Visual Presentation: Reading a Photograph


I’m not a photographer, but I love using high-quality images from Flickr in my slideshows.  Since I don’t have a background in photography, I definitely don’t know how to read a photograph.  When I found this article by Christina N. Dickson, I couldn’t wait to apply her guidelines to the images I select for my next visual presentation.

Dickson suggests you begin by noting your first impressions, but she warns these are not always correct (Source).  When searching Flickr for the most appropriate image for a slide, I typically stop with Dickson’s step one.  The next steps, according to Dickson, are to evaluate the content, relationships, concepts, view, and direction (Source).

Image Credit

I selected a photograph from a former “Image of the Day” post in order to read it more carefully in accordance with Dickson’s guidelines.  Here’s what I came up with:

First Impressions:  This picture reminds me a lot of home.  The faded sign, the vintage gas pump, the old brick, and the barefoot customer sitting on the front porch are all symbols of my childhood growing up in a very small, Southern town.

Content: The photo appears to be taken around midday; the sun is high, and the sky is clear.  The person in the picture is wearing shorts and a short-sleeved shirt, so the time of year must be warm.  In the South, though, it’s the end of November and still shorts weather, so “warm” doesn’t necessarily mean summertime.  The setting definitely appears to be in the South – broadly – but generally, in a small town or city with well-established roots.  Since the building is so old, I imagine the town has been around for at least a hundred years.

Relationships:  There is one person in the picture: a young adult male.  He might be looking at the camera; his head is definitely facing the viewer.  The only emotion I feel is nostalgia for home.  He is barefoot, so this, to me, signals that he feels at home at the store.  Maybe he is the owner or a relative of the owner.

View: I do feel like a participant in the photo.  I can definitely see myself driving or walking down the road and coming upon this scene; it is a scene I’ve seen many times in my own hometown.

Direction: Where does this photo take me?  Where does it leave me?  In this particular case, my first impressions were correct after examining the photo as outlined by Dickson’s guidelines.

What are your feelings about this image?  Do you have any other tips on reading a photograph?


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