Free «Photography and its Interpretations» Essay Sample

Ansel Adam, who was an American photographer and environmentalist, dealt in black and white landscape photographs. He developed the zone system of determining proper exposure and adjusting final contrast to pictures. He highly depended on large format cameras due to their high resolution. Photographic Interpretation is the art of examining pictures and images in an effort to identify objects and make a significant judgment. It is achieved through systematic observation to obtain important information. There are a number of principles employed in the interpretation of images. The most basic of these principles are the element of an image interpretation. The elements include location, size, texture, pattern, shape, tone/ color, height/depth and situation/site/association. They are frequently used in the interpretation of aerial photos or in the analysis of photo-like images. This paper examines the different elements of interpreting an image and applies one in the interpretation of an identified image.

Elements of Photographic Interpretation


There are two main methods used to obtain the location of a picture. Coordinates can be obtained by the use of survey techniques. Either, remotely sensed data of an object can be collected to rectify image and extract the desirable coordinate information about an object. 


It is one of the characteristics used to distinguish and interpret an object. Measurements such as length, width and perimeter used on photos whose scales are known. It can be used to rule out other alternatives. It measures of the sizes of known objects that are used to give comparison to unknown ones.


Different shapes do exist among man-made and natural objects. Human beings modify nature in different shapes just as nature produces subtle shapes that are either straight or rectilinear. Man-made objects such as rectangular buses and houses do exist.


Shadows of objects are important in identifying other objects. Example is when viewing the US’s Washington monument from above. It might be difficult to get the shape but its shadow cast can be used to identify its shape. The shape must fall way from the observer for the observation to be successful.

Tone/ color

All objects do reflect different proportion of energy in the form of electromagnetic spectrum. The wavelengths are then used to create spectral signature which can help in the understanding of why certain objects do appear as they do in black and white color images. The different shades are considered as tones and the more dark the object appears the lesser the light it reflects. It is commonly used as it has been found that humans easily detect colors.


It is the arrangement of tones repeatedly and the coloring of an image. It can result in smooth, intermediate or rough images. It is a product of scaling and on large scale images appear to have intermediate texture. Either, as scales become smaller they become uniform.

Height and depth

It is the most diagnostic method used. The objects that rise above the earth’s surface do exhibit radial relief which casts shadows that provide information on the height.

Site/ situation/ Association

These are unique characteristics which might include slope, elevation, surface cover and many more. They can also be socio-economic characteristics such as value. Situation refers to the manner in which objects in a photo are organized. Association refers to facts that when one finds in a certain photo one is likely to encounter its related features. They are majorly used together.

Identification and Analysis of object using Tone/color method

The attached photograph can be identified and analyzed using the tone/color method of analysis. This method is chosen as we will examine the level of darkness in the photo. The level of darkness is moderate as we are still able to see certain features of the photograph. This shows that in a black and white picture it would reflect a relatively higher amount of light.

In conclusion, therefore, the type of identification and interpretation method adopted largely depends on the type of photo and the specific aspects in it. Either, the specific information that the observer wants to obtain also influences his choice of method to use. 


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