Viewing photos and art, this is how you do it!

Photographs, classic art and modern creations. We can look at them but to understand the story behind them, you need to be able to comprehend the works. And that is not always so easy.

How do you analyse a photograph or artwork?


There are several ways a person can do this:


  • Composition: You can look at the composition of a photograph, which looks at the way the subjects are placed in the photograph and how they relate to each other.


  • Light: A person can look at how light is used in the photo, such as the direction of light, shadows and brightness. You can also look at what is in the light and what has been left out on purpose.

    • Colour: Colour can also be an important aspect in analysing a photo. For example, the colours used, their intensity and the way they are used. In ancient times and still today, colours have meaning. For example, red is often associated with anger and yellow often brings positivity to mind.


    • Subject: A person can also look at the subject of the picture, such as who or what is depicted in the picture and how they are presented.


    • Message: A person can also analyse the message of the photo, such as the emotion the photo conveys or the message the photographer is trying to convey through symbolism. A good example is a dove with an olive branch, which almost everyone recognises as a symbol of peace.


    • Technique: A person can also look at the technical aspects of the photo, such as the lens used, shutter speed, ISO values and the use of flash. Still, this is only possible with photos and then you would have to have the photo file itself. Therefore, this is one of the least used ways to analyse photos.

    What do we look at first in a photo?


    Your attention is drawn to everything while looking at a work of art. The colours, the image and the meaning they all attract attention but what do we really look at first.


    Our brain first looks for the objects and people present there when viewing a work of art. Think of being a person looking straight at the camera, or an object depicted large and bright.

    Another aspect that often catches our attention first are the eyes of the person or persons in a photograph. This is because they are often seen as the most expressive parts of the face and we can get the most information from them. To find out how that person is feeling and what they are thinking about.


    Photos have a message or story that the creator wants to convey. We often look first at the elements that play a role in this. Think of symbols or objects that tell part of the story. For example, a component could be the dove mentioned earlier with the olive branch that represents peace.

    Yet it also depends on you what you look at first. Some people will naturally look at the composition first, while others focus on the emotion. Either way, it is important to have quickly processed the image, but you often have to look a bit longer to understand the underlying message. Are you curious about more interesting facts or stories about art history and photography, among other things? Then be sure to read the other stories that are also on the site.

    Learn to look better?


    Would you like to learn to look at images better? Then feel free to ask us about the possibilities we can offer you.