Next Level Photography

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Assignment: Interpreting an Image

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How we Talk about Photographic Images

Photographs are made to convey certain points of view or ideas.

Below are some questions you can ask yourself to describe the visual elements that compose this mode of visual communication:

1. What type of Photograph is it? (Style, Use, Genre?)

2. What can you tell or infer about the intentions of the Photographer? (What seems to be the message of the image?)

3. What is emphasized in the image and how is it emphasized? (How is the subject highlighted: through focal points, color, composition?)

4. Are the technical specifications helping or distracting from the image? (color, depth of field, shutter speed?)

5. What kind of composition is being used and does it support the subject? (Center, Rule of Thirds, Geometric Triangles)

6. What emotional impact does the image have?

Terms that can be used to describe graphic elements in Photographs:


Frontlight: Lightsource from the camera position, few shadows

Sidelight: Shadows cast to the side

Backlit: Light coming towards the camera, behind the subject, Subject in silhouette.

Direct Light: Hard-edged, dark shadows

Diffused Light: No, or very soft shadows


High Key: Brightly toned

Low Key: Dark tones and dominant shadows

Full Scale: Wide tonal range from highlight, mid-tones, and shadows

High Contrast: Very dark and very light areas

Low Contrast: Made up of mostly midtones


Sharp Overall: Low aperture to create a long depth of field, no blurriness

Soft Focus: Subject focused within focal range but not directly on the focal point, slight blur

Selective Focus: Narrow depth of field with some areas in focus and others out of focus


Eye Level: Horizon line centrally located

Low Level: Camera angle pointing upwards, horizon line often raised

High Level or Overhead: Camera angle looks down on the subject

Forced Perspective and Leading Lines: Elements of the subject carry the viewer’s light across the frame or from foreground to background