How do I critically analyze a photo

Analyzing an image correctly - image analysis

This article explains what image analysis is and how you can do an image analysis yourself in German lessons. The individual steps that are necessary for this work are discussed here. These include, in particular, the actual analysis of the image and the preceding image description.

An image analysis is a systematic examination of an image. This means that the picture is first viewed and described. In the next phase, the image is analyzed. The creative means are named and their meaning for the content of the picture is worked out. This is followed by an assessment of the picture and, if necessary, a brief critical statement.

The structure of an image analysis

At the beginning of every image analysis there is an extensive image viewing. Look at the picture and note in note form what you notice. For example, you can record which motif is shown or which colors are used. Record your personal first impression. How does the picture affect you when you first look at it?


Your essay begins with an introductory sentence. In this you state the title of the picture, the artist and the year of publication. If you have more information, you can also briefly mention it. Many readers are interested, for example, in what kind of picture it is (painting, photo, etc.) or would like to know where it can be seen (museum, illustration in a book, etc.). Formulate a sentence in which you describe the motif roughly and without giving details.

Main part - description of the motif

The picture description is about describing and presenting the picture as factually and in detail as possible. First, focus on describing the subject.

  • motive
    • What is shown in the picture?
    • Are people, objects, landscapes, etc. depicted? How do you look?
    • Are there any texts?
    • What situation or action is shown?

Main part - image description and analysis

Since every image is unique, every analysis is also individual. Yet it always has the same purpose. It's about working out and understanding the message of the picture.

In the following, you will be given suggestions which you can take up in your work. The order in which you proceed is up to you. Make sure, however, that the structure of your text is logical and coherent.

You can use the following questions as a guide. Answer this by describing the respective feature and then explaining what effect it has on the message.

  • perspective
    • From which perspective is the picture shown (normal, bird, frog's eye view)? What does this perspective representation do?
  • Composition
    • Which image section was selected?
    • Where was the main motif placed?
    • What is the meaning of the motif and the picture title? Are there also texts within the image or motif? What do they say
    • How is the eye guidance? Are there diagonals, horizontals or verticals?
    • Are individual details highlighted?
    • How are the individual picture elements arranged (e.g. symmetrically, asymmetrically)? Are geometric shapes (e.g. square, circle) recognizable?
  • foreground
    • Which image elements are placed in the foreground?
  • Middle ground
    • How does the middle ground connect the foreground with the background?
  • background
    • How was the background designed? What mood is conveyed?
  • Representation (style)
    • How can the style be described? Is an epoch style recognizable?
    • What is the color scheme like? Which colors are used? Are you playing with light and shadow?


Finally, you briefly summarize the most important statements of your analysis. In your conclusion, you can also take a well-founded position to what extent the image statement is supported by the design and what effect the image has on the viewer.