Helen Cammock / Hendon School / Visual Literacy activities

Activity: Reading an Image

This group activity devised by Helen Cammock invites participants to read an image, exploring the impact of lighting, framing, content and composition on the meaning in a photograph.

If you have a group of between 8-10 this activity can work well with the whole group.

If you have a larger group split the group into small groups of 6-8.

Remember the smaller the group sizes the less time you need to complete the whole activity and often the more able people feel to express their opinions.

Spread a selection of images out in front of each group and ask each person to: 

  • Choose an image from those spread out on the table.
  • Choose the image because they are drawn to it for some reason.
  • Then each person takes it in turn to talk about their image choice.

Ask everyone to think and talk about:

1.  Why they have chosen this image – why they were drawn to it (personal and initial response).

2.  What they think is going on in the image (content).

3.  How the following components contribute to their response to the image (composition):



Use of colour

Depth of field (if you’ve explained this to the group previously)

4.  Why they think the image was taken, for what purpose and where they think it might have been shown or used (context)

  • Then ask the group to additionally contribute their own perspectives on any of the above.
  • This should stimulate some interesting discussion and often quite different perspectives from those participating.
  • It encourages dialogue and enables the group to think about diversity of opinion and perspective – and different ways of seeing. The role of the teachers/support staff is to facilitate active listening and contribution from the young people – offering encouragement, acknowledgement and support so that each person is able to contribute in a way they are comfortable with.

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