Analyzing Photographic Images Using the OPTIC System
O – Overview
P – Parts
T – Title/Text
I – Intent
C – Conclusion
Look at the image as a whole. What does it show? What is happening?
Identify separate figures and objects in the image. What are figures holding or carrying?
Identify blocks of color, light and shadow, and areas of sharp and soft focus.
What is central, or in the foreground? What is at the sides? What is in the background?
Are certain parts isolated? Are there groupings or patterns?
Do any of the parts indicate location? Year? Time of year? Time of day?
What do the title and caption add to your understanding of the image – what do they explain or suggest? Do they indicate a period in time or history? Is there any text in the image itself?
Does the title or caption change your initial Overview impression?
What can you suppose, based on the content or composition of this image, about the photographer’s intent – the ideas, arguments, implications, or point of view the photographer might have been trying to convey?
And what might the editor’s intent have been in selecting this image?
Having considered all of the above, what is your conclusion or “reading” of this image?
What story does it tell? What emotion does it convey? What symbols or metaphors do you see? Does your Conclusion differ from your first Overview impression?
Adapted from “How to Study in College,” by Walter Pauk. Houghton-Mifflin Co., 2001