of disgust and contempt, not seduction. She is unsmiling, she holds her head up high and swings her free arm as though she hasn’t a care in the world. This has to be an act – the man in the foreground is carrying a heavy machine gun. Judging by the distance between her two feet she is taking quite long confident strides, or at least as long as she can with her tight skirt on! Although the soldiers head is out of shot, from examining her line of vision, I’d say she is looking directly at him, almost as a kind of challenge to his authority. She appears entirely unthreatened & unintimidated by the weapon he is carrying.

The soldier in the left foreground appears quite relaxed, judging by the cigarette perched between two fingers of his right hand. However, he seems prepared to use his weapon as both of his hands are resting on it, ready to spring into action if necessary. By contrast, the woman seems to be going somewhere specific, on a mission. She is doing her best to appear nonchalant as she strides past. The two images create a great contrast because it is so unexpected to see a woman in upmarket fashionable clothes walking casually past a soldier in a war zone. The focus remains firmly on the woman, however because her body is in frame whereas the soldier’s legs and head are cut off, rendering him anonymous, a nameless, faceless, unknown soldier.

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.