BetterPhoto Q&A
Category: New Questions

Photography Question 

How to Critically Analyze Photographs

What are the main areas you should concentrate on when analyzing a photograph?

To love this question, log in above
2/20/2003 7:24:16 AM

doug Nelson   Does the image do what you want it to do? If sharpness and fine detail are important, are the details clear? One of the most unsharp photos of all time, and, arguably one of the best, is Henri Cartier-Bresson's image of a man jumping a puddle. It communicated everything he wanted to say and more. Is the contrast or color balance correct for the subject as you visualized it? Is there anything the photographer could have done differently: shot from another angle, waited for softer light? Does the image convey the emotion intended? Is it clear what the subject is?

To love this comment, log in above
2/20/2003 9:52:20 AM

John A. Lind
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/27/2001
Doug has centered more on the technical aspect, which I consider secondary, and on details. Following is my philosophy as a general approach to doing it.

Still photographs are a form of communication from the artist to its viewers. If you are looking at your own work, it starts *before* you make the photograph:
1. Defining who the intended viewers of it are, and what you want the photograph to convey to them.
2. Mentally visualizing a finished photograph that will accomplish the first step.
3. Deciding how you will execute the photograph (film, equipment, etc.) to accomplish the second step.

After making the photograph, there are two aspects of it to examine:
1. Does it successfully convey to its intended viewers what you intended it to, which determines the success of the first two steps above.
2. Did the technical execution produce the photograph you visualized, which determines the success of the third step above.

If you are critically evaluating someone else's photograph:
1. If there is an "artist's statement" about the work, read it first. It often conveys something about the artist's intent. If it is titled, pay attention to that also.
2. What does the photograph convey to you (and how well does it match whatever intent was given in the artist's statement, if there is one).
3. How clearly does it convey what the artist intended (if stated) or what you believe it is attempting to convey.

Be broadminded when viewing others' works, and attempt not to do it on your own terms; i.e. how you would have made the photograph, studied the subject material, or chosen the photograph's subject material. Be open to other methods, techniques and messages different from what you might have expressed. Instead, evaluate how well its message is conveyed. If you find a photograph to be shocking or repulsive, that could very well be what the photographer intended at the outset. Personally, I've found abstracts (by others) to be the most difficult works to evaluate, and must force myself to consciously break them down into the formal elements being abstracted in the work.

-- John

To love this comment, log in above
2/20/2003 9:21:52 PM

Debbie M. Martin   this was very helpful to me iam just a learner not sure ,how to caputre the best photos but am willing to ask friends and just go with the flow thanks Debbie

To love this comment, log in above
5/15/2008 4:20:30 AM

Carlton Ward
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/13/2005
Contact Carlton
Carlton's Gallery
  Hi Olive,
Doug & John made some great points. Photography is art. I ask myself if the image deserves to be made into a 20 x 30 print and hang over the fireplace or an 8 x 10 that hangs in the kitchen or a 5 x 7 for the bathroom ?
Some are more personal and may not even be a great composition but if its a group photo of your friends, it may warrant a place on the wall.
Jim Z made a comment in one of his courses about having a photo of JFK & Marilyn Monroe laughing intimately together in a poorly composed & out of focus photo that would surely be a pulitzer prize winner but a photo perfectly composed & focused of me & my girlfriend would be hung on the fridge.
The opportunistic photos (being in the right place at the right time) can be very valuble in a historic sense but having a simple flower photo with soft focus may be a real work of art and warrant that space above the fireplace.
Its also very subjective in that a photo I find to be dull & boring may be very appealing to others. At first glance I dont try to interpret what the photographer was trying to say when creating an image, I simply ask myself if the photo speaks to me. If not, then I may try to look deeper into what the photographer was trying to convey.
I look at a lot of galleries here at Better Photo and am so impressed with some of the creative & colorful images the many talented photographers here have created. I am more of a nature & landscape photographer but I do appreciate all aspects of photography and it is my favorite form of art. Some images are very powerful and others so beautiful and many that are unforgettable.

To love this comment, log in above
5/15/2008 9:01:16 AM

Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/11/2003
  May, 2003 Britain was deciding on whether or not to go to the euro
Lakers and Shaq were on their way to a championship
average gas price was $1.51
Bush's victory comment about Iraq
"Chicago" and "Lord of the Rings" were two of the top movies
series of tornadoes in midwest cost approx $3 bil damage

To love this comment, log in above
5/15/2008 9:30:39 AM

Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/11/2003
  Oops, I see the date is a two and not a five.
Feb 2003, Space shuttle broke apart
Phil Spector
Emmitt Smith is going after Walter Payton's record

To love this comment, log in above
5/15/2008 9:42:07 AM


BetterPhoto Member
  Today.....I woke up.

To love this comment, log in above
5/15/2008 1:20:25 PM

Log in to respond or ask your own question.