Techniques for Analysing a Visual Text

1 May 2022
Posted in Study
1 May 2022 Team Alchemy

You will come across tests requiring visual test analysis, especially in the first section of the HSC English paper one. The visual text comes in various forms like book covers, paintings, posters, photographs and movie frames, among others. Each exam paper will contain one of these visual tests. Your job is to analyse them using various techniques to break the information down.

Visual text analysis is as vital as word text because, in the real world, most people employ visual language even without realising it. Honing those skills now goes a long way in ensuring you master the skills. Here’s a look at some visual text analysis techniques you can use.

Colour and lighting

Colour and lighting are two of the first observations you should make when analysing a visual text. Colours can represent a variety of things, feelings and emotions. Lighting can help to enhance any of these.

The colour red, for instance, often represents danger, anger, or lust, while yellow is a symbol of optimism or happiness.

Assessing the colours and lighting can help determine the mood being conveyed. When looking at the colour and lighting, pay attention to contrast. Check the contrast between the different colours and lighting spectrums, allowing things within the image to stand out based on relevance and importance to the text.

Salience and Vectors

A salient what attracts the viewer’s eye at first. It’s a vital and deliberate method used to attract the viewer’s attention to the most critical image with the most important meaning of the text. Salient features can take the form of a person, animal, or an important word. Anything that stands out and grabs your attention at first sight, is most likely a salient feature.

Vector features are slightly different. The text often has a path that leads the viewer’s eyes toward the image. This is the second most crucial area to view after the salient. Analysing the vector is critical because it often has a deeper meaning or understanding of the meaning or message of the image.

An example of a salient feature could be a crying crowd, while the vector feature could be a gravestone in the background which provides more profound meaning to the first impression you get from the salient feature.

Gaze and Body Language

These are advanced visual techniques that students should consider using when analysing a visual text. When appropriately used, the student can get higher standard answers that will likely stand out to those marking the paper.

The gaze is the general direction a character looks in within the image. It’s a clue as to which direction the audience will look. The viewer can use different terms to describe the gaze;

  • Offer – this is a gaze referring to the character looking towards another area in the image. You should follow the gaze to understand the importance and meaning of the presented features.
  • Demand – is a gaze referring to the character’s eyes making contact with the eyes of the audience. An excellent example of a demanding gaze is the famous Leonard da Vinci’s Mona Lisa painting. A demand gaze plays a critical role in determining the body language, gestures, and positioning of the character, which help convey different meanings on the attitude and personality of the character.

For instance, a slouched character with the head tilted down or gazing at the floor could indicate sadness or grief.


Everything on the displayed frame is essential. Most of the meanings and significant observations will come from the subjects on the image. Analyse the people, the objects, the background and any other item in the image. The decision to include that in the image gives you a strong bearing on the kind of meaning the author or creator wanted to pass.


It’s common for viewers to focus on the presence of people and objects in the picture and often overlook important absences. What or who is left out? Why are they missing, and why did the creator decide to omit the person or object from the frame? The responses to these questions all point to a particular meaning the creator would like us to form.


There are a lot of visual text analysis techniques you can use depending on the image you’re analysing. Additional techniques include placement and rule of thirds, symbolism, framing and shots. All these will help you identify critical meanings and information the creator was trying to hint to us.

At first, it’s challenging to identify the techniques to use. Therefore, it’s essential to consider every technique and obtain as much observation as possible to ensure you get the most accurate meaning.

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