The Outcast - Analysing Visual Texts
Analysing visual texts can seem daunting…

Especially when it comes to essays. How can a simple image or picture book be broken down into a long-winded analysis? It’s easier than you think. Following are some techniques you can use when breaking down images to their basic elements:

Body Language/Gaze

This is for images with people in them – their facial expressions, gestures and stance allows you to see into their attitudes, feelings and personality. A lot about the individual can be ascertained from the eyes.


Whatever is included in a visual text is deliberately placed and there for a reason – find that reason. This is where you have to apply a lot of imagination – what do you think of the different aspects of the picture and how do they make you feel? Are they saying something? Composition also includes all omissions – if something is missing, why is it missing?


For black and white images, you can examine the different uses of contrast between light and dark. For colours, different hues can signify different moods and evoke a wide range of responses – such and red being a passionate colour and blue being a calm one.


What aspects of the image complement each other? What parts are in contrast to each other? This can create harmony, distance, drama or excitement.


This can apply to films in particular – what are the camera shots and angles being used in the film, and what do they convey? What is said in films is a very small part of their analysis – the way they are framed, including their contexts says a lot more about the text.

Orientation or Point of View (POV)

The point of view is important because it dictates how the author wants us to see and image, and there is almost always a reason behind it. Are we, as responders, positioned above the image and looking down at it, or positioned below the image and looking up at it as if it’s meant to be intimidating? Is it hidden or obvious?


Belonging - Analysing Visual Texts


Most images have three levels at which an object or person will be – the foreground, middle ground and the background. Have a look where the main parts of the image are, and why they have been positioned in such a way – for example, positioning can show the dynamics between two entities in terms of who or what is more dominating.

Rule of thirds

Not a technique as such, but says a lot about an image and where the power lies. Divide an image into thirds from the top and sides and then look at the placement of people and objects in relation to each other. Anything in the top third of the image is usually empowered whereas anything in the bottom third is disempowered.


The most salient or noticeable part of the picture is always deliberate – it is the part of the image that your eyes are first drawn to.


This is an extremely important technique, and teachers love seeing this word in any analysis – it refers to the use of an image, person or object to represent one or more complex themes and ideas.

Armed with this knowledge, you’ll be able to deconstruct any visual text in a matter of minutes – remember, practice makes perfect even for analysis and anyone can be good at it with enough effort.