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Describing a Photo

As a medical professional, you will need to be able to describe what you can see accurately to convey important information. For example, you may need to describe the results from a CT or X-ray scan to a colleague who is not physically there with you. In that situation, it's important that you relay the main details and use precise language to avoid any ambiguity.


We have provided you with some guiding principles in this article (along with some examples) to help you feel more prepared if you are asked this question at an interview.


Objectives

 

Disclaimers

This is traditionally an MMI station, so throughout this presentation to think about how you may approach such a station. Stations may include one picture, several one after another, or several together. It is important that in these stations you display the qualities that the med schools are after, notably empathy. Your ability to show insight, empathy, good communication skills and critical reasoning are the crucial here



Principles

Moving from a general description towards a detailed description is a good foundation. Imagine you’re describing the photo to a blind person if you’re struggling for things to say. Then, think about what people in the photo are feeling, try to put yourself in the situation. Use of language can be key here. Phrases like “I would be feeling…” are better than “they look…”

If you’re struggling for things to say, try use the 5 senses to get you started

Examples

  • The London Eye

  • Sight - A grey circular structure with room-sized pods on its circumference on an almost clear sky in London

  • Hearing - Sound of the Thames, crowds, ferries going past

  • Taste - Ice cream assuming its a hot day

  • Touch - Feeling the wind

  • Smell - Food, ice-cream, sweat if it's a hot day

  • An LGBTQ Parade

  • Sight - Vibrant rainbow colours, people marching with their hands in the air, smiles

  • Hearing - Upbeat music, megaphones, people shouting

  • Taste - Street food, sweets

  • Touch - The fabric of flags, other people's skin, clothes, heat

  • Smell - smell of new fabric from the flags, smoke in the air if fireworks have been fired


MMI Station

In this station you will be presented with an image. Your task is to analyse this image and give your impression of it
  • A Race Crash

  • Sight - wreckage of cars, smoke in the air, shocked faces

  • Hearing - sirens as rescue cars rush to the scene, gasp of the crowd, tannoy announcement

  • Taste - hot dogs, burgers and chips, stadium food

  • Touch - (from the perspective of the drivers) leather of the seats, plastic and metal of the dashboard

  • Smell - burnt rubber, smoke, tarmac

Start with a general description before moving to finer details “This photo shows racing cars on a track at night. The floodlights are lighting the track and all of the cars are close to one another. The focus of the image is a crash in which one car is almost on top of another”.  Next, think about the driver’s experiences “Someone in this photo is clearly travelling at speed and so they must be feeling strong forces in the seat. The driver in the air must be fearful of rolling the car as all they can see is the sky”. After this we can start to think about what a driver or spectator may be feeling. “If I were the driver I may be feeling fearful and anxious about my safety. Maybe some anger over being taken out of the race”. Finally, you may be asked to compare this photo with another, in which case its important to note key differences and similarities.

TAM's Top Tips

  1. Practice these techniques with photos online when you can

  2. Describe images to friends/family and ask them to sketch your description to see how effectively you’re describing the image

  3. Take your time. You can say a lot very quickly, so try to structure your answer