How to Read a Photograph

Museum Management Program

What do you see? Examine the photograph for few minutes. Describe what you see.
Divide the image into quarter. Describe what you see in each quarter of the photograph. What additional information do you observe?
Describe what you see in the photograph
Visual Element Observe, Deduce, and Infer What can you tell by looking closely at the photo?
Identify the people, one or a group, gender, age, relationship to each other, what are they wearing?

Photographer & studio
What is the time of day, season, year, period or century?
What are the people doing; what event is taking place?
Is it urban/rural, indoor/outdoor. Describe buildings, landscape and other features
Photo title/caption
What can you say about the photo? What other questions do you have about this photograph, where could you find answers to them? What can you infer.

Adapted by the National Park Service, Museum Management Program from the Photo Analysis Worksheet developed by the Education Staff, National Archives and Records Administration, and the Photo Analysis Worksheet, National Park Service, Teaching with Historic Places program, Washington, DC. Museum Magnet Schools, Education Resources; English Heritage, A Teacher’s Guide to Learning from Objects; and the Victoria and Albert Museum education materials, London, England.

Last updated: August 8, 2023