Visual Analysis Essay Topics

Use the pre-writing questions below to help you analyze your images and start writing notes that will help you develop your paper ideas.

1. Claims: What claims does the image make? What type of claim is it?

  • Fact Claim: Is it real?
  • Definition Claim: What does it mean?
  • Cause Claim: What is the Cause? What are the effects? How are these related?
  • Value Claim: How important is this? How should we evaluate it?
  • Policy Claim: What is the solution? What should we do about it?

2. Visual Composition: How is the image arranged or composed? Which of the following aspects of composition help makes the claim? Examine:

  • Layout: where images are placed and what catches your attention. How visual lines draw your attention to or away from the focal point.
  • Balance: size of images and how they compare with one another. Is the focal point centered or offset?
  • Color: how color (or lack of color) draws your attention or creates a mood
  • Key figures: what is the main focus? How does this contribute to meaning?
  • Symbols: are there cultural symbols in the image? What do these mean?
  • Stereotypes : how does image support stereotypes or challenge them?
  • Exclusions: is there anything left out of the image that you expect to be there?

3. Genre: What is the genre of this image? (examples: fine art, movie, advertisement, poster, pamphlet, news photograph, graphic art etc.). How does it follow the rules of that genre or break away from them? How does that affect the meaning of the image for the audience?

4. Text: How does any text or caption work to provide meaning to the visual?

5. Appeals: How does it appeal to the audience to believe the claims? Are appeals to logic? Emotion? Character? Authority? Are any of these appeals false or deceiving?

6. Selling: Does the claim move into a sales pitch? Does it use a cultural value or common cultural symbol in a way that exploits that image?

7. Story: What story does this image convey? How does this story help the claim or appeal to the audience?

List Of Visual Analysis Essay Ideas You Should Consider

A visual analysis essay is used by art students constantly as they look at different forms of artwork. Since this is an essay that any student taking any kind of art courses will be doing quite often, it is a good idea to get some ideas on how to do these. Here is a list of ideas you should think about when you are asked to write a visual analysis essay:

  • Most essays of this type should include a description of the object you are writing the analysis about. Try to include all five senses when you are doing this if they apply. Try to describe whatever senses apply to the artwork.
  • Don’t only talk about what you see but talk about what it feels like. Depending on the object you are considering, you may be able to describe the smell, taste or sound as well.
  • You will want to describe the techniques used to create the artwork or object as well. You may want to zero in on certain techniques that you may be learning about at the time or some techniques that may not be obvious to the casual observer.
  • You may want to include an interpretation of what the artist’s intention was when he created the artwork or what the meaning of the object was. Doing this will make the artwork mean more to the reader of the article.
  • Any visual analysis essay needs to include an evaluation of the artwork or object. This is important so that the readers know you understand certain aspects about art and art history.
  • Remember that this type of essay is supposed to talk about the visual attributes of the artwork you are writing about. Things such as texture, size, color, and line are some of the things to be included.
  • You may want to include a little about the history of the artwork or information about the artist. All of this may help the observer understand the artwork better and may lend some better understand to the piece as well.
  • Constructs your visual analysis like most other essays. You need to have an introduction, body and conclusion.
  • You can evaluate whether certain attributes about the artwork helped the artist portray the meaning of the artwork or object or if it hindered the portrayal. Some attributes are used for the sole purpose of creating a certain effect on the audience.


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