Photo Annotation Tutorial + Examples

Photo annotation is, in short, a term that gives life to images through words. Whether it’s professional photo descriptions for various galleries, exhibitions, or just your favorite pictures on your smartphone, the photo description itself will present that photo to the world as you see it.

You can, of course, just leave information such as the place and time under the photo, as well as some small details that make that photo special and thus forever keep in your memory the same moment when the photo was taken.

Photo Annotation

Photos are a window that offers a wider view of the story of which it is an integral part. However, in addition to the “thousand words” that it contains, a few sentences are needed to give the readers context, which will help them understand what they are looking at.

If we want to know more about what is happening in the photo, we will read its description.

What we usually want to know is:

  • “What happened?”;
  • “Who is involved?”;
  • “When did it happen”,
  • “Where did it happen?”
  • “Why did it happen?”, and
  • “How did it happen?”.

A simple description just isn’t enough. You have to give people something more than what they can see for themselves. It’s a great way to pique their curiosity.

That is why it is important to describe important details that are not visually obvious, mention the context in which the action of your story takes place, and awaken emotion in the reader that will intrigue his imagination.

The general analysis of the photograph would represent the general impression that the photograph left on you at first glance. The first look at a photo, if you like, can reveal a lot about you.

For example, how you look at the world, what is your character, etc., but let’s get back to the topic, you can go a long way from the first look and general impression if you learn to “read” the picture properly.

Each photo has several layers, and it is up to you to get to the core of it with your ability to “read” photos.
In the following, we will also give you examples of how to thoroughly analyze a photograph and describe it properly.

Analysis in Photo Annotation

As we have already said, for a good photo annotation, its detailed analysis is important, which we will carry out through the following steps:

  1.  Basic data
  2.  Photo annotation
  3.  Personal impressions
  4.  The context in which the photo was placed

1. Gathering Basic Data For Proper Photo Annotation

In the photo notes, the basic data would be the place and time when the photo was taken, the photographer’s name and the image itself, if there is one. All the images you describe should use this template: Title – Name – Place – Date

Gathering Basic Data For Proper Photo Annotation

2. Doing The Photo Annotation

When we come to the photo annotation, it must be detailed and clear. Don’t be afraid to express your emotions related to the picture, because that way you might just enrich it and bring it closer to others. It is also necessary to answer obvious questions, some of the most common of which are:

  •  What is the subject of the photograph?
  • What is the type and format of the photo?
  •  What are the colors and do some dominate the space?
  •  What impression does the photo leave on you?


Your first sentence of the photo annotation should be in the present tense and tell the viewer what is currently happening in the photo. Present tense gives photography a sense of immediacy. Capture the moment, as a photograph does. Once you’ve covered that information, include other information that isn’t in the main story to enhance the reading experience.

This can be anything from a quote from the person in the picture to a fact that was not used in the main story. Do not offer readers what they can see for themselves, or what is said in the title.

Avoid using expressions such as “shown”, “in the photo”, or “as seen”. You don’t have a lot of space, so all the words in the sentence must be a necessary part of the puzzle of the story you want to share with people. Tell them what they can’t see, or don’t know about photography, without making assumptions. Start your descriptions with general information and get more specific.

Give viewers a broader idea of what story is being told in the image.

  •  Identify the people and locations that appear in the photo.
  •  Include the date and day the photo was taken
  • Give people some context or background so he or they can understand the value of the photo.
  • Do not exaggerate the length of the text
Dos and donts of photo annotation

The tone with which you write the photo annotation is very important. Photo annotations should be informative and offer facts, but also allow viewers to decide for themselves what emotions a certain photo evokes in them.

Therefore, do not “impose” words such as “unhappy/happy people”, “bitter bystanders”, or “sad persons”. Pointing out to people what the emotions are about will not make up for what the camera lens failed to capture.

The moment recorded in the photograph is a fragment of the reality of the people depicted in it, and the description of the photograph should explain the condition of these people and the cause that led to it.

Finally, don’t forget that credibility is key. So check all the facts, and double-check grammar and spelling mistakes, especially when it comes to the names of the people you’re talking about.

3. Personal Impressions In Photo Annotation

In this chapter, you explain how the image affected you, and what emotions it evoked in you. Did it make you think, and if so, how? Make an effort to leave your stamp on the picture and bring it closer to people.

Try to convey the photographer’s message, say whether the photo tells a story or is more like a poem…

4. The Context In Which The Photo Was Placed

Here we can answer questions such as:

  • What events (social/economic/political) preceded the time when the photograph was taken?
  • Does photography give us answers from the photographer’s private life?
  • Is the photograph a reflection of the time in which it was created?
  • Can we talk about the photographer’s political or other motives through the photograph itself?


In the following, we will introduce you to the simple steps of properly describing and comparing images

1. Description of images

In this part, you start with a short introduction and description of what is in the pictures. If you are comparing photos, never start the first sentence with a comparison.
For example,
In the first photo (picture) we can see …
The second (picture) shows us (shows)…

2. Similarity

Then we talk about similarities (at first it is better to say about obvious similarities), find similar features in both photos and describe them. For example,

These two photos have a lot in common. These two photos have a lot in common.
The main similarity between these two photos is… – The main similarity between them… Another similarity is that… – Another similarity… You get the point.

3. Difference

Then we start talking about the differences (for a successful answer it is desirable to identify at least 2 differences), explain what exactly is the difference in the pictures, and describe the details. For example,

However, these photos have some differences. First, the main difference between the two photos is… – First, the main difference between the two photos is… Second, in the photo on the left we see… in the photo on the right…

4. Advantage

We discuss our preferences. Which picture do you like the most and why? The text of this paragraph will depend on the specific photos. For example, if you are comparing two pictures of people who do extreme sports, then the question might be: “Which sport would you prefer and why?”.

Our Examples Of Photo Annotation

Example #1

First Example Of Photo Annotation

In this picture, we are shown a wonderful winter landscape over which night is slowly falling as the sun sets. The setting sun shows us its most beautiful pink colors before another long winter night.

The goal of the photo was evidently to capture that very moment of the rose spilling over the entire sky, where he certainly wanted to cause a wow effect. Subconsciously, we want to take us back to one of our villages, to one of our winters, when as children we played carefree in the snow and made snowmen.

The beautiful panorama is completed by the fog that passes through as well as the beautiful white field.

Example #2

Second example of photo annotation

This area is characterized by award-winning architecture and sustainable housing. The waterfront has become an exciting recreational area with a promenade, restaurant, marina, kayaking club, public urban spaces and panoramic terraces.

In the coastal part of the city of Vejle in Denmark, which is characterized by award-winning architecture and sustainable housing, the futuristic residential complex Bølgen (wave) stands out with its unique appearance. The architects found inspiration for the project in the waters of the Vejle fjord and the surrounding hills.

Due to their directions and quality construction, these roads were used for the transport of goods, people, and news for centuries after the fall of the Roman Empire. The characteristic building has five undulating towers that house 140 attractive apartments overlooking the fjord. The “waves” that dominate Vejle can be seen from the train, from the road or from the river of the ninth largest city in Denmark, which is located in the southeast of the Jutland peninsula.

During the day, the white waves of the residential building are reflected in the water, and when it gets dark, the building takes on the appearance of a mountain lit up in different colors. Today, they represent a place of life, but also a breathtaking view.

CONCLUSION On Photo Annotation

Photos contain a handful of interwoven information that needs to be “seen”, i.e. adequately “read”. Just as a person learns letters to be able to understand textual records, he should learn to “see” visual representations to be able to understand the information conveyed by them and be able to respond to them appropriately, which leads to the development of visual literacy.

Author at Photography Official

Hey there, I’m Dominic Corbyn​, and photography is my life’s calling. With countless shutter clicks and endless hours spent perfecting the art, I’ve earned my stripes as a professional photographer. You can catch a glimpse of my world on the Photography Official blog. Trust me, I’ve poured my heart into sharing insights that’ll help you navigate the captivating universe of photography.

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