Photography/Video recording for data collection


This option uses a series of still photographs or videos taken over a period of time to discern changes taking place in the environment or activities of a community.

"From an M&E perspective, this option can focus on specific indicators or performance questions or can be more open-ended if you give the camera to stakeholders and ask them to assess changes they perceive to be critical.

Photographs and videos can be combined with a range of other options, such as diaries or the "most significant change" option. They can also enhance the use of drama and role plays. Such images can also be used to look at differences between before and after an intervention, something particularly helpful when disseminating information or providing presentations." (Guijt, I. and J. Woodhill, 2002)

Another way that video can be used in evaluation processes is through the Participatory Video (or PV) option. This option has been used with communities around the world since the mid-1990s, and much information is now available on how to do it. PV differs from conventional (documentary) video production as it places control of the content of the video into the hands of a group or community. While professionally produced documentary videos/films aim to achieve high aesthetic and quality standards, PV puts more emphasis on the content and the process (of empowerment) rather than on the appearance of the video. PV therefore calls for a more flexible and open development process, than in professional video production where the product comes first, always keeping the audience in mind.


"The AIDS epidemic in Southern Africa is placing a great burden on the children of those who are affected. Children often have to take care of the sick and then look after their younger brothers and sisters if their parents die, even when they themselves are still grieving. Nolusindiso’s story offers a moving personal account of what it feels like to live with this burden. She now makes an impact through her work as a caregiver for orphans and vulnerable children, by ensuring that no child in her rural community endures the same struggles that she did." (Sonke Gender Justice Network) 

Advice for choosing this method

  • It is a highly persuasive medium, and can provide more emotional connection with audiences
  • Use of images in video or photography can reach more people than text (e.g. people who cannot read or write);
  • Images can provide information that words/text cannot – they provoke layers of knowledge and are helpful for contributing to discussions.
  • People can represent themselves through (participatory) video and photographic images in a way that can greatly facilitate the direct exchange of views instead of through interpretation from the outside (e.g. by external evaluators).
  • Video is flexible in that it can have different languages supplying narrative or interpretive information
  • It is becoming more and more accessible in terms of costs and resources. Footage can even be recorded on mobile phones.
  • Using video costs more time but can bring greater depth and yields completely different data than for example filling in questionnaires.
  • The choice between making a conventionally produced video or a participatory video has to do with the objective of the video – letting go of your organization’s control of the message, wanting to get more empowerment and different kinds of communication processes within a community, and putting resources into training people to create videos themselves. 

Advice for using this method

  • "Obtain a series of images from different years, including the current situation. Many government agencies will have photographs on file that can be a good source of historical land-use data.
  • After deciding what indicators to monitor, the person or group takes photographs or video footage focusing on images that will show the selected indicator(s).
  • Having obtained the images needed, discuss them with the people whose perspectives are important to understand. Types of issues to discuss could include: what are the key changes, how widespread are they, what different views on change are there or what are the causes of the changes that have been filmed or photographed.
  • Return to the same site and take a new set of photos or video footage at key moments, such as for reporting periods, at times of seasonal change, just after germination or prior to harvesting.
  • Place the different sets of images side by side (or edit the videos to show changes sequentially) and trigger a discussion on any differences that can be seen, why these might have occurred, what might happen as a result, what actions will be needed, etc. These analytical discussions are repeated for each new sequence.
  • Be sure to label and store the photographs/video footage properly in a safe and accessible place, in a manner that will allow for easy comparison with the next sequence of images." (Guijt, I. and J. Woodhill, 2002)


Crawford, D. (2011, December 13). [Web log message]. Retrieved from

Evaluation 5.0. (n.d.). Power of images. Retrieved from

Guijt, I. and J. Woodhill (2002). Managing for Impact in Rural Development : A guide for project M&E. Rome, Italy: International Fund for Agricultural Development (PDF)

Sonke Gender Justice Network. (Producer). (n.d.). Nolusindiso’s story. [Web Video]. Retrieved from

Stetson, V. (2008). Communicating and Reporting on an Evaluation - Guidlines and Tools. Retrieved June 20, 2012 from

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