Have questions about visual literacy?
Want to know more about PhotoCrit.com and visual literacy?
Find answers here.
What is PhotoCrit.com?
Who would use PhotoCrit.com?
Is PhotoCrit.com knowledgeable
only in the field of photography?
Why is getting feedback in the form
of a critique valuable?
You mention becoming more “visually
literate.” What does that mean?
Can one learn to become visually literate
through the images that are all around us, or do we need
to produce the images in order to understand them?
I’ve heard of Media Literacy.
Is this the same as Visual Literacy?
Why is there more attention given to
Media Literacy at this point in time?
Can becoming more media literate make
one a more critical consumer?
Wouldn’t it follow that the media
and advertisers would not want consumers to become more visually
Why don’t I hear more about
Visual Literacy if it is so important?
PhotoCrit.com is a photographic critique service. You
submit your photographs and we critique them.
Who would use PhotoCrit.com?
People who are interested in learning more about themselves,
their style, and expression through the images they produce.
Amateurs and professionals alike can benefit from our services.
Whether you are taking photos for a family album or for a client,
PhotoCrit.com’s knowledgeable staff of educators can help you learn
more about what your images communicate.
Is PhotoCrit.com knowledgeable only in the field of
Though photography is somewhat a mainstay for us, aesthetic
rules can be applied to anything visual. Furthermore, all visual
works will convey an image, style, and meaning. Whether you are
a business, a fine artist, or a curious person wanting to learn
more about Visual Literacy, PhotoCrit.com is for you.
For instance, businesses needing clarification as to what their
visuals communicate can benefit in the following way: before
a presentation, send PhotoCrit.com your charts, graphs, and other visual
information and we will give you feedback as to what is being
conveyed in the material sent. Likewise, those who produce paintings
and drawings can also submit their work for a critique. Anyone
interested in learning how to strengthen aesthetics and visual
communication will benefit from our services.
Why is getting feedback in the form of a critique valuable?
Just as it is difficult for a writer to proofread and edit their
own work, it is equally difficult for those producing visuals
to anticipate their effect on a viewer. A critique is the standard
method used in all established visual learning environments.
It is a critical tool that helps a visual creator more fully
understand what is being communicated to a viewer. Unfortunately
the critique practice usually stops when a person leaves school,
stops their lessons, etc. PhotoCrit.com believes that learning should not
be confined to standard educational institutions and that all
who produce visuals can benefit from a critique.
You mention becoming more “visually literate.” What
does that mean?
Visual Literacy is an area of study that deals with the critical “reading” of
A fundamental tenet of Visual Literacy is that photographic
images are a language and thus can be understood in much the
same way as a written text can.
Just as a person who can speak a language, but cannot write
or read it is considered illiterate, a person who sees images,
but has not been taught visual literacy skills cannot fully understand
Educators who have taught people to read a photograph realize
that they use a similar process as those who teach the written
language. We spend much time in grade school learning the language
we speak. We start with simple concepts such as the alphabet
and end with complex systems of organization and rules. Along
the way we label the components of language: verbs, nouns, adjectives,
etc. that we use later to build a proper sentence. Phrases and
clauses are identified, verbs are conjugated, syntax is practiced,
until finally we are proficient in writing and reading.
Likewise, with images, educators can name the specific components
that photographers use to create a picture. Our ABC’s
however, consist of visual elements--camera angle, contrast,
scale, lighting, texture are just a small part of what we use
to create visual meaning. We also take into consideration the
choice of subject matter and what those choices convey. Just
as all words have meanings, every object in a photograph, drawing,
painting, chart, etc. conveys something in our culture and therefore
Can one learn to become visually literate through the images
that are all around us, or do we need to produce the images in
order to understand them?
In learning to read and write, we practice reading and writing
in order to more fully understand the rules and structure of
language. The same is true with learning to read images, the
fastest and most thorough way to acquire Visual Literacy skills
is to analyze visuals around us (read) and to create our own
I’ve heard of Media Literacy. Is this the same as Visual
Visual Literacy is the study of how images are structured. Once
we understand the basic rules of the photographic language we
will have a greater understanding of any image we encounter,
including media images. As with verbal reading, once we acquire
the necessary skills, it is up to us as to what we use those
skills for. For example, we may choose to read a novel, a magazine,
a newspaper, a comic book, etc. The field of Media Literacy specifically
concerns itself with helping people to become literate about
images created specifically by the media. Visual Literacy is
a broader field.
Why is there more attention given to Media Literacy at this
point in time?
Just as people recognized bias in journalism, they are also suspicious
of bias being conveyed in images that the media creates. In addition,
parents are concerned about negative images being thrust upon their
children in film, magazines, and television. The hope is that if
they are able to more fully understand images that they will be
more critical consumers of culture and therefore have more choices.
One often overlooked aspect of acquiring Media Literacy skills is
that they can also can be used to benefit to art directors and advertisers.
In order to create more successful advertising and more creative
media images sharper Media Literacy skills are needed. The critique
is an additional way to test a market by learning more about how
a viewer will make sense of the graphics being produced.
Can becoming more media literate make one a more critical consumer?
PhotoCrit.com believes that once everyone is visually literate, there
will be more choices for advertisers and consumers alike. If
consumers feel they are being manipulated or condescended to,
advertisers will be able to try different communication styles
to reach their target audience. Ultimately, PhotoCrit.com’s
interest is in creating a more visually literate culture.
Once people are visually literate, it is up to them as to what
end they use those skills for.
Wouldn’t it follow that the media and advertisers would
not want consumers to become more visually literate?
Once our culture is more visually literate, it is unavoidable
that we will become more media savvy. The media will respond
accordingly and consumers will continue to consume. This question
is really about communication. Consumers and advertisers will
still need to work together to find ways to communicate that
are mutually satisfying.
Why don’t I hear more about Visual Literacy if it is
There is no doubt that there is still resistance to society
becoming more visually literate at this point. Even though our
world has shifted toward becoming an image culture, necessary
visual skills are not taught to schoolchildren, for instance.
In addition, there are few articles written and even fewer discussions
on television to raise awareness of the need for Visual Literacy
for fear of offending the publishers’ and stations’ advertisers.
Though it has been a slow process to becoming more visually
literate, it should be noted that there was also an initial resistance
to becoming a more verbally literate society. However, just as
it is now obvious that those who were unable to read contracts
and were forced to sign with an “X” were at a disadvantage,
it is now becoming obvious that we too are at a disadvantage
in business and in the mainstream if we stay visually illiterate.
As our culture becomes more visually dependent and integrated
(cell phones linked to cameras, widespread internet use, etc.)
Visual Literacy educators hope to provide the necessary skills
needed to interpret the world around us. The time is now to help
businesses, artists, and laypeople alike negotiate the complex
terrain of image communication. PhotoCrit.com can assist
with that—one image at time.
back to top