How to describe photos and pictures

for the B1 Cambridge test (PET)


In some English exams you have to speak or write about photos or pictures.

Here is a list of useful vocabulary and expressions for describing pictures or photos for oral/written exams.

What is there in the picture?
(people, things, animals, places, etc)
In the picture I can see
There is a/ an +(adjective)+ singular noun
There are (a couple/some/ a lot of) + (adjective) + plural noun
There isn’t a + (adjective) + singular noun
There aren’t any + (adjective) + plural noun
What is happening?
(actions & weather)
For actions use present continuous
The person/ animal is +verb-ing
The people are + verb-ing
It’s raining/ snowing, etc.
It’s bright/ dark/ sunny/ cold/ hot, etc.
What might be happening?
(If something in the picture is not clear you can make a guess)

It looks like a + noun
It looks as if + person/animal + verb …
It looks as though + persona/animal + verb …
It seems that person/animal is …
Maybe the person/animal is + verb-ing
The person/animal might be +verb-ing
What could have happened before?
(You can use your imagination and make a guess about the actions that happened before the picture was taken)
The person/animal might have + past participle
The person/animal may have + past participle
The person/animal could have + past participle
The person/animal couldn’t have + past participle
Where in the picture?
(location/ position)
At the top/bottom of the picture …
In the foreground …
In the background ….
In the middle/ center of the picture …
On the left/right of the picture …
next to
in front of
across from
on top of

Now that you know the vocabulary and phrases that should be included in picture description, let’s see an example:

I think this is a family photo. There are five people, all of them are smiling. They are having lunch in the dinning room. The dining room is so bright and modern. In the background we see the kitchen and some appliances. For example, a microwave and a coffee maker.

In the foreground
we see the mother sitting at the head of the table. It seems that the she is taking a selfie. Her children are sitting around the table. On the left side of the photo there are a boy and a girl. The girl is smiling. The boy has his mouth open and he looks as he is going to eat the whole spaghetti.

There are two teenagers sitting across from the children. The young man is smiling and the young woman is posing for the photo. The young man has his arm around the young woman.

There are five plates with spaghetti, three glasses of orange juice, and two glasses of red wine on the table. There might be some bread in the middle of the table.The food looks very delicious.

They might be having a video call with the father. The father could have traveled for work to a different city. It looks as though they are having a good time. This photo reminds me when I was younger and I used to have lunch with my family every Sunday.
Time to practice

The best way to improve your writing and speaking is to practice. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. Remember that practice makes progress.

What can you see in the picture? Write your answer in the comments below

4 thoughts on “How to describe photos and pictures

  1. In the picture we can see three people. They are in the living room. The living room is so bright and clean.

    In the foreground we can see a girl. The girl seems to be excited. It seems that she is looking at the map and turned to talk to her mom about where she wants to go.

    In the background we see the father and the mother. Mom and Dad also seem to be having a good time talking to the girl about where they are going to go.

    The floor seems to be the place where they put half-prepared luggage. It seems that they are checking to see if anything is missing.

    The mother seems to be happy because she won’t do housework. The girl looks excited to go on a trip with her parents. Dad seems to be enjoying the family’s upcoming trip.


  2. In the picture I can see three people. There is a young couple and a girl, all of them are smiling. They are in the living room. There is a sofa with some cushions and maybe a tall lamp. Next to it, I can see a plant and a big brown carpet on the floor. The Living room is so bright and modern.

    The couple is sitting on the sofa and the woman is holding a shirt. On her left, on the floor and in front of sofa there is a backpack. The woman seems happy and she doesn’t have any shoes.
    The man looks happy too and he has on the legs, maybe, some clothes.

    In the foreground, I can see, that on the floor over the rug there is a headphone, a map and a laptop. Behind them, there is a suitcase with some clothes, and to it left I can see a girl on her knees. She is wearing shorts, socks and a striped blue and white shirt. In her head she has a brown hat and a map. She is smiling and she seems to be happy.

    They might be preparing everything for the girl’s trip. Maybe she is going to study to another country for a few moths.


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