Why and How to Analyze a Photograph of Nature – Part 2

Click Here to Read the Part I of the Article.
Photograph in Black and White of Poles planted in a Pond. Conceptual Photograph.
Photograph in Black and White of Poles planted in a Pond. Conceptual Photograph.

The Third Step: The Contextualization of The Photograph

This contextualization of a photograph can be likened in a certain way to storytelling. In this article, I explained the importance of storytelling to enhance the impact of a photo.
This third step should allow you to state in the manner of a story what you know about the context of the creation of the photograph or series.
This step requires you to be interested in the external elements of the photograph.

For example, you must:

  • Know the artistic and technical context of photography.
  • The environmental context in which the photo was made.
  • Know the personal history of the photographer. It will allow you to better understand the motivations of his artistic acts.

All these elements allow you to better contextualize photography. This will allow you to better remember the work. You have probably already realized that an anecdote is always a real plus to remember a photographic work.

Contextualization requires general photographic culture as I wrote in this article. I agree that photographic culture does not particularly help to appreciate a photographic work. But here we are in the analysis phase. I think that owning photographic culture is a real plus because it will allow you to see details and better understand the artistic approach of the author.

Knowing the history of a photograph also allows you to judge the difficulty of its creation. This will help you judge a photo better.

The Fourth Step: The Interpretation

The photographic interpretation is to give meaning to an image. You are still not in a judgment or criticism but analysis stage. You must not give comments but just say what you feel.

In this phase of interpretation, you only bring in your own feelings. You must not try to understand what the author of the photograph wanted to do. You stay in your mind.

You must interpret according to the narrative elements that I described in the third step.

During the interpretation phase, you will try:

  • To determine the different functions of the photograph you are looking at.
  • To define the symbolism that you see there.
  • To explain why this photograph speaks to you.

This essential step is a form of introspection. You do an analysis of yourself in relation to the photograph you are looking at. You try to understand the motivations that drive you to analyze this picture. Looking for a sense in the assembly of elements.

Make your emotions, your feelings, your experiences speak to put words on what you see.
In this step, you can also make comparisons with other photographs or series of the same kind.
The interpretation is totally subjective because it totally depends on you.
If you ask another person to give you their feelings, the result will certainly be very different. You can then confront your ideas to enrich you.

An Example of Analysis of a Photograph

Photograph in Black and White of Poles planted in a Pond. Conceptual Photograph.
Photograph in Black and White of Poles planted in a Pond. Conceptual Photograph.

Step 1: Visual Description

This photograph represents wooden stakes planted in the ground. Some of the stakes are interconnected by barbed wire. The reflection of the stakes suggest that the photo was made on the surface of the water.

The name of this photograph is "Forgotten I". It is part of a collection called "Forgotten". It was created by Amar Guillen. The title corresponds to what the picture shows: stakes forgotten for a long time. They are abandoned.

This is clearly a conceptual creative approach.

Step 2: Technical Analysis

This photo does not leave indifferent. She asks a lot of questions. Where was it done? Why are these pickets abandoned? Why are they in the water? What happened? Has a village been engulfed? The number of questions prove that it is a photo that has impact.

The stakes are aligned in a diagonal rising from right to left. It's a positive note. We can still have hope. What happened may not be dramatic.

The horizontal framing accentuates the space and gives depth to the photo.

The choice of black and white and a negative space in high key further accentuates the effect of loneliness and abandonment.

The masses are managed in a harmonious way. The photo is bright, easy to read and decrypt.

The reflection of the stakes on the water is a strong attribute.

Step 3: The Contextualization of The Photograph

This photograph was made on a pond. Several carriages were mounted around this pond because deer come to bathe during periods of high heat. It was while looking at them through a window of the lookout that the idea came to me to evoke solitude, oblivion and abandonment. I wanted to build a strong symbolic image with a total dematerialization of the environment. I wished that the stakes seem to float in the air. It is thanks to the reflected image that we can understand that they are in the water. I really like the photographic suggestion. Everyone can travel and imagine a story that belongs only to him.

Step 4: Interpretation

I will not give my interpretation of this photograph because I have already done in the previous paragraph. It's up to you to say how you feel by looking at it.

If you wish, you can write a comment at the bottom of the page to say in a few words your feelings.


Analyzing a photograph or a series of photos is not a judgment or criticism phase. This is a phase that is upstream.

This method of analysis takes place in four stages: the first two are visual and allow to define the elements that you see. The third requires photographic culture. The fourth appeals to you: it is introspective.

Try to apply this method of photographic analysis and you will notice a noticeable improvement of your photographic vision.

Your creativity will improve because you will have points of reference to develop it.

The photographic analysis is one of the key elements to master to allow you even more interesting photos.


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