how to analyze an image essay

How to Write an Image Analysis Essay in 6 Easy Steps

how to analyze an image essay

Writing an analysis of a picture can be a little daunting, especially if analyzing and essay writing are not your strengths. Not to worry. In this tutorial, you’ll learn how to do it, even if you’re a beginner.

To write an effective visual analysis, all you need to do is break the image into parts and discuss the relationship between them. That’s it in a nutshell.

Writing an image analysis essay, whether you’re analyzing a photo, painting, or any other kind of an image, is a simple, 6-step process. Let me take you through it. 

Together, we’ll analyze a simple image and write a short analysis essay based on it. You can analyze any image, such as a photo or a painting, by following these steps. 

Here is a simple image we’ll analyze.

how to analyze an image essay

And we’re ready for the…

6 Steps to Writing a Visual Analysis Essay

Step 1: Identify the Elements

When you look at this image, what do you see?

Right now, you are not just a casual observer. You are like a detective who must inspect things thoroughly and be careful not to miss any details. 

So, let’s put on our Sherlock Holmes hat, grab a magnifying glass, and make a list of all the major and some minor elements of this picture.

What do we observe?

  • Children. How many? Four. 
  • Children’s hands. Four pairs.

Great. These are all human elements. In fact, it would be useful for us to have two categories of elements: human and non-human. 

When we group elements into categories, it will help us later when we’ll be writing the essay. Categories make it easier to think about the elements. 

What other elements do we see?

  • The hands are holding soil. 
  • Each handful of soil also has a tiny plant in it.
  • Finally, we see the green lawn or ground on which the children stand. 

These are all of the obvious elements in the image. But can we dig deeper and observe more?

Again, wearing our Sherlock Holmes hat, our job is to gather information that may not be immediately obvious or noticeable. 

Let’s take another look, using our detective tentacles:

  • The children’s hands are arranged in a circle.
  • The children’s skin color varies from lighter to darker. 
  • The children wear summer clothes.

You may have noticed these elements even when you first saw the image. In that case, great job!

It looks like we’ve covered all the elements. We’re ready to move on to the next step. 

Step 2. Detect Symbols and Connections

What does Sherlock Holmes or any good detective do after basic observation? It is time to think and use our logic and imagination. 

We will now look for symbols and any connections or relationships among the elements.

Identifying Symbols 

  • Children symbolize future and hope. 
  • Their hands form a circle, creating a unifying effect. The symbol is unity, and there is power in unity. 
  • Children’s hands hold soil, and soil symbolizes earth, perhaps planet Earth.
  • The earth holds young plants which symbolize the environment and ecology.
  • The young plants also symbolize youth and the future. 
  • The children wear summer clothes, and summer symbolizes happiness and freedom because this is when children are on vacation and enjoy life. 

Great. Now, let’s see if we can make some connections and identify some relationships among the elements and symbols. 

We will use our imagination to put together some kind of a meaning. 

In analyzing an image, we want to understand what the creator or the artist is trying to convey. 

Do artists and photographers always want to convey something or is it sometimes just a picture? 

It doesn’t matter because we never know what the artist really thought when creating the work . We’re not mind readers. 

But we can always gather meaning using our own logic and imagination. We can derive meaning from any image. And that’s all we need to do to write an analysis essay.

Finding Connections and Relationships

Let’s allow our imagination to roam free and write down a few thoughts. Some ideas will be more obvious than others. 

  • This entire image seems to be about the future of the environment.
  • Why is this future important? It’s important because of the future generations, symbolized by the children. 
  • A strong sense of long-term future is conveyed because not only do the children hold plants, but these are baby plants. The message is “children hold future generations.” 
  • The variety of skin colors implies diversity. Also, the hands form a circle. Together, these two elements can mean: “global diversity.” 

As you can see, we can derive really interesting meaning from even a simple image. 

We did a great job here and now have plenty of material to work with and write about. It’s time for the next step.

Step 3. Formulate Your Thesis

In this step, your task is to put together an argument that you will support in your essay. What can this argument be?

The goal of writing a visual analysis is to arrive at the meaning of the image and to reveal it to the reader.

We just finished the analysis by breaking the image down into parts. As a result, we have a pretty good idea of the meaning of the image. 

Now, we need to take these parts and put them together into a meaningful statement. This statement will be our thesis. 

Let’s do it. 

Writing the Thesis

This whole picture may mean something like the following:

This sounds good. Let’s write another version:

This sounds good, as well. What is the difference between the two statements?

The first one places the responsibility for the future of the planet on children. 

The second one places this responsibility on the entire humanity. 

Therefore, the second statement just makes more sense. Based on it, let’s write our thesis. 

We now have our thesis, which means we know exactly what argument we will be supporting in the essay. 

Step 4: Write the Complete Thesis Statement

While a thesis is our main point, a thesis statement is a complete paragraph that includes the supporting points.

To write it, we’ll use the Power of Three. This means that we are going to come up with three supporting points for our main point. 

This is where our categories from Step 1 will come in handy. These categories are human and non-human elements. They will make up the first two supporting points for the thesis.

The third supporting point can be the relationships among the elements. 

how to analyze an image essay

We can also pick a different set of supporting points. Our job here is to simply have three supporting ideas that make sense to us.

For example, we have our elements, symbols, and connections. And we can structure the complete argument this way:

how to analyze an image essay

All we really need is one way to organize our thoughts in the essay. Let’s go with the first version and formulate the supporting points.

Here’s our main point again:

Here are our supporting points:

  • The photographer uses the image of children to symbolize the future. 
  • The non-human elements in the photo symbolize life and planet Earth.
  • The author connects many ideas represented by images to get the message across. 

Now we have everything we need to write the complete thesis statement. We’ll just put the main and the supporting statements into one paragraph. 

Thesis Statement

Step 5: write the body of your essay.

At this point, we have everything we need to write the rest of the essay. We know that it will have three main sections because the thesis statement is also our outline. 

how to analyze an image essay

We’re ready to write the body of the essay. Let’s do it. 

Body of the Essay (3 paragraphs)

“The author of this photograph chose children and, more specifically, children’s hands in order to convey his point. In many, if not all human cultures, children evoke the feelings of hope, new beginnings, and the future. This is why people often say, ‘Children are our future.’ Furthermore, the children in the photo are of different ethnic backgrounds. This is evident from their skin colors, which vary from lighter to darker. This detail shows that the author probably meant children all over the world.

The non-human elements of the picture are the plants and the soil. The plants are very young – they are just sprouts, and that signifies the fragility of life. The soil in which they grow evokes the image of our planet Earth. Soil also symbolizes fertility. The clothes the children wear are summer clothes, and summer signifies freedom because this is the time of a long vacation for school children. Perhaps the author implies that the environment affects people’s freedom. 

Finally, the relationships and connections among these elements help the photographer convey the message that humans should be mindful of their decisions today to ensure a bright future for the planet. This idea can be arrived at by careful examination. First, the children’s hands are arranged in a circle, which is a symbol of our planet and also signifies the power of unity. The future depends on people’s cooperation. Second, the children seem to be in the process of planting. The author emphasizes long-term future because the children hold baby plants. In other words, they ‘hold the future of other children’ in their hands. Third, the placement of the sprouts, which rest inside the soil in children’s hands, is a strong way to suggest that the future of the ecology is literally ‘in our hands.’”

Step 6. Add an Introduction and a Conclusion

Before we continue, I have an entire detailed article on how to write an essay step-by-step for beginners . In it, I walk you through writing every part of an essay, from the thesis to the conclusion. 


That said, your introduction should be just a sentence or two that go right before you state the thesis. 

Let’s revisit our thesis statement, and then write the introduction. 

how to analyze an image essay

And now let’s write an introductory sentence that would make the opening paragraph complete:

Now, if you read this intro sentence followed by the thesis statement, you’ll see that they work great together. And we’re done with the opening paragraph.

Your conclusion should be just a simple restatement. You can conclude your essay in many ways, but this is the basic and time-proven one.

Let’s do it:

We simply restated our thesis here. Your conclusion can be one or more sentences. In a short essay, a sentence will suffice. 

Guess what – we just wrote a visual analysis essay together, and now you have a pretty good idea of how to write one. 

Hope this was helpful!

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How to Write a Visual Analysis Essay: Mastering Artful Interpretations 👌

visual analysis

Samuel Gorbold

Setting itself apart from other essays, visual analysis essays necessitate a thorough examination of design elements and principles. Whether it's the mysterious smile of the 'Mona Lisa' or a striking photograph capturing a fleeting moment, visual art has the power to move us. Writing this kind of paper is like peeling back the layers of a visual story, uncovering its meanings, and unraveling its impact.

Think of it as decoding the secrets a picture holds. Imagine standing in front of a famous painting, like the 'Mona Lisa' in the Louvre. Millions are drawn to it, captivated by the tale it tells. Your essay lets you share your perspective on the stories hidden in images.

If you're feeling unsure about tackling this kind of essay, don't worry—check out this blog for a straightforward guide. The expert team at our essay service online will walk you through each step of writing the essay, offering tips and examples along the way.

how to analyze an image essay

What Is a Visual Analysis Essay

A visual analysis essay is a unique form of writing that delves into the interpretation of visual elements within an image, such as a painting, photograph, or advertisement. Rather than focusing solely on the subject matter, this type of essay scrutinizes the design elements and principles employed in the creation of the visual piece.

Design Elements: These include fundamental components like color, size, shape, and line. By dissecting these elements, you gain a deeper understanding of how they contribute to the overall composition and convey specific messages or emotions.

Design Principles: Equally important are the design principles—balance, texture, contrast, and proportion. These principles guide the arrangement and interaction of the design elements, influencing the visual impact of the entire composition.

Purpose: The goal is not only to describe the visual content but also to decipher its underlying meaning and the artistic choices made by the creator. It goes beyond the surface level, encouraging the writer to explore the intentions behind the visual elements and how they communicate with the audience.

Stepwise Approach: To tackle this essay, follow a stepwise approach. Begin by closely observing the image, noting each design element and principle. Then, interpret how these choices contribute to the overall message or theme. Structure your essay to guide the reader through your analysis, providing evidence and examples to support your interpretations.

Tips for How to Write a Visual Analysis Essay Successfully:

  • Use clear and concise language.
  • Support your analysis with specific details from the visual piece.
  • Consider the historical or cultural context when applicable.
  • Connect your observations to the overall artistic or rhetorical goals.

Sample Visual Analysis Essay Outline

This sample outline offers a framework for organizing a comprehensive structure for a visual analysis essay, ensuring a systematic exploration of design elements and principles. Adjustments can be made based on the specific requirements of the assignment and the characteristics of the chosen visual piece. Now, let's delve into how to start a visual analysis essay using this template.

I. Visual Analysis Essay Introduction

A. Briefly introduce the chosen visual piece

  • Include relevant details (title, artist, date)

B. Provide a thesis statement

  • Express the main point of your analysis
  • Preview the key design elements and principles to be discussed

II. Description of the Visual Piece

A. Present an overview of the visual content

  • Describe the subject matter and overall composition
  • Highlight prominent visual elements (color, size, shape, line)

III. Design Elements Analysis

  • Discuss the use of color and its impact on the composition
  • Explore the emotional or symbolic associations of specific colors

B. Size and Shape

  • Analyze the significance of size and shape in conveying meaning
  • Discuss how these elements contribute to the overall visual appeal
  • Examine the use of lines and their role in guiding the viewer's gaze
  • Discuss any stylistic choices related to lines

IV. Design Principles Analysis

  • Discuss the visual balance and how it contributes to the overall harmony
  • Analyze whether the balance is symmetrical or asymmetrical
  • Explore the use of texture and its impact on the viewer's perception
  • Discuss how texture adds depth and visual interest

C. Contrast

  • Analyze the contrast between elements and its effect on the composition
  • Discuss whether the contrast enhances the visual impact

D. Proportion

  • Discuss the proportion of elements and their role in creating a cohesive visual experience
  • Analyze any intentional distortions for artistic effect

V. Interpretation and Analysis

A. Explore the overall meaning or message conveyed by the visual piece

  • Consider the synthesis of design elements and principles
  • Discuss any cultural or historical context influencing the interpretation

VI. Conclusion

A. Summarize the key points discussed in the analysis

B. Restate the thesis in the context of the insights gained

C. Conclude with a reflection on the overall impact and effectiveness of the visual piece.

An In-Depth Guide to Analyzing Visual Art

This in-depth guide on how to start a visual analysis essay begins with establishing a contextual foundation, progresses to a meticulous description of the painting, and culminates in a comprehensive analysis that unveils the intricate layers of meaning embedded in the artwork. As we navigate through each step of writing a visual analysis paper, the intention is not only to see the art but to understand the language it speaks and the stories it tells.

Step 1: Introduction and Background

Analyzing the art requires setting the stage with a solid analysis essay format - introduction and background. Begin by providing essential context about the artwork, including details about the artist, the time period, and the broader artistic movement it may belong to. This preliminary step allows the audience to grasp the significance of the painting within a larger cultural or historical framework.

Step 2: Painting Description

The next crucial phase in visual analysis involves a meticulous examination and description of the painting itself. Take your audience on a vivid tour through the canvas, unraveling its visual elements such as color palette, composition, shapes, and lines.

Provide a comprehensive snapshot of the subject matter, capturing the essence of what the artist intended to convey. This step serves as the foundation for the subsequent in-depth analysis, offering a detailed understanding of the visual elements at play.

Step 3: In-Depth Analysis

With the groundwork laid in the introduction and the painting description, now it's time to dive into the heart of writing a visual analysis paper. Break down the visual elements and principles, exploring how they interact to convey meaning and emotion. Discuss the deliberate choices made by the artist in terms of color symbolism, compositional techniques, and the use of texture.

Consider the emotional impact on the viewer and any cultural or historical influences that might be reflected in the artwork. According to our custom essay service experts, this in-depth analysis goes beyond the surface, encouraging a profound exploration of the artistic decisions that shape the overall narrative of the visual piece.

How to Write a Visual Analysis Essay: A Proper Structure

Using the conventional five-paragraph essay structure proves to be a reliable approach for your essay. When examining a painting, carefully select the relevant aspects that capture your attention and analyze them in relation to your thesis. Keep it simple and adhere to the classic essay structure; it's like a reliable roadmap for your thoughts.

how to write visual analysis essay


The gateway to a successful visual analysis essay lies in a compelling introduction. Begin by introducing the chosen visual piece, offering essential details such as the title, artist, and date. Capture the reader's attention by providing a brief overview of the artwork's significance. Conclude the introduction with a concise thesis statement, outlining the main point of your analysis and previewing the key aspects you will explore.

Crafting a robust thesis statement is pivotal in guiding your analysis. Clearly articulate the primary message or interpretation you aim to convey through your essay. Your thesis should serve as the roadmap for the reader, indicating the specific elements and principles you will analyze and how they contribute to the overall meaning of the visual piece.

The body is where the intricate exploration takes place. Divide this section into coherent paragraphs, each dedicated to a specific aspect of your analysis. Focus on the chosen design elements and principles, discussing their impact on the composition and the intended message. Support your analysis with evidence from the visual piece, providing detailed descriptions and interpretations. Consider the historical or cultural context if relevant, offering a well-rounded understanding of the artwork.

Conclude with a concise yet impactful conclusion. Summarize the key points discussed in the body of the essay, reinforcing the connection between design elements, principles, and the overall message. Restate your thesis in the context of the insights gained through your analysis. Leave the reader with a final thought that encapsulates the significance of the visual piece and the depth of understanding achieved through your exploration.

In your essays, it's important to follow the usual citation rules to give credit to your sources. When you quote from a book, website, journal, or movie, use in-text citations according to the style your teacher prefers, like MLA or APA. At the end of your essay, create a list of all your sources on a page called 'Sources Cited' or 'References.'

The good news for your analysis essays is that citing art is simpler. You don't need to stress about putting art citations in the middle of your sentences. In your introduction, just explain the artwork you're talking about—mentioning details like its name and who made it. After that, in the main part of your essay, you can mention the artwork by its name, such as 'Starry Night' by Vincent van Gogh.

This way, you can keep your focus on talking about the art without getting tangled up in the details of citing it in your text. Always keep in mind that using citations correctly makes your writing look more professional.

Visual Analysis Essay Example

To provide a clearer illustration of a good paper, let's delve into our sample essay, showcasing an exemplary art history visual analysis essay example.

Unveiling the Details in Image Analysis Essay

Have you ever gazed at an image and wondered about the stories it silently holds? Describing images in visual analysis papers is not just about putting what you see into words; it's about unraveling the visual tales woven within every pixel. So, how do you articulate the unspoken language of images? Let's examine below:

steps visual essay

  • Start with the Basics: Begin your description by addressing the fundamental elements like colors, shapes, and lines. What hues dominate the image? Are there distinct shapes that catch your eye? How do the lines guide your gaze?
  • Capture the Atmosphere: Move beyond the surface and capture the mood or atmosphere the image evokes. Is it serene or bustling with energy? Does it exude warmth or coolness? Conveying the emotional tone adds layers to your description.
  • Detail the Composition: Dive into the arrangement of elements. How are objects positioned? What is the focal point? Analyzing the composition unveils the intentional choices made by the creator.
  • Consider Scale and Proportion: When unsure how to write an image analysis essay well, try exploring the relationships between objects. Are there disparities in size? How do these proportions contribute to the overall visual impact? Scale and proportion provide insights into the image's dynamics.
  • Examine Textures and Patterns: Zoom in on the finer details. Are there textures that invite touch? Do patterns emerge upon closer inspection? Describing these nuances enriches your analysis, offering a tactile dimension.
  • Cultural and Historical Context: Consider the broader context in which the image exists. How might cultural or historical factors influence its meaning? Understanding context adds depth to your description.

Final Thoughts

As we conclude our journey, consider this: how might your newfound appreciation for the subtleties of visual description enhance your understanding of the world around you? Every image, whether captured in art or everyday life, has a story to tell. Will you be the perceptive storyteller, wielding the brush of description to illuminate the tales that images whisper? The adventure of discovery lies in your hands, and the language of images eagerly awaits your interpretation. How will you let your descriptions shape the narratives yet untold?

Keep exploring, keep questioning, and let the rich tapestry of visual storytelling unfold before you. And if you're looking for a boost on how to write a thesis statement for a visual analysis essay, order an essay online , and our experts will gladly handle it for you!

how to analyze an image essay

How Do You Make a Good Conclusion to a Visual Analysis Essay?

How do you write a visual analysis essay thesis, what is a good approach to writing a visual analysis paper formally.

Samuel Gorbold , a seasoned professor with over 30 years of experience, guides students across disciplines such as English, psychology, political science, and many more. Together with EssayHub, he is dedicated to enhancing student understanding and success through comprehensive academic support.

how to analyze an image essay

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how to analyze an image essay

Visual Analysis: How to Analyze a Painting and Write an Essay

how to analyze an image essay

A visual analysis essay is an entry-level essay sometimes taught in high school and early university courses. Both communications and art history students use visual analysis to understand art and other visual messages. In our article, we will define the term and give an in-depth guide on how to look at a piece of art and write a visual analysis essay. Stay tuned until the end for a handy visual analysis essay example from our graduate paper writing service .

What Is Visual Analysis?

Visual analysis is the process of looking at a piece of visual art (painting, photography, film, etc.) and dissecting it for the artist’s intended meaning and means of execution. In some cases, works are also analyzed for historical significance and their impact on culture, art, politics, and the social consciousness of the time. This article will teach you how to perform a formal analysis of art.

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A visual analysis essay is a type of essay written mostly by students majoring in Art History and Communications. The process of visual analysis can be applied to painting, visual art, journalism, photo-journalism, photography, film, and writing. Works in these mediums are often meant to be consumed for entertainment or informative purposes. Visual analysis goes beyond that, focusing on form, themes, execution, and the compositional elements that make up the work.

Classical paintings are a common topic for a visual analysis essay because of their depth and historical significance. Take the famous Raphael painting Transfiguration. At first glance, it is an attractive image showing a famous scene from the Bible. But a more in-depth look reveals practical painting techniques, relationships between figures, heavy symbolism, and a remarkable choice of colors by the talented Raphael. This deeper look at a painting, a photograph, visual or written art is the process of visual analysis.

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Formal Analysis of Art: Who Does It?

Most people who face visual analysis essays are Communication, English, and Art History students. Communications students explore mediums such as theater, print media, news, films, photos — basically anything. Comm is basically a giant, all-encompassing major where visual analysis is synonymous with Tuesday.

Art History students study the world of art to understand how it developed. They do visual analysis with every painting they look it at and discuss it in class.

English Literature students perform visual analysis too. Every writer paints an image in the head of their reader. This image, like a painting, can be clear, or purposefully unclear. It can be factual, to the point, or emotional and abstract like Ulysses, challenging you to search your emotions rather than facts and realities.

How to Conduct Visual Analysis: What to Look For

Whether you study journalism or art, writing a visual analysis essay will be a frequent challenge on your academic journey. The primary principles can be learned and applied to any medium, regardless of whether it’s photography or painting.

For the sake of clarity, we’ve chosen to talk about painting, the most common medium for the formal analysis of art.

Visual Analysis

In analyzing a painting, there are a few essential points that the writer must know.

  • Who is the painter, and what era of art did they belong to? Classical painters depict scenes from the Bible, literature, or historical events (like the burning of Rome or the death of Socrates). Modernists, on the other hand, tend to subvert classical themes and offer a different approach to art. Modernism was born as a reaction to classical painting, therefore analyzing modernist art by the standards of classical art would not work.
  • What was the painter’s purpose? Classical painters like Michelangelo were usually hired by the Vatican or by noble families. Michelangelo didn’t paint the Sistine Chapel just for fun; he was paid to do it.
  • Who is the audience? Artists like Andy Warhol tried to appeal to the masses. Others like Marcel Duchamp made art for art people, aiming to evolve the art form.
  • What is the historical context? Research your artist/painting thoroughly before you write. The points of analysis that can be applied to a Renaissance painter cannot be applied to a Surrealist painter. Surrealism is an artistic movement, and understanding its essence is the key to analyzing any surrealist painting.

Familiarizing yourself with these essential points will give you all the information and context, you need to write a good visual analysis essay.

But visual analysis can go deeper than that — especially when dealing with historic pieces of visual art. Students explore different angles of interpretation, the interplay of colors and themes, how the piece was made and various reactions, and critiques of it. Let’s dig deeper.

A Detailed Process of Analyzing Visual Art

Performing a formal analysis of art is a fundamental skill taught at entry-level art history classes. Students who study art or communications further develop this skill through the years. Not all types of analysis apply to every work of art; every art piece is unique. When performing visual analysis, it’s essential to keep in mind why this particular work of art is important in its own way.

Visual Analysis

Step 1: General Info

To begin, identify the following necessary information on the work of art and the artist.

  • Subject — who or what does this work represent?
  • Artist — who is the author of this piece? Refer to them by their last name.
  • Date and Provenance — when and where this work of art was made. Is it typical to its historical period or geographical location?
  • Past and Current Locations — where was this work was displayed initially, and where is it now?
  • Medium and Creation Techniques — what medium was this piece made for and why is it important to that medium? Note which materials were used in its execution and its size.

Step 2: Describe the Painting

Next, describe what the painting depicts or represents. This section will be like an abstract, summarizing all the visible aspects of the piece, painting the image in the reader’s mind. Here are the dominant features to look for in a painting:

  • Characters or Figures: who they are and what they represent.
  • If this is a classical painting, identify the story or theme depicted.
  • If this is an abstract painting, pay attention to shapes and colors.
  • Lighting and overall mood of the painting.
  • Identify the setting.

Step 3: Detailed Analysis

The largest chunk of your paper will focus on a detailed visual analysis of the work. This is where you go past the basics and look at the art elements and the principles of design of the work.

Art elements deal mostly with the artist’s intricate painting techniques and basics of composition.

  • Lines — painters use a variety of lines ranging from straight and horizontal to thick, curved, even implied lines.
  • Shapes — shapes can be distinct or hidden in plain sight; note all the geometrical patterns of the painting.
  • Use of Light — identify the source of light, or whether the lighting is flat; see whether the painter chooses contrasting or even colors and explain the significance of their choice in relation to the painting.
  • Colors — identify how the painter uses color; which colors are primary, which are secondary; what is the tone of the painting (warm or cool?)
  • Patterns — are there repeating patterns in the painting? These could be figures as well as hidden textural patterns.
  • Use of Space — what kind of perspective is used in the painting; how does the artist show depth (if they do).
  • Passage of Time and Motion

Design principles look at the painting from a broader perspective; how the art elements are used to create a rounded experience from an artistic and a thematic perspective.

  • Variety and Unity - explore how rich and varied the artists’ techniques are and whether they create a sense of unity or chaos.
  • Symmetry or Asymmetry - identify points of balance in the painting, whether it’s patterns, shapes, or use of colors.
  • Emphasis - identify the points of focus, both from a thematic and artistic perspective. Does the painter emphasize a particular color or element of architecture?
  • Proportions - explain how objects and figures work together to provide a sense of scale, mass, and volume to the overall painting.
  • Use of Rhythm - identify how the artist implies a particular rhythm through their techniques and figures.

Seeing as each work of art is unique, be thoughtful in which art elements and design principles you wish to discuss in your essay. Visual analysis does not limit itself to painting and can also be applied to mediums like photography.

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The Structure: How to Write a Visual Analysis Paper

It’s safe to use the five-paragraph essay structure for your visual analysis essay. If you are looking at a painting, take the most important aspects of it that stand out to you and discuss them in relation to your thesis. Structure it with the simple essay structure:

Introduction: An introduction to a visual analysis essay serves to give basic information on the work of art and briefly summarize the points of discussion.

  • Give a brief description of the painting: name of artist, year, artistic movement (if necessary), and the artist’s purpose in creating this work.
  • Briefly describe what is in the painting.
  • Add interesting facts about the artist, painting, or historical period to give your reader some context.
  • As in all introductions, don’t forget to include an attention-grabber to get your audience interested in reading your work.

Thesis: In your thesis, state the points of analysis on this work of art which you will discuss in your essay.

Body: Explore the work of art and all of its aspects in detail. Refer to the section above titled “A Detailed Process of Analyzing Visual Art,” which will comprise most of your essay’s body.

Conclusion: After you’ve thoroughly analyzed the painting and the artist’s techniques, give your thoughts and opinions on the work. Your observations should be based on the points of analysis in your essay. Discuss how the art elements and design principles of the artist give the painting meaning and support your observations with facts from your essay.

Citation: Standard citation rules apply to these essays. Use in-text citations when quoting a book, website, journal, or a movie, and include a sources cited page listing your sources. And there’s no need to worry about how to cite a piece of art throughout the text. Explain thoroughly what work of art you’re analyzing in your introduction, and refer to it by name in the body of your essay like this — Transfiguration by Raphael.

If you want a more in-depth look at the classic essay structure, feel free to visit our 5 PARAGRAPH ESSAY blog

Learn From a Visual Analysis Example

Many YouTube videos are analyzing famous paintings like the Death of Socrates, which can be a great art analysis example to go by. But the best way to understand the format and presentation is by looking at a painting analysis essay example done by a scholarly writer. One of our writers has penned an outstanding piece on Leonardo Da Vinci’s La Belle Ferronnière, which you may find below. Use it as a reference point for your visual analysis essay, and you can’t go wrong!

Leonardo da Vinci was an Italian artist born in April 1452 and died in May 1519who lived in the Renaissance era. His fame and popularity were based on his painting sand contribution to the Italian artwork. Leonardo was also an active inventor, a vibrant musician, writer, and scientist as well as a talented sculptor amongst other fields. His various career fields proved that he wanted to know everything about nature. In the book “Leonardo Da Vinci: The Mind of the Renaissance” by Alessandro Vezzosi, it is argued that Leonardo was one of the most successful and versatile artists and anatomists of the Italian renaissance based on his unique artwork and paintings (Vezzosi, p1454). Some of his groundbreaking research in medicine, metal-casting, natural science, architecture, and weaponry amongst other fields have been explored in the book. He was doing all these in the renaissance period in Italy from the 1470s till his death.

Visual analysis essays will appear early in your communications and art history degrees. Learning how to formally analyze art is an essential skill, whether you intend to pursue a career in art or communications.

Before diving into analysis, get a solid historical background on the painter and their life. Analyzing a painting isn’t mere entertainment; one must pay attention to intricate details which the painter might have hidden from plain sight.

We live in an environment saturated by digital media. By gaining the skill of visual analysis, you will not only heighten your appreciation of the arts but be able to thoroughly analyze the media messages you face in your daily life.

Also, don't forget to read summary of Lord of the Flies , and the article about Beowulf characters .

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Adam Jason

is an expert in nursing and healthcare, with a strong background in history, law, and literature. Holding advanced degrees in nursing and public health, his analytical approach and comprehensive knowledge help students navigate complex topics. On EssayPro blog, Adam provides insightful articles on everything from historical analysis to the intricacies of healthcare policies. In his downtime, he enjoys historical documentaries and volunteering at local clinics.

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Images Research Guide: Image Analysis

Analyze images.

Content analysis    

  • What do you see?
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  • Can the image be looked at different ways?
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Visual analysis  

  • How is the image composed? What is in the background, and what is in the foreground?
  • What are the most important visual elements in the image? How can you tell?
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This page gives tips and resources for analyzing images and visual media. It also lists resources that discuss analyzing and interpreting images. Please note that there are many ways to analyze images and the tips listed on this page are not the only right way to do this. 

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  • Give yourself time to "take-in" the entire image before you start your research. Make sure you understand what is happening in the image and that you see all of the details. Sometimes it is easy to skip over this step but, it is really important! You can't research an image accurately if you don't understand it.
  • Read the Metadata.  It is always important to read the information provided for an image. This information will allow you to cite the image probably and start to understand the context of the image.
  • Look for the citation information.  If the citation information is not provided for the image, it is likely that the resource you are using is not reliable. You always want to be able to cite your images! 
  • The Art of Seeing Art This links to a page on the Toledo Museum of Art that describes a specific process for analyzing and interpreting images and visual media.
  • Analyzing Images (Facing History and Ourselves) This link provides a plan/procedure for analyzing an image. This specific link is geared towards teachers trying to show students how to analyze an image.
  • Teaching Students to Critically Read Digital Images: A Visual Literacy Approach Using the DIG Method This is a link to Dana Statton Thompson's article about teaching students to analyze images with a method she created called the DIG method. This link goes to Thompson's article description on Visual Literacy Today. The article title on that page clicks to the article.
  • How Do You Look? This link is from the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University. This link explains what visual literacy is like at Nasher Museum and other visual literacy related resources.
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How to Write a Visual Analysis Essay: Format, Outline, and Example

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  • Icon Calendar 18 May 2024
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Writing a visual analysis essay is an exciting and challenging academic exercise for art students. As a priority, before writing such an essay, learners need to familiarize themselves with design elements and principles. In this case, standard design elements are color, shape, size, and line, while common principles of design are proportion, balance, texture, and contrast. Basically, understanding these concepts would help a writer to provide an in-depth description of an image. In turn, such descriptions must make it possible for the audience to develop a mental picture of an image or visual display. Hence, students need to learn how to write a visual analysis essay correctly to shape knowledge of art.

Definition of a Visual Analysis Essay

One of the essay types that students write is a visual analysis essay. Basically, this academic writing exercise requires learners to provide a detailed description of a specific image or visual display. In doing so, students analyze an image or visual display by describing this visual in detail and explaining how different concepts fit together to make a picture in a way as it appears. Moreover, these concepts include visual elements and principles of design. Therefore, when writing a visual analysis essay, students must understand these basic concepts and relate them to an image or visual display in question before providing a detailed description. In turn, the most common subjects that writers address are drawings, paintings, sculptures, and architectural objects. Besides, the time when scholars need to write a visual analysis essay is when instructions require them to describe a given or any image, taking into account visual concepts named before.

How to write a visual analysis essay

11 Visual Elements in Writing an Analysis Essay

Based on the preceding section, one of the concepts that students must consider when writing a visual analysis essay is visual elements. In essence, these elements give an image of its visual characteristics. For example, common visual elements are composition, elements of design, focal point, color, line, texture, shape, form, value, size, and symbolic elements. In turn, it is practically impossible for a student to analyze an image or visual display without describing how some of these elements exemplify the subject’s visual characteristics.

1. Composition

When analyzing a visual display, students must address how a subject is put together. Basically, this is what is termed as composition. When talking about composition by describing a visual display, a writer must cover the placement of things in an image. Also, this aspect means describing how things relate one to another within a canvas. When analyzing an image, a student must focus on answering several questions related to composition. In turn, these include what entails a primary figure, how artists place other figures relative to a primary figure, and what they left out.

2. Elements of Design

When creating an image, artists use different approaches to bring their works to life. Basically, these approaches are what entails elements of design. Therefore, when writing a visual analysis essay, students must familiarize themselves with these elements by answering specific questions. In turn, these aspects include understanding design elements – color, shape, size, form, and line – that exemplify an image or visual display the most.

3. Focal Point

By definition, a focal point is a part of an image or visual display that an artist draws the audience’s attention. In this case, when writing a visual analysis essay, students must address this visual element by understanding this focal point and design elements, such as line, form, color, and shape, that an artist has used to exemplify this part of an image. 

When creating an image, artists use an element of color to exemplify a visual aspect of their works. In this case, the term “monochromatic” means that artists have used one color to create an image, while the term “complementary” means that they have used colors opposite each other on a color wheel. Also, when writing a visual analysis essay, students must describe how an element of color affects a visual image, focusing on colors that artists use and how they affect the tone, mood, and meaning of an image.

An element of line entails actual lines presented in an image. Typically, these lines result from the artist’s effort to place different objects in an image or visual display in question. Hence, when writing a visual analysis essay, students must describe how lines help grab the viewer’s attention toward or away from specific parts of an image. 

An element of texture refers to how smooth or rough an object is or a pattern thereof. In particular, when writing a visual analysis essay, students must understand that a texture can either be real on a three-dimensional art or represented on two-dimensional art. Besides, when analyzing an image, students must focus on a place where an artist exemplifies an element of texture and how it influences the audience to expect a particular touch sensation.

An element of shape refers to how an artist uses various shapes, including circles, ovals, rectangles, and squares, to bring their artworks to life. Basically, when writing a visual analysis essay, students should describe specific shapes that artists use to exemplify their works and where those shapes direct the viewers’ eye. In other words, they should describe how artists use specific shapes to exemplify a focal point. 

An element of form refers to an aspect of light and shading and how artists use them to bring their creations to life. Through this element of form, artists can make a two-dimensional object appear like a three-dimensional object. In turn, when writing a visual analysis essay, students should focus on where artists have applied light or shading to exemplify their work’s specific aspects.

A value element refers to a degree to which an artist has exemplified light and dark aspects in specific parts of their works. Basically, when writing a visual analysis essay, students should describe how artists have applied these aspects in their works and whether there is an indication of these concepts’ symbolic use.

An element of size refers to the overall size of an image or visual display with a relative size of figures provided in an image. In this case, when writing a visual analysis essay, students should explain why they believe an artist chose the image’s particular size and why different objects in a picture have different sizes. Notably, when an artist applies different sizes concerning lines and shapes, it means that an image is of relative significance.

11. Symbolic Elements

An element of symbolic elements refers to using objects with symbolic or historical meaning in an image or visual display. In particular, an example of these objects is the cross, which exemplifies the Christian faith. Also, when writing a visual analysis essay, students should explain whether the image has any symbolic objects and, if there are, whether an artist intends to use such directly or by inverting it.

9 Visual Principles of Design in Writing an Analysis Essay

Besides visual elements described in the preceding section, artists also apply design principles when creating images or visual displays. In turn, such principles help to exemplify the visual characteristics of an image or visual display. For example, some of the common design principles include balance, emphasis, movement, pattern, proportion, variety, contrast, hierarchy, and rhythm.

A principle of balance refers to a distribution of different visual elements in an image or visual display to enhance stability or instability. Basically, when writing a visual analysis essay, students should describe images by addressing a symmetrical and asymmetrical balance. In this case, the former indicates that both sides of an image are even, and the latter means that a picture is weighted on one side. Moreover, radical balance means that an artist has organized objects in an image around a central point. Therefore, when writing a visual analysis essay, students should address these aspects of balance to give the audience a perfect understanding of an image.

2. Emphasis

An emphasis principle refers to an object that catches the viewers’ attention when they look at an image. In this case, when writing a visual analysis essay, students should describe how an artist in question has used elements of size, color, texture, shape, and others to exemplify one part of an image and make it a focal point. Moreover, when looking at an image, a viewer can identify an extent to which an artist has applied an emphasis principle by studying a focal point.

2. Movement

A principle of movement refers to an extent to which an image fosters a movement of the viewers’ eyes in a path as they view an image or visual display. In particular, a movement aspect explains why a viewer may focus on specific parts more than others. Besides, when writing a visual analysis essay, students should describe how an image influences a direction in which the viewer’s eyes move. In turn, they should also explain visual elements, such as line, color, shape, or size, which influence this eye movement.

A principle of pattern entails the use of objects in an image repeatedly. Basically, when writing a visual analysis essay, students should identify specific objects or symbols that artists use repeatedly in their works. Typically, repetition indicates that an object bears a significant meaning, and a student must explain this meaning to the audience.

4. Proportion

A principle of proportion refers to how sizes relate one to another in an image or visual display. Moreover, when writing a visual analysis essay, students should explain this principle by addressing whether the relationship among objects in an image is realistic or distorted. In either case, they should explain the meaning that an artist intended to communicate when creating an image.

A principle of variety refers to an extent to which an artist uses different visual elements to influence the audience’s perception of an image as dynamic. Basically, this principle of variety enhances an active rhythm in an image or visual display. In turn, when writing a visual analysis essay, students should explain to the audience how different elements of design, such as color, size, shape, and size, are combined to create a mood or meaning.

6. Contrast

A principle of contrast refers to a juxtaposition of opposing elements. In particular, an example of contrast in an image is the use of colors opposite each other on a color wheel, like red versus green or blue versus orange. Then, another example of contrast is a tone or value in an image, such as light versus dark, and direction, such as horizontal versus vertical. Hence, when writing a visual analysis essay, students should explain to the audience about a significant contrast in an image, which tends to be exemplified in a focal point. In turn, an image that has too much contrast undermines the quality of unity and is likely to disgust viewers.

7. Hierarchy

A principle of hierarchy refers to a degree to which people viewing an image can process it. As such, this aspect indicates the significance of color, size, line, shape, and other elements of design in an image or visual display. Moreover, visual elements that appear prominently in an image are the most significant. In this case, when writing a visual analysis essay, students should analyze the use of titles and headings in an image. For example, the term “title” denotes a significant aspect of an artwork. Hence, artists should make it a prominent element in their creations. In turn, when describing an image in an analysis essay, a student should explain this aspect with the meaning that it bears.

A principle of rhythm refers to an extent to which an artist has used spaces between repetitive elements. For example, this aspect is similar to how a musician uses spaces between notes when composing a piece of music to create rhythm. Typically, artists create five types of rhythms in an image: random, regular, alternating, flowing, and progressive. In this case, when writing a visual analysis essay, students should describe how an artist has used these rhythm types. Moreover, what they should understand is that these rhythms differ in patterns. For instance, while random rhythms lack a discernable pattern, regular rhythms have a pattern, where an artist adopts the same spacing between elements with no variation. Consequently, alternating rhythms have a pattern where an artist adopts a set of repetitive elements but with no variation between them. About flowing rhythms, an artist uses bends and curves, like sand dunes or ocean waves.

A principle of layout refers to how an artist has used objects in an image. In other words, it entails the placement or distribution of objects, such as symbols, in an image. In this case, when writing a visual analysis essay, students should explain specific objects that an artist has used in an image under analysis and how they are placed in the work. Also, the layout is related to other principles of design, such as pattern and proportion.

How to Analyze the Meaning of an Image for Writing a Visual Analysis Essay

Based on the preceding sections, when writing a visual analysis essay, students should consider how an artist has applied different visual elements and design principles. In turn, these elements and principles exemplify an image, bringing to life specific parts, particularly a focal point. Therefore, when analyzing the meaning of an image or visual display for their essays, students should pay attention to elements and principles of design and explain to the audience their effect on a visual.

1. Visual Composition

Visual composition entails how an artist has arranged or composed an image. Basically, when analyzing such an image in a visual analysis essay, students should explain the composition’s aspects that enhance a claim. In this case, they can describe a layout, which means specific objects in an image that an artist has used to grab the viewers’ attention. For example, they can explain how visual lines draw the viewers’ attention to a focal point. Also, writers student can describe balance. In turn, this aspect means describing the size of images and how they compare one to another. Besides, scholars should talk about a focal point by describing its placement – centered or offset.

When describing an image in a visual analysis essay, students should explain the image’s claims to the audience. Typically, there are five claim types: fact, definition, cause, value, and policy. Firstly, when talking about a fact claim, writers should explain whether an image is real, and, when talking about a definition claim, they should explain its meaning. Then, when talking about a cause claim, learners should explain the causes, effects, and relationships between these effects. In turn, when talking about a value claim, students should explain the importance of an image, and it should be evaluated. Finally, when talking about a policy claim, writers should explain a solution and how it can be achieved.

When analyzing an image in a visual analysis essay, students should interpret its meaning by explaining its genre – whether it is a movie, fine art, poster, graphic art, photograph, or pamphlet. Consequently, they should explain to the audience whether it aligns with that genre’s rules or an artist has disregarded them. More importantly, writers should explain to the audience how a genre affects the image’s meaning.

When analyzing an image in a visual analysis essay, students should address an appealing aspect. Basically, this feature means how an image appeals to the audience and influences them to believe intended claims. Here, students should explain to the audience whether an image or specific parts of it appeal to logic, emotion, authority, or character. More importantly, they should explain whether any of the appeals are deceptive.

5. Context and History

When writing a visual analysis essay, students can analyze an image by addressing its historical context. Basically, the good approach is to explain the image’s rhetorical situation to the audience. In this case, writers must familiarize themselves with the artist’s intended message and how the audience reacts when looking at this image. Moreover, the writer’s response to an image can differ from that of the initial audience. In turn, learners should use such difference as the main idea (a thesis statement) of discussion in their visual analysis essay.

Writing a Visual Analysis Essay: A Step-by-Step Guide

Like any paper, writing a visual analysis essay requires students to observe specific strategies of persuasive writing. Basically, these strategies include preparation, stage set-up, actual writing, and wrap up. Moreover, these strategies enable students to create works that satisfy academic writing conventions, such as having a thesis statement, citations, appropriate formatting, and free from errors and mistakes.

Step 1: Preparation for Writing a Visual Analysis Essay

Preparation refers to an aspect of planning how to go about executing a task. In academic writing, preparation is the main first step to persuasive writing, and it entails reading a story or reviewing an object or subject, finding a visual, defining a topic, preparing ideas, and considering the needs of the audience. Therefore, one can argue that preparation is the stage where students develop a frame of mind necessary to conduct an in-depth analysis of an image or visual display.

A. Reading A story or Reviewing an Object or Subject.

In many instances, an image that students analyze in a Visual Analysis essay is found in texts, such as books, journal articles, reports, or novels, or galleries. Therefore, reading a text is the first activity that a writer should undertake when analyzing an image. Also, students may go to museums to observe specific artworks. In turn, if it is a text, learners should read an article at least twice to grasp essential details that are pertinent to their visual analysis essay.

B. Finding a Visual

As students read a text, they should focus on identifying an image or visual display that they should analyze in a visual analysis essay. While it is standard practice for instructors to guide students on where to find an image, sometimes, they may have to choose an image for themselves. In the latter context, identifying an image that writers find understandable to them in terms of its visual elements is the best approach in writing a visual analysis essay.

C. Defining a Topic

Although the objective of a visual analysis essay is to describe an image or visual display’s visual characteristics, students should come up with a topic that best describes this endeavor. By considering the essence of elements and principles of design that apply to an in-depth analysis of an image, students have a broad scope when it comes to defining a topic for their visual analysis essays. As such, the secret to finding the right essay topics is to decide on what aspect of analysis – elements or principles – they intend to focus on.

D. Preparing Ideas

It is common practice for students to come up with ideas when writing any type of academic text. Basically, this phase of preparation helps learners to develop a mindset about a task at hand. In essence, ideas that students generate should align with a topic they have already defined. In this case, writers cannot think about aspects of writing that would not further their agenda. For example, learners cannot develop ideas about the significance of design elements when their topic is about values that principles of design provide in a visual display.

E. Considering Readers

When writing a visual analysis essay, students should not only think about an image from the perspective of elements and principles of design. Basically, writers should think about how their visual analysis essay would help the audience understand this image better. In this case, learners should understand the audience and what might be of interest to them. For example, students of history might want to know how a particular image influenced the perception of those who saw it first. To address this need, a writer may have to address the image’s rhetorical situation more than its visual characteristics.

Step 2: Stage Set-Up for Organizing a Visual Analysis Essay

After preparation, the second step in writing a visual analysis essay is setting up the stage for the actual writing. Here, students spend time finding credible sources, making notes, creating an essay outline, and writing an annotated bibliography. Moreover, it is a stage where writers get down and start doing some work to bring their goal to fruition.

A. Finding Credible Sources

Unlike other academic texts, visual analysis essays that require students to analyze an issue, phenomenon, or object require some degree of research. In particular, when writing a visual analysis essay, learners may have to find reliable sources that help them to conduct an in-depth analysis of an image at hand. For example, writers may have to find out what critics have said about an image with the meaning of applicable concepts, such as balance, movement, shape, size, and proportion. As such, finding academic sources that can provide some insight into these essential details is a crucial step when writing a visual analysis essay.

B. Making Notes

As students read through study sources that they identify for writing a visual analysis essay, they should make notes relevant to a task. In this case, learners should read through their sources while making notes about important concepts that they find relevant to their analysis, such as proportion, context, and balance. Also, these notes are essential in supporting points that writers generate, influencing new ideas.

D. Writing an Outline and Annotated Bibliography

Like any other essay, a visual analysis essay should have an outline that follows an essay structure. In this case, the standard outline for essays entails three main sections: introduction, body, and conclusion. When writing a visual analysis essay, students should follow this outline. Then, an annotated bibliography is a text that summarizes each of the sources that students have identified and used to find critical information. Generally, learners do not need to write this summary in writing a visual analysis essay. However, to simplify their work for finding information, students may write an annotated bibliography when writing a visual analysis essay.

Step 3: Actual Writing of a Visual Analysis Essay

The third step in writing a visual analysis essay involves the actual process of writing a paper. Here, students should begin with the first draft. In this case, the advantage of this draft is that it is not a final document that students submit or publish, meaning that they have an allowance of making mistakes and correcting them. In short, the first draft enables writers to organize their thoughts and arguments in a paper and develop a working thesis.

Step 4: Wrap Up

The last step in writing a visual analysis essay is where students get to wrap up their work. In this case, students identify weak points in their papers and address them to come up with high-quality essays. Moreover, such a paper must have no spelling or grammatical errors, such as missing or wrong punctuation. In turn, it must not have notable inconsistencies, such as flawed arguments and illogical conclusions. Besides, students must use this step to revise and edit their visual analysis essays and ensure their papers satisfies all academic writing rules.

A. Revisions and Editing

Since it is natural for students to make errors and mistakes when writing academic texts, the final step of writing a visual analysis essay allows authors to identify them and make corrections. Firstly, revision entails identifying and eliminating all inconsistencies that undermine a natural flow of arguments and ideas. In turn, editing helps to correct spelling and grammatical mistakes, such as missing punctuation marks.

B. Topic and Concluding Sentences

When writing a visual analysis essay, students should ensure the first draft has paragraphs in the main text (body). Basically, these paragraphs should start with a topic sentence and end with a concluding sentence. In this case, the former introduces a single idea that writers intend to focus on in one paragraph, and the latter’s function is to link this idea in a topic sentence to the paper’s thesis.

C. Transitions and Formatting

One of the aspects that determine an essay’s quality is the natural flow of arguments and ideas. For example, some elements that foster this flow are transitions, which entail words and phrases like – “consequently,” “thus,” “hence,” “ more importantly,” and “meanwhile.” Then, another aspect that students should consider in the last phase of writing a visual analysis is the paper’s formatting. In this case, writers must ensure that they have formatted their papers according to appropriate formats – APA 7, MLA 8, Harvard, and Chicago/Turabian. Also, some of the formatting rules that must satisfy are citation and use of headings and subheadings.

D. Peer Review and Final Draft

After completing the first draft and making the necessary changes, students should subject their visual analysis essays to a peer review. Basically, this aspect involves giving their works to a friend, tutor, or mentor to identify any errors and mistakes. Then, if such errors and mistakes are noted, writers should revise their papers. However, if a visual analysis essay is found perfect, learners should proceed to write the final draft, which they must read and reread to make sure no mistakes have been made in the course of typing.

Outline Template for Writing a Visual Analysis Essay

I. Introduction with a Thesis Statement II. Body Paragraphs III. Conclusion

1. Defining Features of a Visual Analysis Essay Outline

As indicated previously and as exemplified in the visual above, an outline of a visual analysis essay entails three main sections: introduction, body, and conclusion. Basically, this structure’s defining features are the thesis statement that must appear in the introduction, main points in body paragraphs, and a restatement of the thesis and a summary of the main points in the conclusion.

2. How to Know if a Paper is a Visual Analysis Essay

As indicated in the introduction, a visual analysis essay analyzes an image or visual display by giving an in-depth description of how an artist has applied elements and principles of design. In this case, if students want to know that their texts are visual analysis essays, they need to evaluate how they address the use of these elements and principles in their papers concerning a given image.

3. How a Visual Analysis Essay Differs From Other Essays

The central point of difference between a visual analysis essay and other types of essays is the content. For example, while the content of an argumentative essay is the writer’s arguments in favor of a particular stand, the content in a visual analysis essay is the writer’s description and analysis of an image or visual display. Moreover, in an informative essay, the content is information that authors find insightful and necessary in educating the audience about a topic or an issue.

Easy Strategy For Writing Each Section of a Visual Analysis Essay

When writing a visual analysis essay, students should adopt a strategy that makes their work high-quality, meaning it satisfies academic writing rules. These strategies are as follows:

I. Introduction

  • Introduce an image, art, object, or subject under analysis.
  • Provide a brief background of this image and author.
  • Develop a thesis.
  • Create several paragraphs as appropriate.
  • Begin each paragraph by making a claim. It is a topic sentence.
  • End each paragraph with a concluding sentence.
  • Use transitions sufficiently and appropriately.
  • Observe a sandwich rule: introduce a claim in a topic sentence, provide supporting facts (evidence), and explain a specific connection between the claim and the thesis.

III. Conclusion

  • Restate the thesis.
  • Summarize the main points.
  • Ensure that no new information is presented.
  • Provide the writer’s objective opinion about a topic, such as new insight or criticism.

An Example of a Writing a Visual Analysis Essay

Reclining Woman on a Leopard Skin by Otto Dix

Otto Dix’s (German, 1891–1969) Liegenede auf Leopardenfell (Reclining Woman on a Leopard Skin) , 1927. Oil on panel (70 x 99 cm), 55.031.

I. Introduction Sample of a Visual Analysis Essay

Analyzing an image or visual display is an exciting and challenging academic undertaking for many students. Unlike other academic texts that focus on what other scholars have said, written, and documented through research studies, a visual analysis focuses on an image. As such, the student’s work is to provide an in-depth description of how the artist has appropriated elements and principles of design in their work. Looking at Otto Dix’s “Reclining Woman on a Leopard Skin” image above, it is evident the artist has appropriated contrast, color, size, and texture, among other elements and principles of design, to make a picture come to life.

II. Example of a Body in a Visual Analysis Essay

A. reclining position of a woman.

Dix’s image above reflects a woman in a dress and stockings in a reclining position. Besides two different types of textile around her, there is a leopard fur beneath her body’s upper side. Behind a woman is a snarling animal resembling a dog, and on the far right of the painting is wood flooring. Looking at the woman’s face, one can notice that this the focal point. Basically, it is where the artist has concentrated sharp detail, thus making her face confront the audience instantly. Concerning principles of contrast and emphasis, a red lipstick contrasts sharply with the woman’s light skin, while using her hand as a frame beneath her face emphasizes a focal point.

When it comes to design elements, the artist has used the green, red, white, and brown colors to exemplify the image. In this case, a closer look indicates that Dix has contrasted red and green, a warm and cold color, respectively, particularly on the woman’s skin and face. Moreover, he has contrasted dark and light, whereby her face and body exemplify a light theme, while other objects in a picture exemplify have a dark theme.

Regarding a line element, Dix has used smooth curves around the woman’s lower body, particularly around her hip and thighs. In particular, doing so has helped bring out the aspect of “femininity.” Interestingly, the use of angular lines around the face, jaw, fingers, and shoulders emphasizes the “masculine” aspect. Besides strong lines that make the cheeks and jaw prominent, the artist has also used a line element to exaggerate the woman’s eyes, which takes the shape of cat eyes or curved almonds.

About an element of texture, it is evident that the artist has gone into great lengths to create an illusion of texture. Notably, an image has no literal texture because it is a two-dimensional painting. Moreover, Dix’s effort in creating texture is evident by many objects that he includes in his painting. In turn, these objects include the leopard fur; the woman’s dress, stockings, and hair; the materials that look like velvet; and the fur of the dog-like animal. Besides, all these objects create a temptation to touch. In this case, the texture of the woman’s evening wear and the curtain in the background with a velvet-look suggest a sense of costume and luxury. Collectively, they enhance a visual and material richness of an image.

III. Conclusion Sample of a Visual Analysis Essay

There is doubt that analyzing an image or a visual display is an exciting and challenging academic endeavor for students of art. In particular, Dix’s “Reclining Woman on a Leopard Skin” image shows a master with which the artist has appropriated contrast, color, size, and texture, among other elements and principles of design to make his work come to life. About a painting, the artist has used these concepts to exemplify the woman’s face, which is the painting’s focal point.

Summing Up on How to Write a Good Visual Analysis Essay

Writing a visual analysis essay is an essential academic exercise for students. Since such an essay aims to analyze an image or visual display, learners must familiarize themselves with elements of design, such as color, size, and texture, and principles of design, such as emphasis and contrast. In essence, students use these concepts to provide an in-depth description of an image. Hence, when writing a visual analysis essay, scholars must learn the following tips:

  • provide a vivid description of an image, so that the audience can have a mental picture of it;
  • give a rhetorical situation of an image – its historical context;
  • explain the artist’s intended message;
  • cover details about any controversy or misunderstanding regarding a visual object or subject.

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how to analyze an image essay

Learn How to Write a Visual Analysis Essay: An Ultimate Guide for Beginners

Learn How to Write a Visual Analysis Essay An Ultimate Guide for Beginners

A visual analysis essay is not your typical everyday task, but students taking art history and communication will have to write it in their academic journey. For example, you may be asked to analyze an advertisement, painting, or photograph. How do you decipher hidden messages, cultural nuances, or symbolisms within visual media??

Whether you’ve handled a visual analysis essay before or not, this post will give you fresh and helpful ideas to help you write a winning visual analysis essay. It can seem hard at first, but following the right technique will help you complete it quickly and efficiently. Read on to learn how to write a visual analysis.


What is a Visual Analysis Essay?

A visual analysis essay is a type of academic writing in which the writer analyses and interprets visual elements in a piece of visual art, such as a sculpture, image, painting, or other visual objects. The essay goes beyond a mere description of the subject to explore the artistic choices of the creator and the effects of the choices on the audience.

The primary goal of a visual analysis essay is to help the reader understand the elements, techniques, and context of the artwork under study. Here’s a detailed list of the purposes of the visual analysis essays:

  • To critically analyze artwork or any visual work.
  • To discuss the elements of visual display in detail.
  • To unfold interesting facts about the artists and art
  • Assess the effectiveness of the art/image in current times
  • Explain the historical relevance and meaning
  • Evaluate existing literature on the subject

To achieve the goals above, students must incorporate different principles and elements of visual analysis. Also, the language used should be clear, descriptive, and simple.

Elements of Visual Analysis Essay

You can’t write a visual analysis essay without mentioning the visual elements of the subject under review. Below are common elements to consider when writing a visual analysis essay:

  • Composition — Composition refers to what the main figure is, what the other figures are, how they are placed, and what is missing. Composition is a mandatory element to consider in a visual analysis.
  • Elements of design — Usually, artists incorporate various elements of design in their work, such as different sizes, colors, lines, shapes, and other design features.
  • Focal point — To write a visual analysis paper, you need to know what the artists used to grab the audience’s attention. To know the focal point, you must understand the main goal of the piece.
  • Color — Describe the colors used and how they affect the tone and mood of the art.
  • Lines — Consider the actual lines used in the object and how they help grab the audience’s attention towards parts of the art.
  • Texture — This is the smoothness or roughness of the object. Consider if it’s real in two-dimensional or three–dimensional art.
  • Value — In art education, value refers to how and why the artist has used light and dark aspects in specific parts of their work.
  • Shape — What shapes are in the image, and what do they represent ?
  • Form — It refers to how the shadows and lights in a piece of art are used to create illusions and colors.
  • Size — This is about the overall size of the image. Artists choose a particular size so that you can see what they want you to see better.
  • Symbolic elements — If the art represents a certain art history or carries a symbolic meaning, you will need to find it and tell the reader what it means.

Principles of Design in Visual Analysis Essays

To write a winning visual analysis essay, you must also consider the principles of design. The principles help you to identify and explain various aspects of the visual display.

  • Balance — Balance is the distribution of visual elements in the art. Consider if the elements have symmetrical, radial, or asymmetrical balance.
  • Emphasis — It refers to what draws immediate attention when the audience looks at the art.
  • Movement — This refers to the use of objects or symbols repeatedly in a visual display. 
  • Pattern — Here, explain the colors of the image and how they affect the art. Discuss if they are dark or light and their impact on the mood.
  • Proportion — This principle refers to the realistic relationship between objects in the visual and their comparative link to the art.
  • Variety — How has the artist used different elements to influence the audience’s perception of the picture? Explain how different features create a certain mood or meaning.
  • Contrast — It refers to opposing elements in the visual. Describe them and tell how they affect the quality of the picture.
  • Hierarchy — Hierarchy refers to how people viewing the object can process it to different degrees. The hierarchy depends on color, size, and other elements in the images under review.
  • Rhythm — This principle refers to the use of spaces between repetitive elements.  
  • Layout — Layout is the way objects and symbols are placed in the piece of art. Explain it in detail.

How to Write a Stellar Visual Analysis Essay Step by Step

Collect all the information you can.

Before you start writing your visual analysis essay, you need to know what the artwork is about and who created it. This step involves collecting as much useful data as you can for your visual analysis. Questions to consider when gathering information for visual analysis essays include:

  • What does the artwork represent?
  • Who created the piece?
  • When and where was the visual work created
  • Who was the intended audience?
  • Where was the art displayed for the first time?
  • What elements are used?

This first step is the most time-consuming and confusing for many students, taking anywhere from several hours to many days. Yet, missing crucial details can lead to a poor paper that won’t impress your readers. If you don’t know where to begin your research or have trouble crafting a high-quality visual analysis paper, just get high-quality essay writing help with a few clicks typing “ write my essay online ” into the search bar. You can find the most-suitable service, like CustomWritings, which will take care of everything for you and help you complete your paper on time. Visit the site to receive all necessary information and talk to an expert who will help you with your assignment.

Collect all the information you can

Describe the object or subject

In the next step, you need to identify what the art depicts. You must summarize all the elements you can observe in the piece. To know the essential elements to search for, ask yourself these questions:

  • What does it show?
  • What story is the artist trying to tell?
  • What characters are in the artwork, and what do they stand for?
  • What’s the primary setting?
  • What mood does it give off?

Perform detailed analysis of visual elements

Next, you will need to consider the design elements and principles discussed above and perform a detailed analysis of each. This step is another time-consuming part of writing a formal visual analysis essay. You may want to check with a professional essay writer before completing this step to speed up the process. Remember, each visual element is unique and can be interpreted differently by different people. So, don’t copy someone else’s analysis.

Perform detailed analysis of visual elements

Develop a thesis statement

Visual analysis essays typically have a thesis statement that represents the main ideas or interpretation you’ll convey in the essay. Ensure you write a thesis for a visual analysis paper that aligns with what you have observed and analyzed in the previous steps. The elements and principles you pick must support your thesis.

Create an outline

There are many aspects to be discussed in a visual analysis essay. The best way to order them is to follow a five-paragraph format for each discussion. A winning essay should contain the following sections:

  • Introduction . This is where you provide background information about the piece and the creator. Include interesting facts that will hook your reader, and highlight the main elements and principles you want to analyze. You will end the paragraph with a thesis statement.   
  • The main body . The body section can have 3 or more paragraphs that explore the artwork in detail. Choose the most significant elements you find during your research and discuss how they support your thesis statement. Present all details logically and explain how they relate to each other. Also, add your opinion about the visual argument made by the artist.
  • Conclusion . In the last section, mention the key points that strengthen your thesis. Also, reflect on the overall impact of the piece. This section must be well-done and not too short or too long.

Create an outline to good visual analysis essay

Write the essay draft

Follow your outline to write a good essay. When writing the draft, focus on the substance instead of wanting to produce a specific style. Review the first draft by identifying weak points and addressing them to create a high-quality paper.

Visual analysis papers must follow citation guidelines used in academic writing. Include citations of any external sources used in the text. Ensure you follow the correct citation style specific to the assignment guidelines e.g., APA or MLA.

Proofread and edit your essay

Once you’re done writing your essay, proofread and edit it for clarity, coherence, and logical flow. Revise it many times to make sure it is error-free. Also, delete any irrelevant details and confirm that you have cited all sources correctly. If you’re not proficient with editing, you can get fresh eyes from a friend or professional editor.

Things to Keep in Mind When Writing a Visual Analysis Essay

Do not make general claims.

Your visual analysis essay can be subject to criticism from the audience, so don’t make your claims sound like the gospel truth. Another student can have a different visual rhetorical analysis in their essay that also stands. The most important thing is to employ observable elements and principles to justify your claims and strengthen them with secondary sources.  

Avoid using excess information

If your goal is to use the elements and principles to cover the word count, it will be hard to prove the main idea. Choose only the strong features that will help you to drive the point home. Excess information can mislead or confuse the reader.

Select a good topic

The topic is the first thing a reader sees, so make it catchy. A good topic is concise, clear, and informative. You don’t have to get the topic right the first time. Edit it as you proceed with writing until you have an engaging and interesting topic.

Write a catchy introduction

A catchy introduction will hook your readers and make them want to read more of your essay. You can hook your readers using interesting hooks, such as a question, statistic, quote, interesting statement, or metaphor.

Employ a strong visual argument

The way you write your visual analysis essay should leave the reader visualizing the image you’re discussing without seeing it. Use words that bring out strong visual imagery because it adds to the reliability and authenticity of your paper.

Understand the central point of your essay

You must identify and describe the focal point of your piece. Identifying the main idea helps you to understand the meaning of the art and the overall conclusion. Also, your interpretation should convey the correct message you want the reader to know.

Follow instructions

To write a successful visual analysis paper , you must follow the instructor’s guidelines. This includes selecting the recommended visual work, following the required essay structure, applying the correct citation format, and adhering to the recommended word count.

Sample Visual Analysis Essay Topics

  • Analyze the symbolism and religious themes in Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling.
  • Analyze the visual storytelling and cinematography in a memorable film scene from a classic movie.
  • What was Pablo’s intention in “Guernica”?
  • Generate a written report on social class shown through art.
  • What is special about Cleo Award-winning ads?
  • Review your favorite movie and analyze the visual arts in it.
  • Examine the use of space and perspective in M.C. Escher’s “Relativity.”
  • Discuss the controversy surrounding the Monalisa painting
  • Impact of ‘“The Last Supper” on religious imagery
  • Who was the audience of “The Night Watch”?

Wrapping Up

Writing a visual analysis essay can be intimidating. However, you now have all the information you need to create an outstanding visual analysis essay. Use our guide to successfully create a paper that appreciates the depth of various forms of art.

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Visual Analysis Essay

Barbara P

Visual Analysis Essay - A Writing Guide with Format & Sample

14 min read

Visual Analysis Essay

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A visual analysis essay is a common assignment for the students of history, art, and communications. It is quite a unique type of academic essay. 

Visual analysis essays are where images meet text. These essays aim to analyze the meanings embedded in the artworks, explaining visual concepts in a written form. 

It may sound difficult to write a visual analysis essay, but it can be done in simple steps by following the right approach. Let’s dive into the writing steps, tips, example essays, and potential topics to help you write an excellent essay. 

Arrow Down

  • 1. What is a Visual Analysis Essay
  • 2. How to Write a Visual Analysis Essay - 7 Simple Steps
  • 3. Tips on How to Analyze a Photograph
  • 4. Tips on How to Analyze a Sculpture
  • 5. Visual Analysis Essay on Advertisement
  • 6. Visual Rhetorical Analysis Essay Examples
  • 7. Visual Analysis Essay Topics

What is a Visual Analysis Essay

A visual analysis essay basically requires you to provide a detailed description of a specific visual work of art. It is a type of analytical essay that deals with imagery and visual art instead of texts.

The subject of a visual analysis essay could be an image, painting, photograph, or any visual medium. 

In this type of essay, you need to describe the artwork and analyze its elements in detail. That is, how different elements and features fit together to make the whole work stand out. In this sense, you need to use a mixture of descriptive writing and analytical language. 

To write a good visual analysis essay, you need to know the basic visual elements and principles of design. Let’s learn about these concepts first before diving into the writing steps.

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Visual Elements for a Visual Analysis Essay

Writing a visual analysis essay involves analyzing the visual elements of a piece of art. These elements form the basis of the features and characteristics of an image. 

Below you can find the common visual elements of a visual analysis essay.

Principles of Design in a Visual Analysis Essay

In addition to visual elements, you must also consider the principles of design for writing a great visual analysis essay. These principles help you identify and explain the characteristics of the image. 

How to Write a Visual Analysis Essay - 7 Simple Steps

Now that you have an idea about visual elements and principles, you are now ready to proceed. 

Here are the steps that you need to follow for writing a visual analysis essay. Let’s discuss them in detail.

Step 1 - Gather General Information About the Artwork

Once you have a specific artwork or image, here is how to start a visual analysis essay. You need to ask some basic questions about the work and jot down your ideas.

This pre-writing step is for brainstorming ideas. Ask these questions to begin:

  • Who and what does the artwork represent? 
  • Who is the author of the piece? 
  • Who did the artist create the work for? Who is the intended audience?
  • When and where was the work created? What is its historical context?
  • Where was this work displayed for the first time?
  • Identify which medium, materials, and techniques were used to create the image?

Step 2 - Note Down the Characteristics of the Artwork

The next thing that you need to do is identify what the image depicts. Moreover, you need to identify and describe the visual art elements and design principles used in the work. 

Here’s what you need to note:

  • The subject matter and its representation.
  • Colors, shapes, and lines used in the composition.
  • The balance, proportion, and harmony within the artwork.
  • Any symbolism or metaphors present.

By pointing out such characteristics, you set the stage for a nuanced analysis in your essay.

Step 3 - Visual Analysis Essay Outline 

Once you have gathered your main points by carefully studying the image, you should now organize them in an outline.

Here is how you make an outline for your visual analysis essay:

Step 4- Write the Introduction

This is the first paragraph of a visual analysis essay in which you need to provide some background information on the topic. After grabbing the readers’ attention with an interesting fact, briefly provide information on the following points. 

  • Talk briefly about the painting and its artist or creator.
  • Provide a brief description of the painting and give historical context
  • Add an interesting fact about the artist or the painting. 

The introduction should end with a thesis statement. The visual analysis essay thesis states the analysis points on the artwork that you aim to discuss in your essay. 

Step 5 - Provide Detailed Description, Analysis, and Interpretation

In the body section, you need to explore the artwork in detail. In the first body paragraph, simply describe the features and characteristics of the work. For instance, talk about the technique being used, shape, color, and other aspects to support your thesis. 

In the next paragraphs, you can go into the analysis and interpretation of these elements and the work as a whole. Present all the details logically and discuss the relationship between the objects. Talk about the meaning, significance, and impact of the work.

Step 6 - Writing a Conclusion

Once you have completed the body section, move to the conclusion paragraph. This is the last paragraph of the essay that should be strong and well-written to create a sense of closure.

Here’s how you can do it

  • Revisit the main insights gained through the analysis, summarizing the key visual elements and principles discussed. 
  • Emphasize the significance of cultural or historical context in interpreting the visual narrative. 
  • Tie together the threads of your analysis to reinforce your thesis or main argument.
  • End with a memorable statement and encourage readers to carry the lessons learned from the analysis into their own encounters with art. 

Step 7 - Edit & Revise Your Essay

Here’s how to end your visual analysis essay: edit and revise your first draft until it becomes the perfect version. Consider these steps for an excellent revision:

  • Review for Clarity: Ensure your ideas flow logically. Clarify any ambiguous or unclear statements to enhance the overall readability of your essay.
  • Trim Unnecessary Details: Trim excess information that doesn't directly contribute to your main points. Keep your analysis focused and concise.
  • Check Consistency: Verify that your writing style remains consistent throughout the essay. Maintain a balance between formal language and engaging expression.
  • Fine-Tune Transitions: Ensure smooth transitions between different sections of your essay. Transitions help guide your reader through the analysis, making the journey more enjoyable and comprehensible.
  • Proofread for Errors: Carefully proofread your essay for grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors. A polished essay enhances your credibility and the overall professionalism of your work.

With these basic steps, you can craft an amazing visual analysis essay. Read on for some useful tips for analyzing different kinds of visual subjects.

Tips on How to Analyze a Photograph

Painting and photograph analysis are very similar. There are three ways in which photo visual analysis is conducted: description, reflection, and formal analysis.

Although the historical study may be used, it is not necessary.

  • Description -  It implies examining the picture carefully and considering all of the details. The description should be neutral, focusing on simple facts without expressing a personal viewpoint.
  • Reflection -  For the next stage, consider the emotions that the picture stirs in you. Every viewer will have a distinct viewpoint and feelings about the piece. Knowing some historical background might be useful when formulating an educated response.
  • Formal analysis -  Consider the visual components and concepts. How are they shown in the photo?
  • Historical analysis -  For a contextual analysis, keep an eye on the photo's surroundings. Make sure you comprehend the surrounding environment in which the photograph was taken. What era was this image shot during?

Tips on How to Analyze a Sculpture

A sculpture, unlike a painting or photograph, requires a different approach to visual analysis. It still depends on visible components and principles, however it does so in a slightly different way.

When you're writing about sculptures, keep the following in mind:

  • Medium, size, and technique -  What kind of material is it? Is it carved in a negative or positive method?
  • Color and lightning -  Describe the hue of the sculpture, whether it is painted. Was the sculptor concerned with the illumination when creating the work?
  • Human body and scale -  Consider how a human body is portrayed in the piece. Also, assess the sculpture's size compared to that of the viewer.
  • Function -  What was the sculpture's main aim? You could speak about whether it represented a religious conviction or honored someone, for example.
  • Composition -  Examine the placement of the piece and determine whether there is a focal point.

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Visual Analysis Essay on Advertisement

In advertisements, visuals are used to pique interest or persuade the public that what is being advertised is needed. The goal of a visual argument is to generate attention and intrigue. Images are utilized in advertisements to transmit information and interact with the audience.

When conducting a visual analysis of an ad, keep the following in mind:

  • Textual Elements
  • Illustrations
  • Composition

This all has an impact on how people perceive information and how they react to it.

When you analyze the visuals of an ad, you're performing a rhetorical analysis. The study of images and extracting information from them is known as visual rhetoric. It aids in the comprehension of typography, imagery, and the structure of elements on the page.

How to Write a Visual Analysis Paper on an Advertisement

Visual components in advertising are important. It aids in the persuasion of the audience.

Always keep the rhetorical situation in mind while analyzing visual arguments. The following are some key elements to consider:

  • Audience -  Who is the advertisement meant to attract?
  • Purpose -  What message does the photo try to get across to the audience?
  • Design -  What kind of visualizations are included? Are the visuals clear and easy to follow? Are there any patterns or repetitions in the design?
  • Strategies -  Is there any humor, celebrities, or cultural allusions in the graphic's message?
  • Medium -  Is the photograph surrounded by text? Is there any text within the picture? How does it interact with the picture to produce an intended effect if there is any?
  • Context -  What are the characters in an ad? Where are they positioned?
  • Subtext -  Consider the meaning of the picture's words. What are they trying to say?

Visual Rhetorical Analysis Essay Examples

Here are some visual analysis essay samples that you can read to understand this type of essay better. 

Art history Visual Analysis Essay Example

Political Cartoon Visual Analysis Essay

Rhetorical and Visual Analysis Essay Sample

Mona Lisa Visual Analysis Essay

Visual Analysis Essay Topics

Here are some top visual analysis essay topics that you can choose from and begin the writing process.

  • Make a review of your favorite Hollywood production and discuss the visual arts involved.
  • Write about the use of color and action in TV commercials.
  • Discuss how the brand name is displayed in digital media campaigns.
  • Discuss different types of visual appeals used in web ads.
  • What is the special about Cleo Award-winning ads?
  • The Use of Light and Shadow in Caravaggio's "The Calling of Saint Matthew"
  • The Symbolism of Colors in Vincent van Gogh's "Starry Night"
  • What is the importance of art and culture in our life?
  • How has art changed over the last 50 years?
  • The use of colors in marketing and advertising. 

To conclude, 

From gathering information about the artwork to crafting a compelling analysis, we've navigated the essential steps you need for a visual analysis essay. Moreover, with the specific tips and examples, you have everything you need to get started.

So dive into the writing process with confidence and return to this blog whenever you need help on any step!

However, if you have gone through the whole article and are still unsure how to start your essay, we can help you.

Our professional essay writers at can help you with your visual analysis essay assignment. Contact us with your order details, and we will get it done for you. 

We provide essay writing service for students  that you can trust for better grades. Place your order now and get the best visual analysis essay writing help. 

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Barbara P

Dr. Barbara is a highly experienced writer and author who holds a Ph.D. degree in public health from an Ivy League school. She has worked in the medical field for many years, conducting extensive research on various health topics. Her writing has been featured in several top-tier publications.

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How to Write an Editorial

How to Write a Visual Analysis Essay: Examples & Template

A visual analysis essay is an academic paper type that history and art students often deal with. It consists of a detailed description of an image or object. It can also include an interpretation or an argument that is supported by visual evidence.

The picture shows the definition of a visual analysis.

In this article, our custom writing experts will:

  • explain what a visual analysis is;
  • share useful tips on how to write a good visual analysis essay;
  • provide an essay sample.
  • 🎨 Visual Analysis Definition
  • 🏺 Artwork Analysis Tips
  • ✅ Visual Analysis Writing Guide
  • 📑 Example & Citation Tips

🎨 What Is a Visual Analysis?

The primary objective of visual analysis is to understand an artwork better by examining the visual elements. There are two types of visual analysis: formal and contextual.

  • A formal analysis focuses on artwork elements such as texture, color, size, and line. It aims to organize visual information and translate it into words. A formal analysis doesn’t interpret the piece.
  • Unlike formal analysis, contextual analysis’ primary goal is to connect artwork to its purpose or meaning within a culture. A contextual analysis includes formal analysis. Additionally, it discusses an artwork’s social purpose and significance.

Usually, students deal with formal visual analysis. Before starting to work on your essay, make sure to ask your professor whether to include contextual analysis or not.

The Purpose of Analyzing Images

Why is visual analysis important? What does it help to learn? There are several things that visual analysis helps with:

  • It allows students to enhance their appreciation of art.
  • It enables students to develop the ability to synthesize information.
  • It encourages students to seek out answers instead of simply receiving them.
  • It prompts higher-order critical thinking and helps to create a well-reasoned analysis.
  • By conducting visual analysis, students learn how to support and explain their ideas by studying visual information.

What Is Formal Analysis: Art History

When we look at an artwork, we want to know why it was created, who made it, and what its function was. That’s why art historians and researchers pay special attention to the role of artworks within historical contexts.

Visual analysis is a helpful tool in exploring art. It focuses on the following aspects:

  • Interpretation of subject matter ( iconography). An iconographic analysis is an explanation of the work’s meaning. Art historians try to understand what is shown and why it is depicted in a certain way.
  • The analysis of function. Many works of art were designed to serve a purpose that goes beyond aesthetics. Understanding that purpose by studying their historical use helps learn more about artworks. It also establishes a connection between function and appearance.

Formal Analysis: Art Glossary

Now, let’s look at some visual elements and principles and learn how to define them.

Visual Elements :

Visual Principles :

🏺 How to Analyze Artworks: Different Types

Writing a formal analysis is a skill that requires practice. Being careful and attentive during the pre-writing stage is essential if you want to create a good and well-structured visual analysis. 

Visual analysis essay mainly consists of two components:

  • Description of the selected image or object,
  • Interpretation built on the visual evidence.

During the pre-writing stage:

  • Collect general information about an artwork. Describe it briefly. Pay special attention to visual elements and principles:
  • Develop an interpretation. Think critically. What does the information in your notes imply? How can it be interpreted?
  • Support your ideas. To do it, refer to the visual elements directly. Avoid generalizing art and double-check your prompts. 

How to Analyze a Painting Using the Elements of Art

To write an excellent formal visual analysis, you need to consider as many visual principles and elements as you can apply. In the formal analysis part:

  • Target your description;
  • Address only those elements relevant to your essay;
  • Pay attention to visual elements and principles;
  • Introduce the subject of the painting and describe it;
  • Explain why you have decided to discuss specific elements;
  • Discuss the relationship between visual elements of the artwork;
  • Use the vocabulary terms.

If you are asked to do a contextual analysis , you may want to:

  • Focus on the historical importance of an artwork;
  • Explore the style or movement associated with an artwork;
  • Learn about the historical context and the public’s reaction to the artwork;
  • Learn about the author and how they’ve created the piece of art.

Painting Analysis Essay Example & Tips

Here is a template you can use for your essay.

Now, let’s take a look at an essay example.

How to Analyze a Photograph

Analyzing photos has a lot in common with paintings. There are three methods on which photo visual analysis relies: description, reflection, and formal analysis. Historical analysis can be included as well, though it is optional.

  • Description . It implies looking closely at the photo and considering all the details. The description needs to be objective and consists of basic statements that don’t express an opinion.
  • Reflection. For the next step, focus on the emotions that the photograph evokes. Here, every viewer will have a different opinion and feelings about the artwork. Knowing some historical context may be helpful to construct a thoughtful response.
  • Formal analysis . Think of the visual elements and principles. How are they represented in the photograph?
  • Historical analysis. For a contextual analysis, you need to pay attention to the external elements of the photograph. Make sure that you understand the environmental context in which the photo was taken. Under what historical circumstances was the picture made?

Photo Analysis Essay Tips

Now that we’ve talked about analyzing a photograph let’s look at some helpful tips that will help you write an essay.

How to Analyze a Sculpture

Visual analysis of a sculpture is slightly different from the one of a painting or a photograph. However, it still uses similar concepts, relies on visual elements and principles. When you write about sculpture, consider:

Visual Analysis Essay on a Sculpture: Writing Tips

A sculpture analysis consists of the following parts:

  • Description . Include specific details, such as what the sculpture may represent. For instance, the human figure may be an athlete, an ancient God, a poet, etc. Consider their pose, body build, and attire.
  • Formal analysis . Here, visual elements and principles become the focus. Discuss the color, shape, technique, and medium.
  • Contextual analysis . If you decide to include a contextual analysis, you can talk about the sculpture’s function and how it conveys   ideas and sentiments of that period. Mention its historical and cultural importance.

When it comes to sculpture analysis, you may also want to collect technical data such as:

  • The size of the sculpture
  • Medium (the material)
  • The current condition (is it damaged, preserved as a fragment, or as a whole piece)
  • Display (Was a sculpture a part of an architectural setting, or was it an independent piece of work?)

For instance, if you were to do a visual analysis of Laocoön and His Sons , you could first look up such details:

  • Location: Discovered in a Roman vineyard in 1506
  • Current location: Vatican
  • Date: Hellenistic Period (323 BCE – 31 CE)
  • Size: Height 208 cm; Width 163 cm; Depth 112 cm
  • Material: Marble
  • Current condition: Missing several parts.

Visual Analysis Essay: Advertisement Analysis

Visuals are used in advertisements to attract attention or convince the public that they need what is being advertised. The purpose of a visual argument is to create interest. Advertisements use images to convey information and communicate with the audience.

When writing a visual analysis of an advertisement, pay attention to the following:

  • text elements,
  • illustrations,
  • composition.

All of this influences how the viewer perceives the information and reacts to it.

When you write about an advertisement, you conduct a rhetorical analysis of its visual elements. Visual rhetoric is mainly directed at analyzing images and extracting information from them. It helps to understand the use of typography, imagery, and the arrangement of elements on the page.

Think of the famous visual rhetoric examples such as the We can do it! poster or a Chanel №5 commercial. Both examples demonstrate how persuasive imagery has been used throughout history.

How to Write a Visual Analysis Paper on an Advertisement

The presentation of visual elements in advertising is essential. It helps to convince the audience. When you analyze visual arguments, always keep the rhetorical situation in mind. Here are some crucial elements to focus on:

✅ How to Write a Visual Analysis Paper: Step by Step

Now, we’ll focus on the paper itself and how to structure it. But first, check out the list of topics and choose what suits you best.

Visual Analysis Essay Topics

There are a lot of artworks and advertisements that can be analyzed and viewed from different perspectives. Here are some essay topics on visual analysis that you may find helpful:

  • Analyze Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss (1907-1908.)
  • The theme of humanity and The Son of Man (1964) by René Magritte.
  • The use of visual elements in Almond Blossom by Vincent van Gogh (1888-1890.)
  • Identity and Seated Harlequin (1901) by Picasso .
  • Explore the themes of Paul Klee ’s The Tree of Houses , 1918.
  • Objectives, activities, and instructions of Pietro Perugino’s fresco The Delivery of the Keys to Saint Peter . 
  • Reflection on social issues of the time in Two Fridas by Frida Kahlo and Untitled by Ramses Younan.  
  • Analyze the importance of Mural (1943) by Jackson Pollock.  
  • The political message in John Gast’s painting American Progress (1872).
  • Describe the visual techniques used in Toy Pieta by Scott Avett .
  • The interpretation of the painting Indian Fire God by Frederic Remington.
  • Explore the historical significance and aesthetic meaning of Ognissanti Madonna by Giotto di Bondone .
  • Analyze different interpretations of The Three Dancers by Pablo Picasso .


  • The idea behind Lindsay Key (1985) by Robert Mapplethorpe.
  • Explore the mythical appeal of Robert Capa’s photograph The Falling Soldier (Spain,1936) from Death in Making photobook.
  • Describe Two Boys with Fish (2018) from Faith series by Mario Macilau.
  • Kevin Carter’s Starving Child and Vulture (1993) as the representation of photojournalism.
  • The story behind Philippe Halsman’s Dali Atomicus , 1948.
  • Describe The Starving Boy in Uganda photograph by Mike Wells
  • Analyse the view of a historic disaster in San Francisco photograph by George R. Lawrence.
  • The statement behind Eddie Adams’s photo Shooting a Viet Cong Prisoner .
  • How is Steve McCurry’s perception of the world reflected in his photo Afghanistan Girl .
  • Analyze the reflection of Ansel Adams’s environmental philosophy in his photo Moon and Half Dome (1960).
  • Describe Girl on the Garda Lake (2016) by Giuseppe Milo.
  • Combination of internal geometry and true-to-life moments in Behind the Gare Saint Lazare by Henri Cartier-Bresson .
  • Modern art and Couple on Seat by Lynn Chadwick (1984.)
  • Analyze the biblical context of Pieta (1498-1499) by Michelangelo.
  • The use of shapes in Louise Bourgeois’ Spider (1996.)
  • Analysis of the symbolism behind The Thinker (1880) by Rodin.
  • The historical meaning of Fountain (1917) by Duchamp .
  • Analyze the Miniature Statue of Liberty by Willard Wigan 
  • The combination of Egyptian culture and classical Greek ideology in statue of Osiris-Antinous.  
  • Reflection of the civilization values in emperor Qin’s Terracotta Army . 
  • The aesthetic and philosophical significance of Michelangelo’s David .
  • Explore the controversial meaning of Damien Hirst’s sculpture For the Love of God (2007).
  • Analyze the elements of art and design used in The Thinker by August Rodin .
  • Symbolic elements in the Ancient Greek statues of Zeus .
  • Depiction of the fundamental aspects of Buddhism in The Parinirvana of Siddhartha/Shakyamuni.


  • How Volkswagen : Think Small (1960) ad changed advertising.
  • Analyze the use of figures in California Milk Processor Board: Got Milk? (1993) ad campaign .
  • Analyze the use of colors in Coca-Cola — The Pause that Refreshes (1931.)
  • Explore the historical context of We Can Do It! (1942) campaign.
  • The importance of a slogan in 1947: A Diamond Is Forever by De Beers.
  • Examine the specifics of visual advert: dogs and their humans.  
  • Describe the use of visual techniques in Kentucky Fried Chicken company’s advertisement.
  • Analyze the multiple messages behind the print ad of JBL .
  • Discuss the methods used in Toyota Highlander advertisement .
  • Elucidation of people’s dependency on social networks in the advertising campaign Followers by Miller Lite.
  • The use of the visual arguments in Schlitz Brewing Company advertisement .
  • The role of colors and fonts in Viva la Juicy perfume advertisement .

Visual Analysis Essay Outline

You can use this art analysis template to structure your essay:

The picture shows the main steps in writing a visual analysis essay: introduction, main body, conclusion.

How to Start an Art Essay

Every analysis starts with an introduction. In the first paragraph, make sure that:

  • the reader knows that this essay is a visual analysis;
  • you have provided all the necessary background information about an artwork.

It’s also important to know how to introduce an artwork. If you’re dealing with a panting or a photograph, it’s better to integrate them into the first page of your analysis. This way, the reader can see the piece and use it as a reference while reading your paper.

Art Thesis Statement Examples & Tips

Formulating a thesis is an essential step in every essay. Depending on the purpose of your paper, you can either focus your visual analysis thesis statement on formal elements or connect it with the contextual meaning. 

To create a strong thesis, you should relate it to an artwork’s meaning, significance, or effect. Your interpretation should put out an argument that someone could potentially disagree with. 

  • For instance, you can consider how formal elements or principles impact the meaning of an artwork. Here are some options you can consider:
  • If your focus is the contextual analysis, you can find the connection between the artwork and the artist’s personal life or a historical event.

How to Write Visual Analysis Body Paragraphs

Body paragraphs of formal analysis consist of two parts—the description and the analysis itself. Let’s take Klimt’s The Kiss as an example:

The contextual analysis includes interpretation and evaluation.

Visual Analysis Essay Conclusion

When you work on the conclusion, try to conclude your paper without restating the thesis. At the end of your essay, you can present an interesting fact. You can also try to:

  • Compare an artwork to similar ones;
  • Contrast your own ideas on the piece with the reaction people had when it was first revealed.
  • Talk about an artwork’s significance to the culture and art in general.

📑 Visual Analysis Essay Example & Citation Tips

In this section of the article, we will share some tips on how to reference an artwork in a paper. We will also provide an essay example.

How to Reference a Painting in an Essay

When you work on visual analysis, it is important to know how to write the title of an artwork properly. Citing a painting, a photograph, or any other visual source, will require a little more information than citing a book or an article. Here is what you will need:

  • Size dimensions
  • Current location
  • Name of the piece
  • Artist’s name
  • Date when artwork was created

If you want to cite a painting or an artwork you saw online, you will also need:

  • The name of the website
  • Website URL
  • Page’s publication date
  • Date of your access

How to Properly Credit an Artwork in APA

How to properly credit an artwork in mla, how to properly credit an artwork in chicago format.

Finally, here’s a sample visual analysis of Rodin’s sculpture The Thinker in APA format. Feel free to download it below.

Many people believe that works of art are bound to be immortal. Indeed, some remarkable masterpieces have outlived their artists by many years, gaining more and more popularity with time. Among them is The Thinker, a brilliant sculpture made by Auguste Rodin, depicting a young, athletic man, immersed deep into his thoughts.

You can also look at the following essay samples to get even more ideas.

  • The Protestors Cartoon by Clay Bennett: Visual Analysis
  • Visual Analysis – Editorial Cartoon
  • Visual Analysis: “Dust Storm” Photo by Steve McCurry
  • Visual, Aural, Read & Write, Kinesthetic Analysis
  • Schlitz Brewing Company Advertisement: Visual Arguments Analysis

Thanks for reading through our article! We hope you found it helpful. Don’t hesitate to share it with your friends.

Further reading:

  • How to Write a Lab Report: Format, Tips, & Example
  • Literature Review Outline: Examples, Approaches, & Templates
  • How to Write a Research Paper Step by Step [2024 Upd.]
  • How to Write a Term Paper: The Ultimate Guide and Tips

❓ Visual Analysis FAQs

To write a visual argument essay, you need to use rhetorical analysis. Visual rhetoric is directed at analyzing images and extracting the information they contain. It helps to analyze the visuals and the arrangement of elements on the page.

A well-though contextual analysis will include:

1. formal analysis, 2. some information about the artist, 3. details on when and where the piece was created, 4. the social purpose of the work, 5. its cultural meaning.

It is better to include pictures  in the introduction  part of your paper. Make sure to cite them correctly according to the format you’re using. Don’t forget to add the website name, the URL, and the access date.

To analyze means not only to describe but also to evaluate and synthesize visual information. To do that, you need to learn about visual elements and principles and see how and why they are used within artworks.

🔍 References

  • Art History: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Visual Analysis: Duke University
  • Writing a Formal Analysis in Art History: Hamilton College
  • Contextual Analysis: Pine-Richland School District
  • How to Analyze an Artwork: Student Art Guide
  • Introduction to Art Historical Analysis: Khan Academy
  • Guidelines for Analysis of Art: University of Arkansas at Little Rock
  • Elements of Art:
  • Formal or Critical Analysis: LibreTexts
  • Analyzing a Photograph: University of Oregon
  • Picture Composition Analysis and Photo Essay: University of Northern Iowa
  • Visual Analysis Guidelines: Skidmore College
  • How to Analyze Sculpture: NLA Design and Visual Arts: WordPress
  • Visual Rhetoric: Purdue University
  • Formal Visual Analysis: The Elements & Principles of Composition
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Purdue Online Writing Lab Purdue OWL® College of Liberal Arts

Visual Rhetoric: Analyzing Visual Documents

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Definition and Goals of Visual/Rhetorical Analysis

A visual document communicates primarily through images or the interaction of image and text. Just as writers choose their words and organize their thoughts based on any number of rhetorical considerations, the author of such visual documents thinks no differently. Whether assembling an advertisement, laying out a pamphlet, taking a photograph, or marking up a website, designers take great care to ensure that their productions are visually appealing and rhetorically effective.

The goal of any rhetorical analysis is to demonstrate your understanding of how the piece communicates its messages and meanings. One way of looking at this process is that you are breaking the piece down into parts. By understanding how the different parts work, you can offer insights as to the overall persuasive strategies of the piece. Often you are not looking to place a value judgment on the piece, and if there is an implicit or implied argument you may not be ultimately taking a side.

It’s worth asking then: is rhetorical analysis of visual documents any different than this basic description? Yes and no. Sometimes you will encounter an interplay of words and images, which may complicate the number of rhetorical devices in play. Additionally, traditional schooling has emphasized analysis of certain texts for a long time. Many of us are not so accustomed to giving visual documents the same kind of rigorous attention.

We now live in such a visually-dominated culture, that it is possible you have already internalized many of the techniques involved with visual communication (for example, every time you justify the text of your document or use standard margins, you are technically using visual rhetoric).

That said, writing a rhetorical analysis is often a process of merely finding the language to communicate this knowledge. Other times you may find that looking at a document from a rhetorical design perspective will allow you to view it in new and interesting ways.

Like you would in a book report or poetry analysis, you are offering your “reading” of the visual document and should seek to be clear, concise, and informative. Do not only give a re-telling of what the images look like (this would be the equivalent of stopping at plot summary if you were analyzing a novel). Offer your examples, explain the rhetorical strategies at work, and keep your focus on how the document communicates visually.

Want to create or adapt books like this? Learn more about how Pressbooks supports open publishing practices.

So far you have examined how primarily written arguments work rhetorically. But visuals (symbols, paintings, photographs, advertisements, cartoons, etc.) also work rhetorically, and their meaning changes from context to context. 

Imagine two straight lines intersecting each other at right angles. One line runs from north to south. The other from east to west. Now think about the meanings that this sign evokes.

What came to mind as you pondered this sign? Crossroads? A first aid sign? The Swiss flag? Your little brother making a cross sign with his forefingers that signals “step away from the hallowed ground that is my bedroom”?

Now think of a circle around those lines so that the ends of the lines hit, or cross over, the circumference of the circle. What is the image’s purpose now?

What did you come up with? The Celtic cross? A surveyor’s target? A pizza cut into really generous sizes?

Did you know that this symbol is also the symbol for our planet Earth? And it’s the symbol for the Norse god, Odin. Furthermore, a quick web search will also tell you that John Dalton, a British chemist who led the way in atomic theory and died in 1844, used this exact same symbol to indicate the element sulfur.

Recently, however, the symbol became the subject of a fiery political controversy. The marketing team of former Alaska governor (and former vice-presidential candidate), Sarah Palin, placed several of these symbols—the lines crossed over the circumference of the circle in this case—on a map of the United States. The symbols indicated where the Republican Party had to concentrate their campaign because these two seemingly innocuous lines encompassed by a circle evoked, in this context, the symbol for crosshairs—which itself invokes a myriad of meanings that range from “focus” to “target.”

However, after the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona in January 2011, the symbol, and the image it was mapped onto, sparked a vehement nationwide debate about its connotative meaning. Clearly, the image’s rhetorical effectiveness had transformed into something that some considered offensive. Palin’s team withdrew the image from her website.

How we understand symbols rhetorically, and indeed all images, depends on how the symbols work with the words they accompany, and on how we understand and read the image’s context, or the social “landscape” within which the image is situated. As you have learned from earlier chapters, much of this contextual knowledge in persuasive situations is tacit, or unspoken.

Like writing, how we use images has real implications in the world. So when we examine visuals in rhetorical circumstances, we need to uncover this tacit knowledge. Even a seemingly innocuous symbol, like the one above, can denote a huge variety of meanings, and these meanings can become culturally loaded. The same is true for more complex images—something we will examine at length below.

In this chapter, we will explore how context—as well as purpose, audience, and design—render symbols and images rhetorically effective. The political anecdote above may seem shocking, but, nevertheless, it indicates how persuasively potent visuals are, especially when they enhance the meaning of a text’s words or vice versa. Our goal for this chapter, then, is to come to terms with the basics of visual analysis, which can encompass the analysis of words working with images or the analysis of images alone. When you compose your own arguments, you can put to use what you discover in this chapter when you select or consider creating visuals to accompany your own work.

Here is an overview of Visual Rhetoric from the OWL at Purdue:

Rhetorical Analysis of Visual Texts

Let’s start with by reviewing what we mean by analysis. Imagine that your old car has broken down and your Uncle Bob has announced that he will fix it for you. The next day, you go to Uncle Bob’s garage and find the engine of your car in pieces all over the driveway; you are further greeted with a vision of your hapless uncle greasily jabbing at the radiator with a screwdriver. Uncle Bob (whom you may never speak to again) has broken the car engine down into its component parts to try and figure out how your poor old car works and what is wrong with it.

Happy days are ahead, however. Despite the shock and horror that the scene above inspires, there is a method to Uncle Bob’s madness. Amid the wreckage, he finds out how your car works and what is wrong with it, so he can fix it and put it back together.

Likewise, analyzing entails breaking down a text or an image into component parts (like your engine). And while analyzing doesn’t entail fixing per se, it does allow you to figure out how a text or image works to convey the message it is trying to communicate. What constitutes the component parts of an image? How might we analyze a visual? What should we be looking for? To a certain extent we can analyze visuals in the same way we analyze written language; we break down a written text into component parts to figure out just what the creator’s agenda might be and what effect the text might have on its readers.

When we analyze visuals we do take into account the same sorts of things we do when we analyze written texts, with some added features.

Please watch “Visual Rhetoric: How to Analyze Images”:

Genres that use visuals tell us a lot about what we can and can’t do with them. Coming to terms with genre is rather like learning a new dance—certain moves, or conventions, are expected that dictate what kind of dance you have to learn. If you’re asked to moonwalk, for instance, you know you have to glide backwards across the floor like Michael Jackson. It’s sort of the same with visuals and texts; certain moves, or conventions, are expected that dictate what the genre allows and doesn’t allow.

Below is a wonderful old bumper sticker from the 1960s 19. A bumper sticker, as we will discover, is a genre that involves specific conventions.

In bumper sticker format, the top line reads "Kennedy" in white font against a red background. The lower line reads "FOR PRESIDENT" in blue font against a white background. Kennedy's smiling head is superimposed over the words in the middle of the sticker.

Bumper stickers today look quite a bit different, but the amount of space that a sticker’s creator has to work with hasn’t really changed. Bumper stickers demand that their creators come up with short phrases that are contextually understandable and accompanied by images that are easily readable—a photograph of an oil painting trying to squeeze itself on a bumper sticker would just be incomprehensible. In short, bumper stickers are an argument in a rush!

A bumper sticker calls for an analysis of images and words working together to create an argument. As for their rhetorical content, bumper stickers can demand that we vote a certain way, pay attention to a problem, act as part of a solution, or even recognize the affiliations of the driver of the car the sticker is stuck to. But their very success, given that their content is minimal, depends wholly on our understanding of the words and the symbols that accompany them in context.

The procedure for doing a rhetorical analysis of a visual text is essentially the same as for a spoken/written text.

Step 1: Read the Text

In the case of a visual text, there might be words or there might not. If there are no words, “read” the image and think about what the creator of the image is trying to portray. Rather than a summary of the text, you might write a description of the image, including what you believe the author’s main intent is. In this case, your description might be fairly short:

Step 2: Define the Rhetorical Situation

Again, this step is very similar to what you would do for a written/spoken text. Simply answer the same questions about the visual text. Remember the acronym SOAP:

In this case, the speaker isn’t as clear as it might be in a spoken or written text. In general, a speech is made by a specific person, and a written text has an author. In some cases, determining the origin of a visual text could be difficult. In this case, we can presume that the bumper sticker was made by the Democratic Party as a campaign effort.

Audience and Medium

In their book Picturing Texts , Lester Faigley et al claim that, when determining the audience for a visual, we must “think about how an author might expect the audience to receive the work” (104). Medium, then, dominates an audience’s reception of an image. For instance, Faigley states that readers will most likely accept a photograph in a newspaper as news—unless of course one thinks that pictures in the tabloids of alien babies impersonating Elvis constitute news. Alien babies aside, readers of the news would expect that the picture on the front page of the New York Times , for instance, is a “faithful representation of something that actually happened” (105). An audience for a political cartoon in the newspaper, on the other hand, would know that the pictures they see in cartoons are not faithful representations of the news but opinions about current events and their participants, caricatured by a cartoonist. The expectations of the audience in terms of medium, then, determine much about how the visual is received.

As for our bumper sticker then, we might argue that the image of JFK speeding down the highway on the bumper of a spiffy new Ford Falcon would be persuasive to those who put their faith in the efficacy of bumper stickers, as well as the image of the man on the bumper sticker. Moreover, given that the Falcon is speeding by, we might assume that the bumper sticker would mostly appeal to those folks who are already thinking of voting for JFK—otherwise there’s a chance that the Falcon’s driver would be the recipient of some 1960s-style road rage.

Today, the audience for our bumper sticker has changed considerably. We might find it in a library collection. Or we might find it collecting bids on eBay. Once again, the audience for this example of images and words working together rhetorically depends largely on its contextual landscape.


Thinking about context is crucial when we are analyzing visuals, as it is with analyzing writing. We need to understand the political, social, economic, or historical situations from which the visual emerges. Moreover, we have to remember that the meaning of images change as time passes. For instance, what do we have to understand about the context from which the Kennedy sticker emerged in order to grasp its meaning? Furthermore, how has its meaning changed in the past 50 years?

First, to read the bumper sticker at face value, we have to know that a man named Kennedy is running for president. But president of what? Maybe that’s obvious, but then again, how many know who the Australian prime minister was 50 years ago, or, for that matter, the leading official in China? Of course, we should know that the face on the bumper sticker belongs to John F. Kennedy, a US Democrat, who ran against the Republican nominee Richard Nixon, and who won the US presidential election in 1960. (We hope you know that anyway.)

Now think how someone seeing this bumper sticker, and the image of Kennedy on it, today would react differently than someone in 1960 would have. Since his election, JFK’s status has transformed from American president into an icon of American history. We remember his historic debate with Nixon, the first televised presidential debate.

One wonders how much of a role this event played in his election given that the TV, a visual medium,  turned a political underdog into a celebrity. We also remember Kennedy for his part in the Cuban missile crisis, his integral role in the Civil Rights Movement and, tragically, we remember his assassination in 1963. In other words, after the passage of 50 years, we might read the face on the bumper sticker quite differently than we might have in 1960.

While we examine this “text” from 50 years ago, it reminds us that the images we are surrounded by now change in meaning all the time. For instance, we are all familiar with the Apple logo. The image itself, on its own terms, is simply a silhouette of an apple with a bite taken out of it. But, the visual does not now evoke the nourishment of a Granny Smith or a Golden Delicious. Instead, the logo is globally recognized as an icon of computer technology.

Words and images can work together to present a point of view. But, in terms of visuals, that point of view often relies on what isn’t explicit—what, as we noted above, is tacit.

The words on the sticker say quite simply “Kennedy For President.” We know now that this simple statement reveals that John F. Kennedy ran for president in 1960. But what was its rhetorical value back then? What did the bumper sticker want us to do with its message? After all, taken literally, it doesn’t really tell us to do anything.

For now, let’s cheat and jump the gun and guess that the bumper sticker’s argument in 1960 was “Vote to Elect John F Kennedy for United States President.”

Okay. So knowing what we know from history, we can accept that the sticker is urging us to vote for Kennedy. It’s trying to persuade us to do something. And the reason we know what we know about it is because we know how to read its genre and we comprehend its social, political, and historical context. But in order to be persuaded by its purpose, we need to know why voting for JFK is a good thing. We need to understand that its underlying message, “Vote for JFK,” is that to vote for JFK is a good thing for the future of the United States.

So, to be persuaded by the bumper sticker, we must agree with the reasons why voting for JFK is a good thing. But the bumper sticker doesn’t give us any. Instead, it relies on what we are supposed to know about why we should vote for Kennedy. For instance, if we were present for the campaign, we would know that JFK campaigned on a platform of liberal reform as well as increased spending for the military and space travel technology. Moreover, we would be aware of the evidence for why we should vote that way. Consequently, if we voted for JFK, we accepted the above claim, reasons, and evidence driving the bumper sticker’s purpose without being told any of it by the bumper sticker. The claim, reasons and evidence are all tacit.

What about the image itself? How does that further the bumper sticker’s purpose? We see that the image of JFK’s smiling face is projected on top of the words “Kennedy for President.” The image is not placed off to the side; it is right in the middle of the bumper sticker. So for this bumper sticker to be visually persuasive, we need to agree that JFK, here represented by his smiling face, located right in the middle of the bumper sticker, on a backdrop of red, white, and blue, signifies a person we can trust to run the country.

Nowadays, JFK’s face on the bumper sticker—or in any other genre for that matter —might underscore a different purpose. It might encompass nostalgia for an era gone by or it might be used as a resemblance argument, in order to compare President Kennedy with President Obama for example.

Overall then, when we see a visual used for rhetorical purposes, we must first determine the argument (claim, reasons, evidence) from which the visual is situated and then try to grasp why the visual is being used to further its purpose.

To these, we will add one more element–Setting–making our acronym SOAPS.

When analyzing visual texts, the style in which the text is created is important. In rhetorical analysis, you should consider why this particular style was chosen–why use a bumper sticker or a billboard instead of writing an article in the newspaper?

Consider what format or medium the text being made: image? written essay? speech? song? protest sign? meme? sculpture?

  • What is gained by having a text composed in a particular format/medium?
  • What limitations does that format/medium have?
  • What opportunities for expression does that format/medium have (that perhaps other formats do not have?)

3. Identify Rhetorical Strategies

Think through how the creator of the text uses ethos, pathos, logos, and kairos to portray the message. While you might see some rhetorical devices being employed, they might not play as large a role in visual texts. The elements of Design will play a much larger role in a visual analysis.

Design actually involves several factors.


Designers are trained to emphasize certain features of a visual text. And they are also trained to compose images that are balanced and harmonized. Faigley et al suggest that we look at a text that uses images (with or without words) and think about where our eyes are drawn first (34). Moreover, in Western cultures, we are trained to read from left to right and top to bottom—a pattern that often has an impact on what text or image is accentuated in a visual arrangement.

Other arrangements that Faigley et al discuss are closed and open forms (105). A closed-form image means that, like our bumper sticker, everything we need to know about the image is enclosed within its frame. An open form, on the other hand, suggests that the visual’s narrative continues outside the frame of the visual. Many sports ads employ open-frame visuals that suggest the dynamic of physical movement.

Another method of arrangement that is well known to designers is the rule of thirds . Here’s an example of that rule in action:

A 3x3 grid appears in light gray font in the background. On top of this, a drawing of a man, a horizon line, and a sun appear. The sun is centered in the crosspoint of the top left corner of the grid. The horizon line roughly follows the bottom third line of the grid, and the human figure appears on the right vertical line of the grid, over the horizon line.

Note how the illustration above has been cordoned off into 9 sections. The drawings of the sun and the person, as well as the horizon, coincide with those lines. The rule of thirds dictates that this compositional method allows for an interesting and dynamic arrangement as opposed to one that is static. Now, unfortunately, our bumper sticker above doesn’t really obey that rule. Nevertheless, our eye is still drawn to the image of JFK’s head. Many modern bumper stickers do, however, obey the rule of thirds. Next time you see a bumper sticker on a parked car, check if the artist has paid attention to this rule. Or, seek out some landscape photography. The rule of thirds is the golden rule in landscape art and photography and is more or less a comprehensive way to analyze arrangement in design circles because of its focus on where one’s eye is drawn.

Rhetorically speaking, what is accentuated in a visual is the most important thing to remember about arrangement. As far as professional design is concerned, it is never haphazard. Even a great photo, which might be seem to be the result of serendipity, can be cropped to highlight what a newspaper editor, for instance, wants highlighted.

Texts and Image in Play

Is the visual supported by words? How do the words support the visual? What is gained by the words and what would be lost if they weren’t in accompaniment? What if we were to remove the words “Kennedy for President” from our bumper sticker? Would the sticker have the same rhetorical effect?

Moreover, when examining visual rhetoric, we should pinpoint how font emphasizes language. How does font render things more or less important, for instance? Is the font playful, like Comic Sans MS, or formal, like Arial? Is the font blocked, large, or small? What difference does the font make to the overall meaning of the visual? Imagine that our JFK bumper sticker was composed with a swirly- curly font. It probably wouldn’t send the desired message. Why not, do you think?

Alternately, think about the default font in Microsoft Word. What does it look like and why? What happens to the font if it is bolded or enlarged? Does it maintain a sense of continuity with the rest of the text? If you scroll through the different fonts available to you on your computer, which do you think are most appropriate for essay writing, website design, or the poster you may have to compose?

Lastly, even the use of white (or negative) space in relation to text deserves attention in terms of arrangement. The mismanagement of the relation of space to text and/or visual can result in visual overload! For instance, in an essay, double spacing is often advised because it is easier on the reader’s eye. In other words, the blank spaces between the lines of text render reading more manageable than would dense bricks of text. Similarly, one might arrange text and image against the blank space to create a balanced arrangement of both.

While in some situations the arrangement of text and visual (or white space) might not seem rhetorical (in an essay, for example), one could make the argument that cluttering one’s work is not especially rhetorically effective. After all, if you are trying to persuade your instructor to give you an ‘A’, making your essay effortlessly readable seems like a good place to start.

Visual Figures

Faigley et al also ask us to consider the use of figures in a visual argument (32). Figurative language is highly rhetorical, as are figurative images. For instance, visual metaphors abound in visual rhetoric, especially advertising (32). A visual metaphor is at play when you encounter an image that signifies something other than its literal meaning. For instance, think of your favorite cereal: which cartoon character on the cereal box makes you salivate in anticipation of breakfast time? Next time, when you see a cartoon gnome and your tummy start to rumble in anticipation of chocolate-covered rice puffs, you’ll know that the design folks down at ACME cereals have done their job. Let’s hope, however, that you don’t want to chow down on the nearest short fat fellow in a red cap that comes your way.

Visual rhetoric also relies on synecdoche, a trope in which a part of something represents the whole . In England, for instance, a crown is used to represent the British monarchy. The image of JFK’s face on the bumper sticker, then, might suggest his competency to head up the country.

Image of different colors

Colors are loaded with rhetorical meaning, both in terms of the values and emotions associated with them and their contextual background. Gunther Kress and Theo Van Leeuwen show how the use of color is as contextually bound as writing and images themselves. For instance, they write, “red is for danger, green for hope. In most parts of Europe, black is for mourning, though in northern parts of Portugal, and perhaps elsewhere in Europe as well, brides wear black gowns for their wedding day. In China, and other parts of East Asia, white is the color of mourning; in most of Europe it is the color of purity, worn by the bride at her wedding. Contrasts like these shake our confidence in the security of meaning of colour and colour terms” (343).

So what colors have seemingly unshakeable meaning in the US? How about red, white, and blue? Red and blue are two out of the three primary colors. They evoke a sense of sturdiness. After all, they are the base colors from which others are formed.

The combined colors of the American flag have come to signal patriotism and American values. But even American values, reflected in the appearance of the red, white, and blue, change in different contexts. To prompt further thought, Faigley shows us that the flag has been used to lend different meaning to a variety of magazine covers—from American Vogue (fashion) to Fortune magazine (money) (91). An image of the red, white and blue on the cover lends a particularly American flavor to each magazine. And this can change the theme of each magazine? For instance, with what would you acquaint a picture of the American flag on the cover of Bon Appétit or Rolling Stone ? Hot dogs and Bruce Springsteen perhaps?

What then does the red, white, and blue lend our bumper sticker? A distinctly patriotic flavor, for sure. Politically patriotic. And that can mean different things for different people. Thus, given that meanings change in a variety of contexts, we can see that the meaning of color can actually be more fluid than we might have originally thought.

Alternately, if our JFK sticker colors were anything other than red, white, and blue, we might read it very differently; indeed, it might seem extremely odd to us.

Kress and Van Leeuwen ask us to consider the modality in which an image is composed. Very simply, this means, how “real” does the image look? And what does this “realness” contribute to its persuasiveness? They write, “visuals can represent people, places, and things as though they are real, as though they actually exist in this way . . . or as though they do not” (161). Photographs are thus considered a more naturalistic representation of the world than clip art, for instance.

photo vs clip art

We expect photographs to give us a representation of reality. Thus, when a photograph is manipulated to signify something fantastic, like a unicorn or a dinosaur, we marvel at its ability to construct something that looks “real.” And when a visual shifts from one modality to another, it takes on additional meaning.

For instance, how might we read a cartoon version of JFK compared to the photograph that we see on our bumper sticker? Would the cartoon render the bumper sticker less formal? Less significant perhaps? Would a cartoon, given its associative meanings, somehow lessen the authenticity of the sticker’s purpose? Or the authority of its subject?

Perspective/Point of View

Imagine standing beneath a wind turbine. Intimidating? Impressive Overwhelming? Now envision that you are flying over it in airplane. That very enormous thing seems rather insignificant now—a wind turbine in Toyland.

wind turbine image

Now imagine the same proportions depicted in a photograph. One might get the same sense of power if the photo was taken from the bottom of the turbine, the lens pointed heavenward. Then again, an aerial photograph might offer us a different perspective. If the landscape presents us with an endless array of turbines stretching into the distance, we might get a sense that they are infinite—as infinite as wind energy.

Our Kennedy sticker offers neither of the above-described senses of perspective. Coming face to face with Kennedy, we neither feel overwhelmed nor superior. In fact, it’s as if Kennedy’s gaze is meeting ours at our own level. The artist is still using his powers of perspective; it’s just that our gaze meets Kennedy’s face to face. Consequently, Kennedy is portrayed as friendly and approachable.

Social distance

Jewitt and Van Leeuwen include social distance in the components of design. Social distance accounts for the “psychology of people’s use of space” (Van Leeuwen and Jewitt, 29). In short, a visual artist can exploit social distance to create a certain psychological effect between a person in an image and the image’s audience.

image of man and woman smiling

Image licensed free to use.“Look at me,” both seem to say, “buy this product; we invite you.” Likewise, Kennedy smiles into the camera. “Vote for me,” he encourages. “I’m a nice guy.” Depicting head and shoulders only, we are given a sense of what Van Leeuwen and Carey Jewitt call “Close Personal Distance.” The result is one of intimacy.

Alternately, a visual of several people, or a crowd, would suggest far less intimacy.

image of a crowd

Mood and Lighting

Have you ever put a flashlight under your chin and lit your face from underneath? Maybe we aren’t all budding scary movie makers, but jump out of the closet on a dark night with all the lights turned off and the flashlight propped under your chin and you’re sure to give at least the cat a fright. What you have experimented with is mood and lighting. In short, the lighting as described eerily captures facial features that aren’t usually accentuated. It can be quite off-putting. Thus the position of the light has created a creepy face; it’s created a visual mood . And, the mood combines with other elements of the visual to create an effect, which of course is rhetorical.

The next time you watch a movie, note how the filmmaker has played with lighting to create a mood. In the illustration below, we can see how Film Noir , for instance, capitalizes on techniques of mood and lighting to create an uncanny effect.

A still shot from a black and white 1940's movie is shown. We see the profile of a woman's full body in the center of the screen, and a man further away on the right. Mist billows behind them, and the contrast is high between black and white.

4. Connect the Text to the Purpose

Think about how the author’s purpose connects to the visual text. Do they match up? Has the author’s feelings or desire for creativity interfered with the message?

You may want to bookmark this worksheet on your computer, as it will help you as you write your own rhetorical analyses:

Worksheet for Rhetorical Analysis


  • Faigley, Lester, Diana George, Anna Palchik and Cynthia Selfe. Picturing Texts . London: Norton, 2004. Print.
  • Kress, Gunther, and Theo Van Leeuwen: “Colour as a Semiotic Mode: Notes for a Grammar or Colour.” Visual Communication 1.3 (2002): 343-68.
  • Kress, Gunther and Theo Van Leeuwen. Reading Images . London: Routledge, 1996. Print.
  • Van Leeuwen, Theo and Carey Jewitt. The Handbook of Visual Analysis . Thousand Oaks: Sage, 2003. Print.
  • Content adapted from “ Visual Elements ” licensed under CC BY SA .
  • Adapted from “ What is the Rhetorical Situation? ” by Robin Jeffrey and Emilie Zickel licensed under CC BY SA .
  • Other content written by Dr. Karen Palmer and licensed CC BY NC SA . 

Diving into Rhetoric Copyright © 2020 by Karen Palmer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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  • Writing Tips

When to Use an Image in an Essay

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  • 30th June 2019

Pages of text alone can look quite dull. And while “dull” may seem normal enough for an essay , using images and charts can make a document more visually interesting. It can even help you boost your grades if done right! Here, then, is our guide on how to use an image in academic writing .

Usually, you will only need to add an image in academic writing if it serves a specific purpose (e.g., illustrating your argument). Even then, you need to make sure images are presently correctly. As such, try asking yourself the following questions whenever you add picture or chart in an essay:

  • Does it add anything useful? Any image or chart you include in your work should help you make your argument or explain a point more clearly. For instance, if you are analyzing a movie, you may need to include a still from a scene to illustrate your point.
  • Is the image clearly labelled? All images in your essay should come with clear captions (e.g., “Figure 1” plus a title or description). Without these, your reader may not know how images relate to the surrounding text.
  • Have you mentioned the image in the text? Make sure to reference any images you use in the text of your essay. If you have included an image to illustrate a point, for instance, you would include something along the lines of “An example of this can be seen in Figure 1.”

The key, then, is that images in an essay are not just decoration. Rather, they should fit with and add to the arguments you make in the text.

Citing Images and Illustrations

If you have created all the images you are using in your essay yourself, then all you need to do is label them clearly (as described above). But if you want to use an existing image you found somewhere else, you will need to cite your source as well, just as you would when quoting someone.

The format for this will depend on the referencing system you’re using. However, with author–date referencing, it usually involves giving the source author’s name and a year of publication. For example:

Image plus caption.

In the caption above, we have cited the page of the paper the image comes from using an APA-style citation. We would then need to add the full paper to the reference list at the end of the document:

Gramblička, S., Kohar, R., & Stopka, M. (2017). Dynamic analysis of mechanical conveyor drive system. Procedia Engineering , 192, 259–264. DOI: 10.1016/j.proeng.2017.06.045

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You can also cite an image directly if it not part of a larger publication or document. If we wanted to cite an image found online in APA referencing , for example, we would use the following format:

Surname, Initial(s). (Role). (Year).  Title or description of image  [Image format]. Retrieved from URL.

In practice, then, we could cite a photograph as follows:

Booth, S. (Photographer). (2014). Passengers [Digital image]. Retrieved from

Make sure to check your style guide if you are not sure which referencing system to use when citing images in your work. And don’t forget to have your finished document proofread before you submit it for marking.

Need to write an excellent essay?

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Image Analysis Essay

Assignment Description : Write an argumentative essay based on an image. The argument should focus on the image and the message the image conveys. All evidence for your argument should come from the image. The analysis should come from you. An excellent essay will analyze the image in a way that conveys a deeper meaning than one gets from simply observing the image.

Assignment Outcomes : The Image Analysis Essay should demonstrate your ability to make a logical argument that is well supported by evidence and correct use of MLA format and citation style.

Assignment Requirements :

Write an argumentative essay on an image. The image can not include any text.

Have an arguable thesis that is well supported by every paragraph of the essay.

Have a conclusion that answers the questions, “So what?”

The only required source is the image itself. If necessary for your argument, you may bring in other sources that give historical era, artist’s information, or other background material that provides context for the image. All sources must be from a credible, academic source like those found in the Broward College databases.

Correctly cite and document sources according to MLA format, using both in-text citations and the works cited list.

Essays must be 800-1,000 words minimum.

Advice : Choose an image that evokes a strong reaction in you. Look for an image that is rich, so you have plenty of material with which to work. You may also want to tie it thematically to the research you've done in the other two essays.

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5 strategies to unlock your winning college essay.

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CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS - JUNE 29: People walk through the gate on Harvard Yard at the Harvard ... [+] University campus on June 29, 2023 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that race-conscious admission policies used by Harvard and the University of North Carolina violate the Constitution, bringing an end to affirmative action in higher education. (Photo by Scott Eisen/Getty Images)

The college application season is upon us, and high school students everywhere are staring down at one of the most daunting tasks: the college essay. As someone who has guided countless applicants through the admissions process and reviewed admissions essays on an undergraduate admissions committee, I've pinpointed the essential ingredient to a differentiated candidacy—the core of your college admissions X-factor .

The essential ingredient to your college admissions X-factor is your intellectual vitality. Intellectual vitality is your passion for learning and curiosity. By demonstrating and conveying this passion, you can transform an average essay into a compelling narrative that boosts your chances of getting accepted to your top schools. Here are five dynamic strategies to achieve that goal.

Unleash Your Authentic Voice

Admissions officers sift through thousands of essays every year. What stops them in their tracks? An authentic voice that leaps off the page. Forget trying to guess what the admissions committee wants to hear. Focus on being true to yourself. Share your unique perspective, your passions, and your values. Authenticity resonates deeply with application reviewers, making your essay memorable and impactful. You need not have experienced trauma or tragedy to create a strong narrative. You can write about what you know—intellectually or personally—to convey your enthusiasm, creativity, and leadership. Intellectual vitality shines through when you write with personalized reflection about what lights you up.

Weave A Captivating Story

Everyone loves a good story, and your essay is the perfect place to tell yours. The Common Application personal statement has seven choices of prompts to ground the structure for your narrative. The most compelling stories are often about the smallest moments in life, whether it’s shopping at Costco or about why you wear socks that have holes. Think of the Common Application personal statement as a window into your soul rather than a dry list of your achievements or your overly broad event-based life story. Use vivid anecdotes to bring your experiences to life. A well-told story can showcase your growth, highlight your character, and illustrate how you've overcome challenges. Intellectual vitality often emerges in these narratives, revealing how your curiosity and proactive approach to learning have driven you to explore and innovate.

Reflect And Reveal Insights

It's not just about what you've done—it's about what you've learned along the way. When you are writing about a specific event, you can use the STAR framework—situation, task, action, and result (your learning). Focus most of your writing space on the “R” part of this framework to dive deeply into your experiences and reflect on how they've shaped your aspirations and identity.

NSA Warns iPhone And Android Users To Turn It Off And On Again

Donald trump $300 million poorer after guilty verdict as truth social stock sinks, trump still faces 54 more felony charges after hush money verdict.

The most insightful college-specific supplement essays demonstrate depth of thought, and the ability to connect past experiences with your future life in college and beyond. Reflecting on your intellectual journey signals maturity and a readiness to embrace the college experience. It shows admissions officers that you engage deeply with your studies and are eager to contribute to the academic community.

Highlight Your Contributions—But Don’t Brag

Whether it's a special talent, an unusual hobby, or a unique perspective, showcasing what you can bring to the college environment can make a significant impact. Recognize that the hard work behind the accomplishment is what colleges are interested in learning more about—not retelling about the accomplishment itself. (Honors and activities can be conveyed in another section of the application.) Walk us through the journey to your summit; don’t just take us to the peak and expect us know how you earned it.

Intellectual vitality can be demonstrated through your proactive approach to solving problems, starting new projects, or leading initiatives that reflect your passion for learning and growth. These experiences often have a place in the college-specific supplement essays. They ground the reasons why you want to study in your major and at the particular college.

Perfect Your Prose

Great writing is essential. Anyone can use AI or a thesaurus to assist with an essay, but AI cannot write your story in the way that you tell it. Admissions officers don’t give out extra credit for choosing the longest words with the most amount of syllables.

The best essays have clear, coherent language and are free of errors. The story is clearly and specifically told. After drafting, take the time to revise and polish your writing. Seek feedback from teachers, mentors, or trusted friends, but ensure the final piece is unmistakably yours. A well-crafted essay showcases your diligence and attention to detail—qualities that admissions officers highly value. Intellectual vitality is also reflected in your writing process, showing your commitment to excellence and your enthusiasm for presenting your best self.

Crafting a standout college essay is about presenting your true self in an engaging, reflective, and polished manner while showcasing your intellectual vitality. Happy writing.

Dr. Aviva Legatt

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What is Windows Recall? Everything you need to know about Windows 11's new AI feature

Windows 11 is being supercharged with AI designed to enhance productivity and search across the OS.

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Microsoft has announced Windows Recall, a new Windows 11 feature that takes snapshots of your screen every few seconds and uses on-device AI to analyze and triage that content. This enables the ability to semantically search for anything you've ever done on your computer using natural language, giving Windows a photographic memory and enabling the user to search for things just by describing it.

Here's everything you need to know about Windows Recall, including features, system requirements, and more!

Windows Recall: System Requirements

Windows Recall

To use Windows Recall, you must be using a Copilot+ branded PC. Microsoft announced Copilot+ PCs on May 20 , which the company says marks the start of a new generation of Windows PCs that are designed specifically for experiences like Windows Recall. This means your existing non Copilot+ PC won't be eligible to use Windows Recall.

Copilot+ PCs require the following system specs:

  • An NPU with 40+ TOPS
  • 256GB storage
  • 8 logical processors

If you meet these requirements, Windows Recall can be enabled on Windows 11 version 24H2. It will run in the background and capture everything you do on your computer, documenting and triaging everything it sees, no matter what apps or interfaces you're looking at, and turn it all into memories that you can search for at a later point. 

This experience is rendered on-device and does not reach out to the cloud to process information. This is important for both privacy and performance reasons. To reduce latency, Microsoft says Windows Recall relies on the NPU to process content that has been recorded. Microsoft cannot see the contents of snapshots. 

Windows Recall: Setup

Windows Recall

Windows Recall is not automatically enabled on Copilot+ PCs. Users will be prompted to enable Windows Recall during the Windows setup process. If the user chooses not to setup Windows Recall during setup, they can set it up later by launching the Windows Recall app that's available in the Start menu.

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Setting up Windows Recall is as simple as reading through the quick start guide, which consists of three tips for using Windows Recall. From there, Windows Recall will ask to download the AI components required for Windows Recall to function. Without these AI components, Windows Recall cannot analyze and triage snapshots.

This download will take several minutes as it's multiple gigabytes in size. Windows Recall does not use a Microsoft account, and can be used offline once the initial setup is completed. 

Windows Recall: Semantic Search

Windows Recall

Windows Recall is built around semantic search. The app includes a search bar and timeline that runs along the top of the app, and lets users find memories based on what you remember seeing. Because Windows Recall is recording and triaging everything you do on your computer, anything and everything becomes something you can search for.

For example, you may have come across some images of a red handbag on a shopping website, but you can't remember when or what the name of the site and bag was. With Windows Recall, you can just type "red bag" and Windows Recall will be able to quickly search back through your snapshots to find all the times where a red bag appeared on screen.

Notably, Windows Recall allows for the ability to search for things using natural language. No longer will users be confined to strict search terms that must be accurate for results. If you're looking for a document that your colleague Bob sent you on Slack, just typing "find that Word document Bob sent me on Slack a few weeks ago" should yield results based on memories that Windows Recall has captured. 

You can also use basic search terms such as "FY24 earnings," and every instance where FY24 earnings and related queries will appear on-screen will be brought up and shown in Windows Recall for you to look back at. 

Your search results will include exact/close matches as well as related matches. A close match is one that includes at least one search term word, whereas a related search includes items that are similar to the keywords used in your search term. For example, if you search for T-Rex you may also see results for other dinosaur types. 

Windows Recall: Snapshots

Windows Recall

For Windows Recall to be able to do its magic, it relies on taking snapshots of your screen every few seconds. You won't notice it happening, but you will know the process is active as a permanent Recall icon will be present on the Taskbar.

Windows Recall uses AI to analyze and enable interactive elements on top of those snapshots. When you select a snapshot, Windows Recall will use "screenray" to enable the ability to copy text and images directly from the snapshot for pasting into apps you currently have running on the desktop. 

It will also turn visible URLs  into clickable links, which will take you directly to that webpage in your default browser. Additionally, depending on whether an app supports it, a button will be present below the snapshot allowing you to jump directly into the document or file visible in the snapshot, such as a Word document or .jpeg.

Windows Recall

You can quickly pause Recall's snapshot process by clicking the Recall icon in the Taskbar and selecting "pause until tomorrow." You can also resume snapshots from this same interface. It also tells you when an app on-screen is being filtered.

Windows Recall: Settings & Privacy

Windows Recall

Microsoft says Windows Recall is safe to use as all the data it collects is stored locally on your device, and does not get uploaded to the cloud to be processed. That means all of your snapshots and search terms cannot be viewed by Microsoft, and are encrypted on your PC with Device Protection and BitLocker.

Windows Recall also includes built-in safety and privacy tools that allow you to configure exactly what the Windows Recall process can see. You can filter out specific apps and websites just by entering them into the Windows Recall settings page. Windows Recall will also automatically stop capturing when you enter private browsing mode in a browser. This and filtering specific websites is supported in Microsoft Edge, Google Chrome, Firefox, and Opera. 

You can also delete snapshots directly from within the Windows Recall app, or in bulk in the Windows Recall settings page. You can select to delete snapshots ranging from the past hour, up to the past month. There's also a button to delete all captured snapshots in one go.

Windows Recall

Microsoft has also added visual indicators that tell you when Windows Recall is active. When Recall is on, an icon will be permanently visible in the Taskbar system tray, which provides quick access to Recall's pause button and settings. As far as I'm aware, it's not possible to hide this icon. So you will always know when Recall is running.

Windows Recall does not include content moderation, which means it will capture sensitive information such as passwords and financial information if you don't filter out those apps and websites first. You can quickly delete the most recent snapshots by opening the Windows Recall app and selecting the delete icon. 

Zac Bowden is a Senior Editor at Windows Central. Bringing you exclusive coverage into the world of Windows on PCs, tablets, phones, and more. Also an avid collector of rare Microsoft prototype devices! Keep in touch on Twitter and Threads

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how to analyze an image essay

how to analyze an image essay

Guest Essay

How to Make Room for One Million New Yorkers

A photograph of the author.

By Vishaan Chakrabarti

Vishaan Chakrabarti is the founder of Practice for Architecture and Urbanism, a New York City architecture firm, and the former director of planning for Manhattan.

New York City doesn’t have enough homes. The average New Yorker now spends 34 percent of pre-tax income on rent, up from just 20 percent in 1965. There are many reasons homes in the city are so expensive, but at the root of it all, even after the pandemic, is supply and demand: Insufficient housing in our desirable city means more competition — and therefore sky-high prices — for the few new homes that trickle onto the market.

Some New Yorkers harbor fantasies that instead of building more, we can meet our housing needs through more rent control, against the advice of most economists , or by banning pieds-à-terre or by converting all vacant office towers into residential buildings, despite the expense and complexity . Given the enormity of the crisis, such measures would all be drops in the bucket, leading many to worry that if we were to actually build the hundreds of thousands of homes New Yorkers need, we would end up transforming the city into an unrecognizable forest of skyscrapers.

This resistance to change is more than just the usual grumbling from opinionated New Yorkers; it has become a significant obstacle, and it threatens to stifle the vitality of this great city. As Binyamin Appelbaum of The Times argues in his analysis of New York’s housing crisis: “New York is not a great city because of its buildings. It is a great city because it provides people with the opportunity to build better lives.”

how to analyze an image essay

I Want a City, Not a Museum

New York’s layers of laws to protect existing buildings has led to a shortage of housing.

By Binyamin Appelbaum

To do that, New York needs to build more housing, and it can. New York could add dwellings for well over a million people — homes most New Yorkers could afford — without substantially changing the look and feel of the city.

My architecture firm, Practice for Architecture and Urbanism, previously worked with Times Opinion to imagine the future of the city’s rail infrastructure and streets . This time, we took a fresh look at housing.

We found a way to add more than 500,000 homes — enough to house more than 1.3 million New Yorkers — without radically changing the character of the city’s neighborhoods or altering its historic districts.

Here’s how we got to 500,000 housing units — the same number that the mayor has called a “moonshot goal.”

Apartments near public transit are convenient for residents and better for the environment, so we started by looking at areas within a half-mile of train stations and ferry terminals.

Next, we excluded parts of the city that might be at risk of flooding in the future.

In the remaining areas, we identified more than 1,700 acres of underutilized land: vacant lots, single-story retail buildings, parking lots and office buildings that could be converted to apartments.

For each lot, we calculated how much housing we could add without building any higher than nearby structures.

Take this single-story grocery store in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn.

A mid-rise apartment complex built above a replacement grocery store could create 58 new housing units. The resulting structure wouldn't be any taller than the apartment complex next to it.

We also identified sites that could support smaller developments, like this vacant lot on the northern edge of the Bronx.

Low-rise apartment buildings house many more people than single-family homes. If designed thoughtfully, they could become just as much a part of the urban fabric as the city's brownstones.

This single-story store in Flushing, Queens, is just minutes away from a subway stop on a line that runs straight to Midtown Manhattan. It’s a prime example of underutilized land.

Matching the density of surrounding buildings, a high-rise built above new retail spaces could create 242 apartments.

Last, we considered office buildings that could be converted to apartments.

Office building conversions can require a tremendous amount of construction. But we should consider any reasonable proposal to house more New Yorkers.

The hypothetical buildings in our analysis would add 520,245 homes for New Yorkers. With that many new housing units, more than a million New Yorkers would have a roof over their head that they could afford, near transit and away from flood zones, all while maintaining the look and feel of the city.

Of course, adding apartment buildings would place more demand on our subways and schools in some neighborhoods. But the construction of over 520,000 homes would stimulate our economy; add people to our sidewalks, making them safer; and make the city more accessible to middle-class families — who are essential to the long-term health and prosperity of New York.

How to add 520,245 housing units to N.Y.C.


Getting to 500,000

How many housing units our proposed buildings would add.

Office conversions

Mid-rises wouldn’t feel out of place

in many parts of the Bronx and Queens.

Almost all of the office conversions

we’re proposing are in Manhattan.

Residents of high-rises along Atlantic Avenue could easily take the subway to work.

Low-rises near the

Staten Island Railway

could house thousands

more New Yorkers.

Several political, legal and economic impediments stand in the way of addressing New York City’s housing crisis. Mayor Eric Adams and Gov. Kathy Hochul have proposed ambitious plans to build hundreds of thousands of new housing units, but they have faced stiff opposition. Our City Council and State Legislature need to support a significant expansion of housing supply for the city or otherwise answer for our housing and homelessness crisis.

There are many reasons it is so difficult to build new housing in New York City — including zoning, the under-taxation of vacant and underutilized land, the continuing rise of construction costs, the elimination of important tax incentives, and intense and often misguided anti-development sentiments. These challenges can and should be addressed. But please, don’t let people tell you we can’t build the homes New Yorkers need because we’ve run out of room or because it would ruin the city’s character. We are, in fact, a very big apple.


We identified underutilized lots using the Department of City Planning’s PLUTO dataset. Transit stations include stops for the subway, ferry, Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North train lines. For the flood risk analysis, we used the NYC Flood Hazard Mapper’s 0.2 percent annual chance floodplain for 2100.

Contiguous lots facing the same street were merged to maximize hypothetical development potential; small and irregular lots were excluded from the analysis. Maximum building heights were determined by looking at buildings in an 800-foot radius from sites on local streets or quarter-mile radius for sites on more heavily trafficked thoroughfares, as defined by the city’s LION street database.

For low- , mid- and high-rises, we calculated the number of units in each proposed building using the following assumptions: We allocated 37 percent to 45 percent of each lot to open space, and then multiplied the remaining lot area by the number of stories allowed as determined above to calculate the amount of buildable area. Of that total buildable area, we allotted 15 percent to hallways, lobbies and mechanical spaces; we divided the remaining residential space by an average unit size of 750 square feet to determine the number of units.

To identify offices that could be converted to apartments, we created a list of larger, older offices that were built between 1950 and 1990 and have not been altered since 2003. We excluded offices that are publicly owned or have architectural or historical significance. To estimate the number of units in the proposed conversions, we allocated 40 percent of each building to hallways, lobbies and mechanical spaces.

To calculate how many people could live in the proposed housing, we used a rate of 2.56 people per housing unit, based on statistics for New York City from the U.S. Census Bureau.

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Brisbane sheds its sleepy image with surging house values — now only second to Sydney

Analysis Brisbane sheds its sleepy image with surging house values — now only second to Sydney

aerial rooftops in inner suburbs

So, you still think of Brisbane as the sprawling, steamy, sleepy backwater in Australia's deep north? The place you can cash in your family home in Sydney or Melbourne and buy one of those cute little wooden workers' cottages on stilts with big verandahs and still have plenty of cash left over?

Let me disabuse you of that.

In the property market in Brisbane, it's hand-to-hand combat, folks.

There's such a shortage of houses and units that anyone with the means to buy – locals, along with the 116,260 new arrivals from overseas and interstate last year – is camping out in crappy rentals across the city, doom scrolling on real estate sites trying to find a home for a reasonable price.

That was us last year.

In December 2022, after 25 years in Sydney, my husband and two grown sons made the move home to Brissie.

We spent 18 months living in an orange brick house in suburbia. Built in 1950, it had all the street appeal of a council toilet block. Black mould clung to the eaves and the garden was alive with weeds.

A couple of times a week I'd hear a distinctive "plop" from the backyard pool, as another of the mission brown edging tiles collapsed, exhausted and dispirited, into the cracked shell.

The original terrazzo bathroom, complete with pink toilet, basin and bath, was drafty and barely functional. The shower floor would fill up with water, as the old metal drains under the slab had rusted away and collapsed.

And then there was the kitchen. The benches in the tiny galley space were a museum piece — clad in formica, edged in steel strips — and so low they were a daily reminder of how good nutrition has produced a substantially taller generation of Australians since the war.

brisbane city skyline

In January 2019, precisely a year before the pandemic, the elderly couple who'd owned it — Helen and Bill — sold the place for $1.725 million. The locals considered that an astonishing price. Without so much as a light once-over with a Bunnings gurney, the place sold just before Christmas for $3.1 million.

Little wonder Brisbane property prices have overtaken Melbourne to run second highest in the nation behind Sydney.

"It's crazy," says buyer's agent Jamie Charman, the former Brisbane Lions footy player turned real estate guru, who we engaged last year in a desperate effort to find an affordable home.

"Supply is really low," he said. "There's a lot of buyers out there."

People walking in Brisbane's Queen Street Mall

Jamie's agency buys about 80 properties a year, mainly off market, but said it was harder and harder to find willing sellers.

"People nowadays want to make $500,000 on their property in a couple of years. And they are!" he said. 

"A few years ago, if you made half a million dollars, that was enormous [profit]. Now, if you're not making $500,000 on your investment in two years, [you think] it's not worth selling."

And it's not just house prices.

"In terms of apartments, I've never seen the market so strong," Charman said. 

"I was speaking to a really good developer here in Brisbane about off the plan units. He said there were 1,000 new inner-city units built last year. This year it's 750 new units. And it will be even less next year."

As a result, he said, desperate buyers, including those downsizing from the family home, were bidding up the price of existing unit stock.

Tim Lawless, head of research at CoreLogic Asia Pacific, who crunched the data showing Brisbane's meteoric rise in property values, calculated it's the equivalent of the median dwelling value rising by more than $12,000 every month.

"The time on market [until a property sells] is about 19 days," Mr Lawless said. 

Previously, it was rare to get a sale in less than 20. 

"Homes are selling very quickly," he added.

The question is not so much why, as why now?

For over 10 years, Brisbane has been the fastest-growing major Australian capital city, increasing its population by 21 per cent — yet, over the decade between the global financial crisis and 2019, prices were relatively flat.

What's changed is the economy. Brisbane is booming. By the time Brisbane has hosted the 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the city will be well on its way to supersizing its economy.

The economy is predicted to grow to $275 billion by 2041, adding two-thirds to annual output, according to the inaugural State of the City report from the Brisbane Economic Development Agency (BEDA) and Deloitte Access Economics.

A woman wearing a blue dress sitting on a chair in front of a window.

That export growth is set to boom, increasing by 41 per cent over the current decade, which is hardly a surprise — the city is not only the closest major port to the world's largest Asian markets, but Brisbane is increasingly an Asian city; two thirds of skilled migrants here were born in the Asia Pacific region.

Where do professional service graduates go for their first job? The newly minted lawyers, advertising professionals, architects, accountants, financial advisers, engineers, and consultants? Most still go to Sydney (23 per cent), but more make a home in Brisbane (18 per cent) these days than in Melbourne (16 per cent). Logistics and transport is huge in south-east Queensland.

The superlatives roll on: Home to the largest health clusters in the southern hemisphere. Named by the World Economic Forum as a global Advanced Manufacturing Hub.

And the building boom is something to behold: $25 billion worth of infrastructure projects in the pipeline, including a network of rapid transport busways across the city. 

A second Brisbane River rail crossing and new pedestrian bridges crisscrossing the river are also planned, connecting previously distant suburban pockets on either side of the 'Brown Snake' that coils through the city. 

In August, the $3.6 billion Queen's Wharf development will open — 35 metres above street level — eventually bringing more than 50 new bars and restaurants to the inner city.

A look at Destination Brisbane Consortium's winning bid for the redevelopment of Brisbane's Queen Wharf

"The potential here is off the charts," said Heidi Cooper, chief executive of Business Chamber Queensland, citing the Olympics and the energy transition as major drivers of economic growth. 

"But housing is an issue.

"Attracting and retaining workforce is the number one challenge for our members. You can't employ people if they have nowhere to live.

"It's no longer a social and commercial problem for the city. It's becoming an economic barrier for the state."

But it's not a problem likely to be solved anytime soon.

While Tim Lawless maintained that eventually price growth in Brisbane would slow and the nation would return to the normal hierarchy in which Sydney and Melbourne property prices top all other cities, Jamie Charman isn't so sure.

"I think there are still too many buyers in the market for it to settle down, especially in the unit market where it's a bit more affordable. I don't think it's going to settle down for the next three years," he said.

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June 3, 2024

China’s Chang’e 6 Probe Lands on Far Side of the Moon

The Chang’e 6 mission is China’s second to touch down on the lunar far side and will retrieve samples for analysis on Earth

By Mike Wall &

Rocket lifting off from launch pad with white smoke and light flare at center.

A Long March 5 rocket, carrying the Chang'e-6 mission lunar probe, lifts off as it rains at the Wenchang Space Launch Centre in southern China's Hainan Province on May 3, 2024.

Hector Retamal/AFP via Getty Images

China has landed on the moon's mysterious far side — again.

The robotic Chang'e 6 mission touched down inside Apollo Crater, within the giant South Pole-Aitken basin, at 6:23 a.m. Beijing Time on Sunday (June 2) , according to Chinese space officials. It was 6:23 p.m. EDT (2223 GMT) on June 1 at the time of the landing. The probe "successfully landed in the pre-selected area," China's space agency said.

The China National Space Administration (CNSA) now has two far-side landings under its belt — this one and Chang'e 4 , which dropped a lander-rover combo onto the gray dirt in January 2019. No other country has done it once.

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And Chang'e 6 will make further history for China, if all goes according to plan: The mission aims to scoop up samples and send them back to Earth, giving researchers their first-ever up-close looks at material from this part of the moon .

"The Chang'e-6 mission is the first human sampling and return mission from the far side of the moon ," CNSA officials said in a translated statement . (To be clear: Chang'e 6 is a robotic, not crewed, mission.) "It involves many engineering innovations, high risks and great difficulty."

Sampling a new environment

Chang'e 6 launched on May 3 with a bold and unprecedented task: haul home samples from the moon's far side, which always faces away from us. (The moon is tidally locked to Earth, completing one rotation on its axis in roughly the same amount of time it takes to orbit our planet. So observers here on Earth always see the same side of our natural satellite.)

Every lunar surface mission before Chang'e 4 targeted the near side, largely because that area is easier to explore. It's harder to communicate with robots operating on the far side, for example; doing so generally requires special relay orbiters, which China launched ahead of both Chang'e 4 and Chang'e 6. China's newest moon relay satellite, called Queqiao-2 , aided the Chang'e 6 landing, CNSA officials said.

Chang'e 6 arrived in lunar orbit about four days after liftoff . It spent the next few weeks scrutinizing its planned landing site and gearing up for today's big event, which went according to plan: Chang'e 6's lander came down softly in Apollo Crater, leaving the mission's orbiter, with its attached Earth-reentry module, circling the moon.

The lander will spend the next few days studying its surroundings and collecting about 4.4 pounds (2 kilograms) of lunar dirt and rock. Some of these samples will be scooped from the surface and some will be dug from up to 6.5 feet (2 meters) underground, using Chang'e 6's onboard drill.

This material will then be launched into lunar orbit by a rocket that rode down with the lander. The sample container will rendezvous with the Chang'e 6 orbiter, then make the long trek back to Earth , eventually touching down here under parachutes on June 25.

Chang'e 6 is also carrying a tiny moon rover and has a variety of scientific experiments onboard the lander.

Scientists will study the returned material in detail, seeking insights about the moon's history and evolution and clues about why the lunar far side is so different than the near. The dark volcanic seas known as maria are common on the near side, for example, but are rare on the far side, for reasons that remain mysterious.

Researchers will doubtless compare the Chang'e 6 material to the samples collected on the moon's near side by Chang'e 5 , which came down to Earth in December 2020. (Chang'e 5 and Chang'e 6 are sister missions, with virtually identical architectures.)

Big lunar dreams

The Chang'e moon program , which is named after the Chinese moon goddess, has launched increasingly complex and ambitious missions over the past 17 years.

Chang'e 1 and Chang'e 2 sent orbiters to the moon in 2007 and 2010, respectively. Chang'e 3 marked China's first trip to the lunar surface, putting a lander-rover duo on the near side in late 2013. Chang'e 4 landed a similar pair on the far side in early 2019. Chang'e 5-T1 launched a test capsule around the moon and back to Earth in 2014, proving out the gear that could get lunar samples here safely, which Chang'e 5 did in late 2020.

And there are more missions to come. Chang'e 7 is scheduled to launch in 2026 to assess the resource potential of the moon's south polar region, which is thought to harbor large stores of water ice. Chang'e 8, which will lift off two years later, will test ways to use those resources on-site — building a structure out of lunar dirt and rock, for example.

And all of this robotic work will lead to something even bigger, if all goes according to plan: crewed missions to the moon, which China aims to start launching by 2030 . The nation wants to build an astronaut outpost near the south pole called the International Lunar Research Station later in the 2030s, with help from partners such as Russia, Belarus and Pakistan.

The United States has similar aims with its Artemis program , which is targeting late 2026 for its first crewed lunar landing. The U.S. is also building a moon-exploration coalition via a diplomatic framework called the Artemis Accords ; more than 40 nations have signed on to date.

Copyright 2024 , a Future company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed .

Watch CBS News

U.S.-made bomb used in Israeli strike on Rafah that killed dozens, munitions experts say

By Haley Ott , Marwan al-Ghoul and Emmet Lyons

Updated on: May 29, 2024 / 7:51 PM EDT / CBS News

Analysis of images of shrapnel gathered at the scene of an Israeli strike in Rafah on Sunday showed evidence of a bomb that was a U.S.-made GBU-39, two munitions experts told CBS News. Dozens of Palestinians were killed in the strike and subsequent fires.

"I instantly knew the housing was a GBU," Trevor Ball, who worked as an ordnance disposal tech - or bomb diffuser - for the U.S. Army for five years, told CBS News. "I've seen a lot of them in this conflict, and I've even gone back and looked at past conflicts just to get an idea of what ordinance Israel has used in the past when I started looking into this, and it's a very distinct object, the GBU. It's a very unique round."

Photos and videos used to identify the bomb remnants were taken by journalist Alam Sadeq in Gaza, who visited the scene of the strike early on Monday.


He told CBS News he was searching the area, including around damaged tents that had once housed civilians, when he identified several pieces of shrapnel with English words on them.

He said he recognized the words from bomb remnants he had seen after a previous strike on a building in Gaza, so he gathered the fragments together in a pile and photographed them.

"The whole actuator assembly is unique," Ball told CBS News, explaining his identification process using the images of the shrapnel from the scene. "It's just not in other rounds."


Richard Weir, senior researcher in the Crisis, Conflict and Arms division at Human Rights Watch, agreed with Ball.

"One of the critical elements here, right, is… the tail section. Sometimes it's referred to as the control section or the actuator section, which moves the fins in the rear. That matches up directly with the GBU-39 small diameter bomb, which is U.S. made," Weir said. "It also matches with the idea of the description of the size of the warhead, in terms of the explosive weight."

When asked by CBS News whether U.S.-made munitions were used by Israel in the strike, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, speaking to press in Moldova, said the incident was "horrific" but that he could not verify what weapons were used.

"We have to see what the investigation shows," Blinken said. "But just assuming for a moment that that's the case, that that's what happened, I think we also see that even limited, focused, targeted attacks - designed to deal with terrorists who killed innocent civilians that are plotting to kill more - even those kinds of operations can have terrible, horrific unintended consequences."

Blinken stressed the need for Israel to have a "day after" plan for Gaza, without which, he said, Israel would need to assess how "incremental" gains against Hamas that "may not be durable" stack up against "unintended but horrific consequences of military action in a place where the people you're going after are so closely embedded with civilians."

Israeli military spokesperson Daniel Hagari said in a briefing on Tuesday that the Israeli strike on Rafah "was based on precise intelligence that indicated that these terrorists who were responsible for orchestrating and executing terror attacks against Israelis were meeting inside the specific structure we targeted."

Hagari said that "the strike was conducted using two munitions with small warheads, suited for this targeted strike. We're talking about munitions with 17 kilos of explosive material. This is the smallest munition that our jets can use. Following the strike a large fire ignited for reasons that are still being investigated. Our munition alone could not have ignited a fire of this size."

After the deadly strike, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said there had been a "tragic mishap" and that Israel was investigating. He did not elaborate.

Weir said the bomb was "a very small weapon as far as air dropped munitions," but that it still carries "severe risk," especially when used near populated areas. He told CBS News that it wasn't the smallest weapon that could have been used to carry out a precision strike.

"Israel has plenty of other munitions, in fact, that it has used in the past, in the fighting in Gaza and elsewhere," Weir said. "So it has other options available. It's just simply not the case that this was the only weapon that they could use to strike a target in, or near, a densely populated, internally displaced persons camp."

"I don't know enough about the aircraft integration, but it's not the smallest munition they have for precision strikes," Ball, the former bomb diffuser, said. "They commonly use drone-employed weapons that have a much smaller effective area."

Both Weir and Ball also said that a bomb of any size could potentially start a fire.

"Explosives release a lot of heat when they explode, and they can often cause fires," Ball said. "Technically, if you drop one in the desert and there's no fuel around, yeah, it can't cause a fire on its own, because there's no fuel to burn. But you're dropping it in an area where there's a lot of other flammable materials, from people living and being in camps… it could easily have caused a fire."

Olivia Gazis contributed to this report.

Haley Ott is the CBS News Digital international reporter, based in the CBS News London bureau.

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  1. How to Write an Image Analysis Essay in 6 Easy Steps

    Writing an image analysis essay, whether you're analyzing a photo, painting, or any other kind of an image, is a simple, 6-step process. Let me take you through it. Together, we'll analyze a simple image and write a short analysis essay based on it. You can analyze any image, such as a photo or a painting, by following these steps.

  2. Analyzing Visual Images

    Analyzing Visual Images. Visual images, including cartoons, book covers, ads, charts, graphs, photographs, and business logos, aren't just pretty to look at. They communicate, just as words do. Sometimes they communicate with words, and other times they replace words entirely. You can analyze and evaluate how visual images communicate using ...

  3. How to Write a Visual Analysis Essay

    How to write a visual analysis - step by step tutorial. If you have to analyze an image or photo in an essay or a research paper, this video is for you. To a...

  4. How to Write a Visual Analysis Essay with Precision

    Step 1: Introduction and Background. Analyzing the art requires setting the stage with a solid analysis essay format - introduction and background. Begin by providing essential context about the artwork, including details about the artist, the time period, and the broader artistic movement it may belong to.

  5. Visual Analysis: How to Analyze a Painting and Write an Essay

    Step 3: Detailed Analysis. The largest chunk of your paper will focus on a detailed visual analysis of the work. This is where you go past the basics and look at the art elements and the principles of design of the work. Art elements deal mostly with the artist's intricate painting techniques and basics of composition.

  6. Images Research Guide: Image Analysis

    Visual analysis is an important step in evaluating an image and understanding its meaning. It is also important to consider textual information provided with the image, the image source and original context of the image, and the technical quality of the image. The following questions can help guide your analysis and evaluation. Content analysis.

  7. Interpreting and Analyzing Images

    Give yourself time to "take-in" the entire image before you start your research. Make sure you understand what is happening in the image and that you see all of the details. Sometimes it is easy to skip over this step but, it is really important! You can't research an image accurately if you don't understand it. Read the Metadata.

  8. 3.14 Writing a Visual Analysis

    Figure 3.14.1: The Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh. Describe/Observe. First, describe what you see in the visual quite literally. Begin by focusing on colors, shading, shapes, and font if you're analyzing an advertisement. In the case of "The Starry Night," you might begin by describing the various shades of blue, the black figures that ...

  9. How to Write a Visual Analysis Essay: Format, Outline, and Example

    Therefore, when writing a visual analysis essay, students must familiarize themselves with these elements by answering specific questions. In turn, these aspects include understanding design elements - color, shape, size, form, and line - that exemplify an image or visual display the most. 3. Focal Point.

  10. Learn How to Write a Visual Analysis Essay: An Ultimate Guide for

    To write a winning visual analysis essay, you must also consider the principles of design. The principles help you to identify and explain various aspects of the visual display. Balance — Balance is the distribution of visual elements in the art. Consider if the elements have symmetrical, radial, or asymmetrical balance.

  11. How to Write a Visual Analysis Paper

    Sample Outline of Visual Analysis Essay. Introduction: Tell the basic facts about the art (see citing your image). Get the reader interested in the image by using one of the following methods: Describe the image vividly so the reader can see it. Tell about how the image was created. Explain the purpose of the artist.

  12. Visual Analysis Essay: Outline, Topics, & Examples

    A visual analysis essay is a common assignment for the students of history, art, and communications. It is quite a unique type of academic essay. Visual analysis essays are where images meet text. These essays aim to analyze the meanings embedded in the artworks, explaining visual concepts in a written form.

  13. How to Write a Visual Analysis Essay: Examples & Template

    Visual analysis is a helpful tool in exploring art. It focuses on the following aspects: Interpretation of subject matter (iconography). An iconographic analysis is an explanation of the work's meaning. Art historians try to understand what is shown and why it is depicted in a certain way. The analysis of function.

  14. EH: Visual Analysis: Analyzing an Image

    Tips for Analyzing Images. Taken from the Center for Media Literacy: There's more to advertising's message than meets the casual eye. An effective ad, like other forms of communication, works best when it strikes a chord in the needs and desires of the receiving consumer -- a connection that can be both intuitive and highly calculated.

  15. Visual Rhetoric: Analyzing Visual Documents

    Definition. A visual document communicates primarily through images or the interaction of image and text. Just as writers choose their words and organize their thoughts based on any number of rhetorical considerations, the author of such visual documents thinks no differently. Whether assembling an advertisement, laying out a pamphlet, taking a ...

  16. Rhetorical Analysis of Visual Texts

    3. Identify Rhetorical Strategies. Think through how the creator of the text uses ethos, pathos, logos, and kairos to portray the message. While you might see some rhetorical devices being employed, they might not play as large a role in visual texts. The elements of Design will play a much larger role in a visual analysis.

  17. When to Use an Image in an Essay

    Make sure to reference any images you use in the text of your essay. If you have included an image to illustrate a point, for instance, you would include something along the lines of "An example of this can be seen in Figure 1.". The key, then, is that images in an essay are not just decoration. Rather, they should fit with and add to the ...

  18. Image Analysis Essay

    Image Analysis Essay. Assignment Description: Write an argumentative essay based on an image. The argument should focus on the image and the message the image conveys. All evidence for your argument should come from the image. The analysis should come from you. An excellent essay will analyze the image in a way that conveys a deeper meaning ...

  19. Analyzing Visual Images

    Choose an image that lends itself to deep analysis by students. This analysis strategy works best when the image is one that reflects (intentionally or not) a particular opinion, point of view, or perspective. Visual art, propaganda images, photographs, and political cartoons are good examples of visual media that reflect a perspective.

  20. Part 7: How to Analyse Images and Visual Information

    Do you find yourself analysing the words on a visual text more than the image itself? Don't worry! In this post, we will go explain the different different types of visual texts you will encounter and what they can convey. We'll also show you, step-by-step, how to analyse images and other forms of visual information.

  21. How to Create a Photo Essay: Step-by-Step Guide With Examples

    How to Create a Photo Essay: Step-by-Step Guide With Examples. Photo essays tell a story in pictures, and there are many different ways to style your own photo essay. With a wide range of topics to explore, a photo essay can be thought-provoking, emotional, funny, unsettling, or all of the above, but mostly, they should be unforgettable. Photo ...

  22. How to Analyze Imagery in Literature the Smart Way

    Example: "Roots ripe as old bait.". Readers will likely assign a negative connotation to this phrase since they imagine the smell. This phrase also adds sense of smell to the already-present visual imagery. One final takeaway when analyzing imagery in poetry: carefully examine every word. Poets aren't wordy.

  23. 5 Strategies To Unlock Your Winning College Essay

    The best essays have clear, coherent language and are free of errors. The story is clearly and specifically told. After drafting, take the time to revise and polish your writing. Seek feedback ...

  24. Everything you need to know about Windows Recall

    Windows Recall has a strict set of requirements. (Image credit: Windows Central) To use Windows Recall, you must be using a Copilot+ branded PC. Microsoft announced Copilot+ PCs on May 20, which ...

  25. How to use ChatGPT to read and analyze PDF files

    Seamless PDF Uploading and Integration. The first step in harnessing the power of ChatGPT for PDF analysis is to download the PDF Reader custom GPT by that provides in-depth ...

  26. Opinion

    We found a way to add more than 500,000 homes — enough to house more than 1.3 million New Yorkers — without radically changing the character of the city's neighborhoods or altering its ...

  27. Brisbane sheds its sleepy image with surging house values

    Brisbane property prices rose 1.4 per cent in May, adding around $12,000 to the median value, according to CoreLogic. (ABC News: Christopher Gillette) In January 2019, precisely a year before the ...

  28. China's Chang'e 6 Probe Lands on Far Side of the Moon

    Space Exploration. China has landed on the moon's mysterious far side — again. The robotic Chang'e 6 mission touched down inside Apollo Crater, within the giant South Pole-Aitken basin, at 6:23 ...

  29. U.S.-made bomb used in Israeli strike on Rafah that killed dozens

    U.S.-made bomb used in deadly Rafah strike, experts say 08:42. Analysis of images of shrapnel gathered at the scene of an Israeli strike in Rafah on Sunday showed evidence of a bomb that was a U.S ...

  30. US-made munitions used in deadly strike on Rafah tent camp, CNN

    CNN —. Munitions made in the United States were used in the deadly Israeli strike on a displacement camp in Rafah on Sunday, a CNN analysis of video from the scene and a review by explosive ...