PhotoVoice is a participatory research method. Community members are asked to take photographs of places or situations regarding a particular question.

The method allows you to get insight into people’s experiences even in places that you don’t have access to. PhotoVoice studies can be combined with interviews or other methods to get more information about the meaning of photos that participants have taken.

Things to prepare before the PhotoVoice study

  • Who are the participants that you want to take pictures? Do they have their own camera devices available or do you need to provide them with devices? 
  • What will you ask them to take pictures of? For example:
    • Take pictures of places, situations, or experiences at school that are important to you.
    • Take pictures of places, situations, or experiences at school that you think represent strengths of our school. 
    • Take pictures of places, situations, or experiences at school that represent what you don’t like about this school.
    • Take pictures of places, situations, or experiences at school that you think represent problems of our school.
    • Take pictures that show how you get to school and what experiences you have on your way to school. 
  • Try these instructions with a few people to see if they understand what you are asking them to do.
  • Inform participants about the purpose of the study and get participants’ consent to use their pictures for your study.
  • What do the participants need to know regarding the ethics of taking pictures, especially when they are likely to photograph people? Instruct participants to get consent from people they are taking pictures of, or to make sure that no people are recognizable in the pictures they are taking. How will you make sure that these ethics concerns are not violated?
  • How will you collect pictures from participants and how will you analyze the pictures? 
    • Do participants need to record and give you further information about the picture(s), such as time and place it was taken, a written narrative about what the picture means and why they took it, or a confirmation that they got consent from people that they took pictures of?
    • Will you interview participants afterwards to talk about their pictures?

Things to reflect on after the PhotoVoice study

  • What problems or challenges did participants report?
  • Did we get all pictures from all participants and other important information related to the pictures? Do we need to contact some participants to get further information?

Analyzing and sharing PhotoVoice data

  • Create a spreadsheet listing all the photos and important information related to them (called metadata) – such as who took the photo, file name, time and place it was taken, whether there are people in the photo and whether there is consent information available, possibly a narrative or interview data related to the photo.
  • PhotoVoice data is qualitative data that is analyzed using qualitative data analysis methods. Depending on your research question, you can analyze the photos (as well as possibly the narratives and interview data from participants) thematically – what kinds of different themes are shown or represented in the photos; what kinds of problems, strengths, values etc. do the photos represent? You could also use narrative or interview data to create captions for photos. Record the results of your thematic analysis in the spreadsheet.
  • If there are people in pictures and you are not sure if they have given their consent, you could blur out their faces and any other identifying features such as clothes or license plates using photo editing software.
  • Depending on the way you plan to share the results of your study, you can create an exhibition, photobook, webpage or other creative media to share the photos with the community. You can use your qualitative analysis to create captions for photos or group photos by themes. You might also ask participants to help you or give feedback when creating the media to make sure they feel that their photos are presented fairly and accurately. 

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