Elements to Consider in a Photo Analysis?

Today, with the power of the smartphone, almost everybody has the capability to make a photograph. There is always a motivation, that leads us to pull the cellphone or another photo taking instrument from the pocket and take THAT photo. When that motivation or idea is well captured in the photograph, we will not be surprised that people say WOW! Often it is obvious. It may be the beauty of the sunset, the sunrise or a cute pet that people react to.

“The picture that you took with your camera is the imagination you want to create with reality.” — Scott Lorenzo. However, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. “… Seeing and composing the beauty is what separates the snapshot from the photograph” (Matt Hardy). The following are the fundamental elements in a photo and will help you identify its message. While you are reading the elements, feel free to answer any of the correspondent questions as related to the attached photography.



A low angle might make the subject seem larger than reality, while a high angle makes the subject look very small.

In this picture: Low angle is used to exaggerate the size of the bird and make it look like a beast.



What is the main focal point of the photograph? How is the subject framed within the photo? A close-up might convey more power than a wide shot might. What is in the background of the photograph, and does that background add to the photo’s overall message?

In this picture: Low angle is combined with a tight closeup to lend some strength to the bird despite its fragility.



Is the subject lit very brightly, giving the impression of clarity and openness, or is the subject darkly lit, giving the impression of something mischievous or devious going on? Is the lighting soft with barely any shadows, or hard with sharp shadows.

In this picture: If the picture was in a very low light, it might have created fear for the viewer. But having it lit may suggest that the bird is not scared and rely on its power as an intruder.


Subject and position

If there is more than one subject in the photo, how do the subjects relate to each other? Do we see the entire subject, or only a portion of it? If the subject is a person, is he/she looking at the camera or looking away? Is he/she serious, happy, sad, or mischievous?

In this picture: The bird is the main subject. Think about its size compared to the houses and the people in the background. You cannot be wrong if you conclude that the bird will be able to break the houses, kill the people.

Conclusion:Though all these elements can be seen in a snapshot, a photographer will use them not by accident, but on purpose to convey a message.


Pernisco, Nick (2015). Practical Media Literacy: An essential guide to the critical thinking skills for our digital world (2 edition). CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, California.