Matrix Blog

Techniques for Analysing a Visual Text

This is our Glossary of Visual Techniques. In this post, you will find all of the relevant techniques you need for analysing an image and explanations of what these techniques are.


For the HSC you need to be able to discuss images and analyse them for meaning. For students without a visual art background, this can be especially tricky. For example, consider this image from the HSC English 2015 Paper 1 – Area of Study Paper:

Question 1:

Text One – Image: (a) Describe how the image depicts the idea of belonging or not belonging to a family.



You may find this daunting, but you shouldn’t because, in this post, we provide a comprehensive list of visual techniques for you to discuss in your essays.

If you would like more help with HSC English, you should read our Beginner’s Guide to Acing HSC English!


Techniques for Analysing a Visual Text

A list of techniques when analysing a visual text.

Angle See Framing.
Body language and gaze Facial expressions, gestures, stance or position – can convey the attitude, feelings or personality of the individual shown. Take note of the direction of the subject’s eyes.
Composition What is included is deliberately placed (also applies to what is omitted). Consider all inclusions and omissions e.g. surroundings, objects, clothing etc.
Colour, Hue and Tone In black & white images examine the use of contrast, light and darkness. In a colour image, colours are used to signify feelings and evoke a response. E.g. Red = passion, anger, hell, vitality, etc. blue = peace, harmony or coldness.
Contrast The arrangement of opposite elements (light and dark, large and small, rough and smooth) to create interest, excitement or drama.
Framing The same camera shots and angles relevant to film. Close ups, extreme close ups, medium shots, long shots, tilted up or down shots etc.
Omissions What has been deliberately left out.
Orientation, Point of view Relates to framing and angle: is the responder positioned above the image (looking down), below or at eye level?
Positioning Consider which objects have been placed in the foreground, middle ground or background.
Rule of thirds Divide an image into thirds from the top and sides and look at the placement of people and/or objects. An object in the top third is usually empowered whereas anything in the bottom third is disempowered.
Salience The part that your eyes are first drawn to in the visual. Colour, image and layout determine what the salient image is.
Symbolism The use of an image to represent one or more (often complex) ideas.
Vectors The line that our eyes take when looking at a visual. Composers deliberately direct our reading path through the vectors. E.g. If all of the subjects are tall, long and upright our eyes follow straight vectors that lead to the top of the frame. This could make the subject seem powerful or inflexible.


Want to take your English skills next level?



© Matrix Education and, 2017. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Matrix Education and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Written by Matrix Education

Matrix is Sydney's No.1 High School Tuition provider. Come read our blog regularly for study hacks, subject breakdowns, and all the other academic insights you need.

Get free study tips and resources delivered to your inbox.

Join 27,119 students who already have a head start.