1. Four-step analysis
All kinds of pictures, from oil paintings to pencil sketches, can be analysed using the following four
steps. They will help you to deal with a picture systematically, so that no important aspect is left out.
Step 1: Introduction – basic information
Your introduction should answer the following questions:
Where is the image from? Who made it and when?
What type of image is it?
What does the image (roughly) show?
Why was it drawn/taken?
Step 2: Description
Look at the picture carefully, then describe it systematically, e. g.:
from the centre to the corners
from the foreground to the background
from the left to the right (or the other way round)
from the top to the bottom (or the other way round)
Don‟t forget to look at details:
the setting (place and time) and/or the situation
the quality of the picture (clear or blurred, realistic or abstract, etc.)
the striking features of the objects
the characters, e. g. their appearance and body language (facial expressions, gestures, postures)
Step 3: Analysis
Does the image transport a message/have an intended effect?
Which pictorial elements are used to get the message across/to produce the effect?
How do the different elements interact?
Step 4: Evaluation
Do you think that the image is effective in getting the message to the target group?
Does it use suitable means for doing so?
What effect does the image have on you?
2. Photographs, paintings and drawings
Pictures include drawings, paintings and photographs, but of course each of these categories can be
Drawings: pencil/charcoal/ink drawing; portrait, caricature, cartoon, …
Paintings: watercolour/oil painting; portrait, landscape painting, still-life, …
Photographs: black and white/colour photograph, …
I. Describing positions
i. in the middle/centre
ii. at the top/bottom
iii. on the left/right
iv. in the top right-hand corner
v. in the bottom left-hand corner
vi. in the background/foreground
Tip: When describing what people are doing in a picture, always use the present progressive: The woman
on the left is entering a shop
II. Describing pictures
i. The picture shows/depicts/sends an indirect message/captures a key
moment/makes an appeal …
ii. It conveys the impression that …
iii. An element of the photo has the effect that …/indicates or represents sth/is a sign
iv. The artist aims to present …/creates an atmosphere of …
v. The photo appeals/does not appeal to me.
vi. In my opinion, the picture is effective/convincing/…
vii. All pictorial elements support …/contribute to …
viii. The photo touches me/leaves me cold because …
ix. It visually describes …/makes a problem visuable.
A cartoon is a humorous drawing that critically deals with a current news item, i. e. it responds to a
topical event. It often contains some text, e. g. speech/thought/sound bubbles and/or a caption (text
under the picture).
A cartoon is critical of people or institutions in the news, topical events or new trends/ideas (its target)
and usually makes a one-sided point (its message). It usually combines visual techniques (e. g.
caricaturing a person or using objects with a symbolic meaning) with verbal humour (wordplay, irony
…) (its devices).
„Cartoon‟ can also mean a series of drawings inside the boxes that tell a (short) story (=comic strip), or
a short animated film, such as “Tom and Jerry”.
was drawn by [name of cartoonist].
was published/appeared in [newspaper] on [date].
was created in response to [a news item].
shows/presents/depicts/deals with/alludes to/refers to/criticises [an event/crisis/trend/…].
is directed at/comments on/targets [an attitude, policy …]
The message of the cartoon is clear: It aims to show that …
The key point the cartoon is trying to make is to expose the fact that …
The cartoonist criticises … for doing sth/makes fun of …
consists of/is made up of … several pictorial elements/speech or thought bubbles/a caption
is divided into …
is a comment/statement by …
states that …/reinforces the cartoonist‟s message that …
is unexpected/short and sweet/ironic.
The cartoon expresses sth/points out that …
An element in the drawing represents/stands for/symbolises …/is exaggerated/stressed.
A character is a caricature of/the stereotypical …
A character is caricatured/ridiculed as …
The humour lies in the difference/misunderstanding/discrepancy/contrast/parallels between …
The cartoon achieves its aim of [doing sth]. It skilfully/effectively …
The point/message of the cartoon is lost on me/fails to work for me because …
The cartoon appeals/does not appeal to me. In my opinion it is
detailed/well-made/very clear/effective/of high quality/convincing …