How to Analyze a Photograph (4 Simple Steps)

Analyze a Photograph

Analyzing a Photograph

Learning to analyze a photo requires introspection and self-analysis. Whether is a photo you have taken or one taken by another photographer. Image analysis is an essential aspect of the development of any photographer. The photographic analysis leads to a realization of the mistakes that you may be making. This realization in turn leads you to improve your work. 

But often an individual doesn’t have what it takes to be a staunch critique of their own work. It needs special traits. This is why it is best to trust someone who can be honest in their opinions and often be brutal in their visual analysis of your work. Not everyone will analyze the same image the same way.

You need either a friend who understands photography in everyday life. Or you need a senior who can play the role of a mentor from time to time. Alternatively, you can also join a photography group or class where you get to interact with other photographers. In this article, we shall be looking at certain aspects which you can inculcate into your photography to improve the visual interest of your images.

Analyze the Image Composition

Image composition is a stressed aspect of photography. Along with light, it constitutes two of the most important factors that make or break an image. You would probably also throw in the scene or the moment that you wish to capture in that mix. But if the composition isn’t right the moment will not be captured with anywhere near the same impact. 

There is a fine line between what works and what doesn’t in photography for any intended audience. That fine line is easily breached by the poor placement of various elements. Experienced photographers develop an eye for the moment when everything falls into place in a photograph. This one attribute segregates them from beginners who have to try very hard in order to achieve great photographs. This comes from experience. You need to study the works of masters and practice hard in order to reach that zenith. Learning to analyze a photograph will help you in this respect.

Image analysis of compositional aspects is best when objective elements are recognized. Then a photographer can better understand the structure of the photograph they are looking at. Whether a low angle or a high angle is used affects each element because they are seen from a different perspective. Photos that are taken from different angles show objects appearing different. This is more in images taken with wide-angle lenses rather than in close-up photos.

analysis of an image with negative space.

Negative space in an image must also be considered when you analyze a photograph. Analyzing composition based only on the objects in an image is incomplete. You must determine the relationship between the negative space and the objects that make up the photograph.

Use Basic Geometric Shapes to Build your Image

Why is it that some compositions work and others don’t cut it? Why is it that moving the camera a few feet left or right makes the image more endearing to the eye? And why is it that changing the camera angle sometimes makes clichéd subjects make for striking images?

street photography analysis.

The answer is a mix of both aesthetics as well as science. What to photograph and how to photograph it is as relevant a question as any. The time of the day or the equipment that you use is just as important. Use different elements such as light, camera angle, and the concept of exposure. This way you can create a reasonable image out of an impossible situation.

Look for straight lines in photographs. Images that contain triangles, squares, and basic other geometric shapes do have an overbearing impact on your photographs. 

Straight lines are often used as leading lines in the composition. These are often found on the streets. They can also be in landscape horizon lines, on building roofs, and in other places.

Lines work to lead a viewer toward the main subject of the image. Even when the subject may seem small and maybe a bit irrelevant, you can use leading lines to help in drawing conclusions about it. This can alter the whole sense of emotion that is created in a photograph.

Curved lines can also be used as leading lines in your compositions. Rivers and coastlines drawing attention from the foreground to a figure in the photo can make strong compositions.

Make Use of Triangles

Triangles are one such shape that tends to make a composition more appealing. Triangles are often considered to be one of the more ‘stable’ shapes. I am not sure why but when it comes to photography, triangles tend to generate a lot of interest. For example, can you spot the triangles formed by the rays of light in the above picture?

The more you can use strong shapes as objects in composition the more a person will enjoy looking at them. They can add meaning and help people interpret the emotion in an image when used well. Many of the painting masters used triangles in their compositions. This is because they understood the meaning they could help convey in an image.

To help you better analyze a photograph and how triangles can be made use of, do a search of some related key words of old master paintings. You will see how they work as you are analyzing your subject and positioning it in the frame of your camera. Students of photography can learn a huge amount about composition when they add some historical context.

Objects that have a strong shape in a photograph carry more weight. This is especially so when they contrast with the background. An identifiable subject that stands out from a dark background helps a person remain more interested in the subject.

analyzing a photograph of nature.

For example, an image of nature that contains strong shapes creates a more interesting photograph than one without them. Strong forms like triangles, squares, and circles can create a more interesting narrative in a photograph. Balance and color are also important in photographs.

Play Around with Shapes and Forms

Shapes and forms are two basic factors that governed photography before colors began to the viewer. I used a harsh word, but the fact remains that the real challenge for a photographer is to draw the viewer’s attention when you cannot use color. Composition, tonal range, and everything else assumes critical importance all of a sudden. 

The easiest way to incorporate forms in your images is to backlight your subjects. For example, if shooting outdoors, place the subject between you and the light source. Sometimes that will happen without you having to make any serious efforts from your side. The shape can be intriguing in photographs.

Talking silhouettes.

The form is when the shape all of a sudden takes a three-dimensional perspective. You need to play along with the light, creating subtle shadows that bring the texture forth. The form is essentially about imparting a three-dimensional treatment on a two-dimensional image. This creates an illusion of depth and feeling that can better describe a picture. To analyze the sense of what the photographer is communicating with their image.

These aspects of a photograph do not need to be solid. They can be as abstract as you like, so long as they have a sense of belonging in the photo. Look at how the light reflects different parts of a subject you are photographing.

Does the thing look the same from every perspective? How does it relate to the background? Is the background light or dark behind the subject? These questions about contrast can help you analyze your photography better.

Make an Analysis of your Timing

Timing affects the outcome of every photo. No matter if you are making a landscape or photographing lightning. Timing your photo right will make it or break it. There can be a sense of how well-timed a photo is in just a glance. It is one of the first things people look at when they are analyzing a photograph. 

Making sure that your timing is right helps you have a greater sense of control over what is in your frame. When there is anything moving, you must time it right. But even in a photo where nothing is moving, timing is still important. You can mess up the timing of a static photo when you take it at the wrong time because the lighting is not the best. 

This is a common mistake people make when they are taking a photo of a sunset. Once the sun has gone below the horizon you need to wait and watch what nature does. The colour changes as time goes by. Nothing else in your frame may change, but the colour in the sky does. How does the light reflect off the clouds? Is it changing? Pictures taken of sunsets are often best when the photographer times them right.

subjects moving on a bicycle.

When there are moving objects in your photo it is even more vital to make sure that you time the moment right. You don’t want to take a photo when the subject is half way out of the frame. It is surprising to me how often people miss this when they are analyzing when to take a photo.

Is it Possible to use all that Conscientiously?

Think about the context of what you see in the image and how each element relates to the others in the picture. Describe to yourself what you see in words. Look at the detail and figure out how you can make the composition more interesting.

One would argue that to keep in mind all these at the moment of making an exposure is probably asking too much. I say it’s like learning how to drive a manual transmission car. You not only have to keep an eye on the road but also change gears at the right time.

Two Old Ladies Walking down the street.

It is daunting at first. Then slowly it becomes muscle memory. You do it without consciously thinking about every detail. The calculations are made on the fly. And when you look at something, you instantly know things like which focal length to use. You will select the right focus point as well. You will also choose the camera angle to be used even before raising the camera to your eye.

When you look at a photo you have taken, think about these aspects. Get a sense of the overall photo with this helpful analysis. Frame it in your mind in different ways. Figure out if the message you are trying to communicate is clear. If it is not, how can you take the photo in a different way to make people notice it more? 

Challenge yourself with every photo you take. Then every photo you take will be better than the last photo. This will point you in the right direction as a student of photography. The message will become clear to you the more your practice.

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