Perhaps the most basic thing we do in Media is to understand how images work - to learn how to 'read' images like we read any other text. Obviously, this then makes it easier for us to make our own photographs, posters, advertisements, magazine covers, TV shows, films and so on effective.

KEY VOCABULARY (in no order at all!)

  • Palette - the range of colours used.

  • Shot - Close-up, Midshot, Long shot. (There are many others!)

  • Angle - High angle, neutral angle, low angle. Where is the camera in relation to the eyeline?

  • Direct/ Indirect address - Is the subject looking at or away from the camera?

  • Graphology - The writing in the image - style, size, colour, weight.

  • Serif/ Sans serif - Two font types. The little tags on some letters (like these ones) are called serifs. Some fonts have them (serif fonts), some don't (sans serif.)

  • Foreground/ Midground/ Background How we talk about the depth of the image. Things close to the camera are in the foreground. Things furthest away are in the background.

  • Lighting - What kind, where is it coming from, what hue, what temperature?

  • Hue - The particular colour. 

  • Saturation - The 'amount' or depth of the colour.

  • Contrast - The difference between the blacks (lowlights) and whites (highlights) in the image.

  • Temperature - The 'warmth' of the lighting or palette. Blues are cold, reds are warm.

  • Ambient lighting - Natural lighting.

  • Composition - The arrangement of the image. Look here for more on photographic composition.

  • Denotation - What we literally see in the image. 

  • Connotation - The 'meaning' of the image - what it suggests to us.

  • Icon - A visual symbol, often associated with a particular genre. (A spaceship is an icon of the sci-fi genre.)

  • Visual Hierarchy - The order of importance of the things in the text. Main images and titles will be further up the visual hierarchy and they'll be emphasised by position, size, palette and so on. Less important things like credit blocks or certfications will be low in the visual hierarchy.

TASK: Find a movie poster which you think is effective and explain why you think it works to a classmate. Be prepared to talk to the class, and use as much of the vocabulary listed at the top of this page as possible.

TASK: Here are two magazine covers featuring Selena Gomez. The first one is already annotated. Copy the second one into an Illustrator document and annotate it similarly. Focus on the differences between the two covers and be prepared to explain why you think they differ so much. (Note - there is a lot more to say about the Vogue cover, particularly about language and audience appeal. Feel free to go further in your own analysis!)

ASSESSMENT TASK: You have the choice of making a film poster or a magazine cover.  You will be expected to do some research, produce a mock-up, create the cover and evaluate your work. Marking criteria are below.

BONUS ROUND FOR EXTRAORDINARY CHILDREN: Too easy, huh? Have a look here and engage your teacher in a discussion about representation and pastiche. Then incorporate these ideas into your own work.

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