How to Describe a Picture


Have you ever had to describe a photo or picture? Basically, you will see that picture description is not to be afraid of, as you can prepare what you will say in advance. Now, let us go through a skill that many of you might have already used throughout your English studies: picture description. While in Police English it may differ from what you get used to in classrooms, sometimes these phrases can come in handy in a police officer job.

Picture description showing police officers Picture description showing police officers


Sample description:
This photo must have been taken in a street, where a tourist is, I believe, asking two policemen for directions. The policemen seem helpful as they are smiling. Or maybe, the policemen are doing a regular identification check. In my job, I usually have to do ID checks as I am a patrol officer. I have been working as a patrol officer for 3 years.

Useful Phrases for picture description

There are three steps to describing a picture:

  1. Description
  2. Topic
  3. Personalization

it is vital to know that in each step, you can control the conversation, we will tell you how:

Step 1. You can describe the picture:

Use these phrases to talk about the picture itself:
In the picture I can see …
There’s / There are …
There isn’t a … / There aren’t any …
This photo might/must have been taken in…

You can also tell your impression about the picture:
This photo must have been taken in/at…
It reminds me of….
It looks like a …
It might be a …
He could be …ing
Maybe it’s a …
It seems / appears to me that …

Step 2.  Choose a topic:

This topic of yours can be anything you think is relatable to your work or experience. Even if you do not normally do ID checks, you can say that in your work, you, for example, deal with crime scene investigations and you move on.

Step 3. Then you can go telling your opinion about that topic:

In my opinion…
As I see it…
As far as I’m concerned….

Few rules:

– Descriptions are in Present Continuous (e.g They are escaping from the police)
– After the description, you can use any tense when it comes to a more general topic
– You might not be sure what really is happening, so use modals, like: might/may, or I believe/I think.
– It is often omitted where the picture is set (a park, a prison, etc.)

+1 BONUS Step. Don’t be afraid of the negative!

It might sound strange, but you can talk about what the picture is not about, as long as it is relevant. For instance, in the example, you can say that you do not do ID checks, but you do CSI investigations. Thus, the conversation keeps going on, and it does not matter that you are not talking about ID checks. Remember, you don’t have to know everything about the picture.

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