GEOG 883
Remote Sensing Image Analysis and Applications

Image Interpretation Keys



Image interpretation keys (historically referred to as photo interpretation keys) are designed to aid in the identification of features. Image interpretation keys are typically project specific, and are most often employed in those cases where a group of image analysts are interpreting individual areas, but must generate a consistent product. There is no formal structure, content, or layout to an image interpretation key, but well-designed keys have two components:

  1. The appearance of the features/classes of interest are described using Olson’s elements of image interpretation
  2. Examples are provided using the source imagery for the project, or if not available, similar imagery; and these examples include annotation where appropriate.


Below is an example of a robust image interpretation keys developed for a large mapping project.

Harvard's Humanitarian Initiative has published a number of detailed guides on interpreting imagery that contain excellent examples of image interpretation keys:

This is an example of an image interpretation key designed to help distinguish deciduous forests from other land cover classes in Vermont.  Three types of imagery are used. You may want to consider a similar layout for your assignment.