Photovoice is an innovative participatory action research method that gives cameras to traditionally marginalized groups of individuals, and asks them to take photos in response to framing questions (Wang & Burris, 1997).  Photovoice aims to empower participants and ultimately lead to action and community change.  Traditional Photovoice projects train participants in photography, ethics, and safety before asking them to go into their communities to take photos of their lives, communities, and concerns.  Participants then reflect on those photos and share them with fellow participants.  This is then followed by a group discussion of selected photos, and in some cases participants analyze the data collected (photos and narrative) to more fully understand the story.  Finally, the photos and selected narrative are shared in a public format as a way to help raise critical consciousness within the community, with the ultimate goal of influencing decision-making.

The System Exchange has incorporated Photovoice  as a Participatory Action Research (PAR) method in a number of projects as a way to engage community members in thinking about their communities through an entirely new lens.  (Learn more about our recent projects here.) Participants in each project were given framing questions to answer through taking photos, sharing those photos with other participants, and creating exhibits for public display.  Using Photovoice helped to raise critical consciousness around the issues in their community, and has led to action by those involved in the process.  Photovoice has been particularly powerful with youth populations.  Learn more about youth involvement in PhotoVoice. 

Many of the tools used by the System ExChange PhotoVoice teams are available for download.  Please make sure that you acknowledge the source when using this material!

Comprehensive Manual.  Photovoice: Using Images to tell Communities’ Stories

Powerpoint Presentations

Introduction to Photovoice This presentation provides an introduction to Photovoice, including the potential uses of Photovoice and an explanation of the full Photovoice process.   This presentation was given at CADCA’s 2013 Mid-Year Training Institute.

Photovoice Safety and Ethics This presentation provides additional information on the safety and ethics involved in a Photovoice project. Training in safety and ethics is essential to the Photovoice process and should be done at the beginning of the project.  


Project Planning Worksheet This worksheet can be used to brainstorm how Photovoice can be incorporated into your work.  It provides questions to guide your project design from developing framing questions to identifying participants and the target audience for your work. 

Self-Portrait Photo Reflection Sheet In an online Photovoice project, participants can create profiles or blog posts of themselves as a way to get to know others in the project.  This reflection sheet can guide participants in creating a profile/post and can be edited to include questions that you would like participants to reflect on.  These responses can then be posted along with a picture of the participant.

Individual Photographer Reflection Sheet Participants use this worksheet to gather their ideas about the photos they took in response to the framing question.  This should be completed prior to individual photo sharing.

Critical Dialogue Questions Critical dialogue can help identify root causes, consequences, and possible solutions to community issues.  This worksheet includes example questions to ask during the individual sharing and group discussion processes.

Insights from Analyzing the Photovoice Data This worksheet can be used to log the insights gained from analyzing the Photovoice data. This can be used to help identify the major ideas shared through the photos and stories and be used for planning the creation of the Photovoice exhibit, digital story, or website.  The questions on this worksheet should be edited to reflect the focus and framing questions of your project.

Forms and Supplemental Materials

Contract for Youth Participation This contract includes the rules and responsibilities associated with participating in an online Photovoice project.  This contract can be edited for an in-person session, but similar guidelines should be in place to protect all participants and ensure a shared understanding of their role as a Photovoice participant.

Explaining Photovoice This is an example of a script for explaining the purpose of Photovoice and the project your community is working on.  This worksheet comes from a year-long youth leadership training program, and provides an example of language to include and questions to anticipate.  This worksheet should be edited to align with your project.

Netiquette Internet Guidelines This is a set of guidelines for participation in an online Photovoice project to promote meaningful engagement and the safety of all participants.  This language is also included in the Contract for Participation.

Photo Release Form This form needs to be completed for all individuals who can be identified in a photo.  Participants should carry copies of this form with them when they take photos for the Photovoice project, and should practice approaching individuals for their consent during the training process (role-playing is a good way to do this).  Youth under the age of 18 need to have a parent or guardian sign the Photo Release Form for them.

Authorship Release Form Photovoice participants decide if they would like their photos and stories included in the photo exhibit, digital story, or website that is created from the Photovoice project.  Participants also decide how they would like their name to appear and if they will allow their stories to be edited for spelling and grammar.  This form should be completed by all participants.  They should have a chance to review their photos and stories either online or through transcriptions created from in-person photo sharing sessions prior to signing this form.

Relevant publications include:

Foster-Fishman, P., Nowell, B., Deacon, Z., Nievar, M. A., & McCann, P. (2005). Using methods that matter: The impact of reflection, dialogue, and voiceAmerican Journal of Community Psychology36(3-4), 275-291.

Nowell, B. L., Berkowitz, S. L., Deacon, Z., & Foster-Fishman, P. (2006). Revealing the Cues Within Community Places: Storiesof Identity, History, and Possibility. American Journal of Community Psychology37(1-2), 29-46.