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Photo Analysis Essay: Emphasizing The Most Important Aspects


If it’s your first time writing a visual analysis essay, or you’ve written many before but don’t know how to improve, it can be quite overwhelming. Writing a photo analysis essay is truly unique compared to all the different types of essays you are probably used to writing, but that makes it all the more fun! Photo analysis essays give you a unique chance to be a little more creative with your paper. Here are some tips for writing a great photo analysis essay while sticking to what’s really important about the photo.

  • First, spend some time with the photo.
  • This is key to writing a good essay. You want to make sure you really understand what you’re saying, and that all depends on spending the time with the picture to figure out what it says to you and how it makes you feel. A photo analysis essay is one of the situations where your personal interpretation will actually make a big difference in how your paper goes. So spend a good amount of time analyzing the picture: how does it make you feel? What creates that reaction? Pay attention to lighting and other technical details; does the shadow in a particular spot really draw your eye to the action? Jot that down, you’ll want to talk about it in your paper.

  • Details, details, details.
  • Describe the photograph as though your reader has never seen it. Don’t use the whole paper just describing it, of course, but don’t skimp on the details. The visual keys in the photo are important to your overall analysis, so make sure you include any details that you want to talk about in depth. Some things to pay attention to when you’re describing a photo is space and composition, lighting, and cropping. Is there a lot of empty space, or many things going on? Is it well-lit or dim? Is there something going on just outside of the lens frame that adds to the feeling of the photo?

  • Talk about the history of the photograph.
  • With all art, but especially with photography, context plays a huge part. Talk about who the photographer was, when the photo was taken, and what sort of technical choices the photographer made based on what was available to him or her at the time. Think about what was going on in the world at the time, and consider how that could affect an interpretation of the photo.

  • Look for specific elements of the photo.
  • Some specific elements that are integral to writing about a photograph include form (where the subjects of the photo are positioned and what they are doing), texture (is the photo very grainy, or very clear), and lighting (is the lighting natural or artificial, and how does it illuminate certain parts of the photo).