While the technology used for taking photographs has changed through the years, the vocabulary we use to describe and interpret pictures has mostly stayed the same. Often, we use photos to get students talking in English conversation classes.

Let’s look at it now:

1. Introducing The Photograph

To introduce the photograph we can give a general overview of what we see.

This includes the location of the photo as well as naming the people, objects and/or events it features.

2. Describing The Photograph

Here we should be more specific.

We talk about the focus of the picture, where it is located:

In the foreground…

In the background…

To the left…

To the right…,

In the center…

In the top left hand corner…

In the top right hand corner…

In the bottom left hand corner…

In the bottom right hand corner…

3.  Describing People

Here we should also be specific and give objective details:

We can mention:



Facial expression,

Bodily gesture,

4.  Interpreting People

Here we read the physical characteristics we have just listed. We can be more subjective:

What, do you think, he/she is thinking?

What, do you think, is he/she is feeling?

What has he/she has just done?

What, do you think, he/she is about to do?

How do you think he/she is interacting with other people in the photograph?

5.  Interpreting Place

What do you think is the time of day in the photograph?

What do you think has just happened?

What do you think will happen next?

6.   Words To Express our Interpretations

I imagine that…

It looks to me that…

I take it that…

I assume that…

Given that….



It is my opinion that…

I would suggest that…

I would hazard that…

I believe…

Talking About Photographs

Last week an amazing photo, which originated in China, was circulated in the world’s press.

Let’s look at it and answer the questions that follow it:
Luo Wei/China Foto Press/Newscom.

Luo Wei/China Foto Press/Newscom.

How would you describe the events in this photograph?

What do you think happened before this photograph was taken?

What do you think occurred afterwards?

Why do you think the man in the photograph is clutching his head?

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