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How to Write a Descriptive Text Based on a Picture

Updated July 20, 2017

"Every picture paints a thousand words" is a well-known expression for good reason. A description of a picture can generate thousands of words. More than this, the exercise of writing a description of a picture can generate hundreds if not thousands of ideas. Writing text based on a picture is a valuable and fruitful creative writing exercise. It can generate ideas for poetry, short stories, or even a novel. If you are new to creative writing, this is a useful place to start. You should practice this exercise every day to unlock your imagination. If you read regularly alongside of doing this, your vocabulary will broaden and you will have a richer supply of words at your disposal.

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  1. Scan the picture. Write down what you think are the features of the foreground. Write down what you think are the features of the background. For example, you might be looking at flowers and shrubs in the foreground; the background might be a large green park. The foreground and the background combine to tell you the setting of the picture.

  2. Write a description of any people in the picture. What are they wearing? What do their expressions and posture tell you about their mood? For example, there might be a bride who does not look happy at her wedding.

  3. Write the elements you think create a mood or atmosphere in the picture. It might be a cloudy sky, or it might be scowling expressions on people in a beautiful country landscape. What is the picture's overall tone?

  4. Write any actions in the picture. Someone might be frozen in the act of doing something, or there might be a powerful waterfall. List the elements in the picture that give it movement. These movements tell you about the narrative or plot. Combine your reading of these with your interpretation of the human figures in the picture. This will tell you what is happening, what the people are doing, and how they feel about what they are doing

  5. List the notes you have made in order of priority. You will write an introduction, then description 1, description 2, and so on.

  6. Write the conclusion. Use your thesaurus and dictionary to look up words you don't normally use. Find three or four ways of describing the same thing. Be creative with your use of language. When you decide the order of the points you want to make, be sure they flow together. If you do this, your piece of descriptive text will read fluently, like a narrative about the picture

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Things You'll Need

  • Thesaurus
  • Dictionary

About the Author

Nicole O'Driscoll has been writing since 2000. She is published in "The James Joyce Bloomsday Centenary Collection" and has written about social exclusion and incarceration in Samuel Beckett's "Trilogy." O'Driscoll is a qualified nurse who manages a mental-health crisis house. She holds a doctorate in English literature from Newcastle University.

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