Arts Describing & Responding


The first step to understanding photographs is to dissect what it is that you are is seeing on the most basic levels. Once we spell out what it is we are looking at we can begin to talk about how various elements within the photograph affect our perception or response to the image.

  1. CHOOSE one photograph from this folder to write about.
  2. INCLUDE the photograph at the beginning of the document.
  3. INTRODUCE the photograph. Begin by stating the name of the artist, photograph, and year it was made.
  4. DESCRIPTION: Go through the following elements (in whatever order you please) and for each,
    1. describe what you see (quite literally)
      1. ex: The image has very low contrast, the darkest tones and the lightest tones are both very grey.
    2. describe the effect of each element on the reading of the image as a whole
      1. Try using these statements to guide you:
        1. It makes me think of….
        2. It reminds me of….
        3. It makes it/me feel….
      2. ex: The lack of contrast in the image makes it feel dull, or sullen, and a bit lifeless.
        1. Ex: The ______ (element descriptors) contribute to an overall feeling of _______.
    3. ELEMENTS:
      1. Contrast: Is there a big difference between the brightness of the highlights and the shadows of the image? (High or low contrast)
      2. Lighting/Exposure
        1. Where is the light coming from?
        2. Is it harsh or soft lighting?
        3. Is the overall image very dark or very light?
      3. Color
        1. Are there warm (reds and oranges) or cold colors (blues and greens)?
        2. Saturated (deep tones of colors) or unsaturated (lighter tones)?
        3. Is the photograph in greyscale (black and white)?
      4. Focus
        1. What part of the photograph is in focus (not blurry)? What parts are out of focus?
        2. What is causing the blur? Take a guess! Lens out of focus? Motion blur?
      5. Line
        1. What kinds of lines are visible; rectilinear, curvilinear?
        2. How does line lead your eye around the photograph? Notice how your eyes move around the page and describe it.
      6. Focal Point
        1. What part of the photograph seems to be the focal point, or the most notable part? Is there one part your eye is drawn back to as you look longer?
      7. Texture
        1. What are the textures in the photo, do the surfaces look soft, rough, scratchy, smooth?
      8. Subject Matter
        1. What is being depicted in the image? What objects, people, or places do we see, what don’t we see?
        2. How are the observed nouns? Are they in action, still, with expression?
        3. Describe these in as much detail as possible! Instead of words like normal, average, or typical, describe what it is that you mean. Write so that we can picture the image without ever seeing it.
  5. RESPOND to the image.
    1. What larger concepts might the image be connected to?
    2. Why did you choose the image?
    3. Did you find the photograph interesting, captivating, moving, or challenging? Why?