Point of View in Photography


  • To practice interpreting stories from pictures
  • To practice telling stories with pictures
  • To learn the SHOWeD framework


  • Four large pictures
  • Participants’ pictures
  • “Point of View Worksheet” handout (1 per participant)

Prepare Before

Post the large pictures around the room or on tables. Ask participants to each bring 3-5 pictures that they personally have taken or been in to share and analyze with the class.

Warm Up

Can you tell what someone is thinking or feeling just by looking at them?  What clues do they give you to show you what is happening?


Choose one picture from the photo bank that you are going to discuss as a group.  Project it or create a big enough image for everyone to easily see it. Ask participants what they first notice about this picture. Encourage participants to look closely at the photo and notice the details. Probe with the following questions:

  • If there is a person, what do you imagine the person or persons are thinking?  When might you have felt that way?
  • If there is not a person, what is this picture about?  What does this picture make you think about?  What does this picture make you feel?

As a group, discuss the answers to these questions and notice similarities and differences between people’s answers.

Everyone should get into pairs.  Display four pictures up around the room.  Pairs will rotate around the pictures, answering the “Point of View” sheet.  If you and your partner have different answers (and you probably will), write both answers down.  Don’t worry about spelling or grammar. Give enough time so that each group will rotate to at least two pictures.

If groups get stuck on the questions, add these questions:

  • Why do you think that is what is happening?
  • What about the person’s expression, their posture, their appearance makes you think that?
  • If you have never been in this situation, what other situations might make you feel the same way?
  • Why would a photographer want to show this image?

For each image, have several pairs come forward and share their ideas.


What did you think of how other people understood the pictures?  Did anything they said change your original opinion?  Did anything they said enhance your original opinion?  Could you connect to the emotion in the photo?  Why or why not?


We are learning a framework for how to look at pictures, called SHOWeD.  This exercise takes us through the first stages of the process.

S: What’s the first thing you notice about this picture?  What do you See?

H: What story do you imagine the picture is telling? What’s Happening?

O: How does it make you feel or what does it make you think about? How does the story affect Our lives?


Now we are going to practice on some pictures from our lives.   Select photos that participants brought in to repeat the process.  Participants may work individually or in pairs.  Put out 3-5 pictures, depending on time and current skill level of the group.  Each person/pair should fill out the “Point of View” worksheet for all pictures.   If they are writing about a picture that they brought in, then they can fill out the worksheet as they remember it (i.e., if they know what actually happened right before the picture was taken, they should write that).

Lead a group discussion about the pictures, looking for common themes between groups and any key differences.  If it is someone’s actual picture, emphasize that while their story is true, we aren’t trying to guess their truth since the author always has more context.  We are trying to see what a photo can show and what it can’t.


What are the benefits of using a photo to tell a story?  What are the limitations?