• Photo Interviews / Photo Diary: Overview

    The photo interview or photo diary is a qualitative research method in which the researcher gives the interviewee a camera and a list of prompts for taking photos. After taking the photos over a determined amount of time (i.e. from a short time to multiple days), the researcher interviews the participant, using the photos to elicit information.This method brings together the interviewee’s images and words and thereby gives multiple dimensions to his or her perspective. It can be used to learn about students’ work practices, life experiences as members of a campus community, and their behaviors in and preferences for different learning spaces. It is most often used to gather a multi-faceted understanding of students’ lives, but can also be used to learn more about how students make use of and perceive existing learning spaces.


    • Photos coupled with descriptions and details from the interviewee provide rich insight into behaviors, perspectives, and opinions
    • Capturing the photos and interview discussion in a synced recording as a video file offers a powerful opportunity for stakeholders to both hear and see evidence of users’ behaviors, preferences, and needs


    • The researcher needs access to cameras and a process for checking them out / assigning to interviewees
    • If there is a gap between giving the participant a camera and the interview, there can be greater logistical challenges in scheduling the meet-up times and interview
    • The method is time-intensive due to the one-on-one nature of the method
    • Interviewer must be able to establish a rapport with the interviewee

    * This method has been popularized in library user research through the work of Nancy Fried Foster and the research team at the University of Rochester Library. See their Studying Students: The Undergraduate Research Project at The University of Rochester.