Photo collection

Creating a visual story from the perspective of your users to empathise with them.

Practical Information

What is this tool?

A collection of photos made by a group of stakeholders that relates to a chosen theme(s). The images are collected daily for the duration of a week.

Why do we use it?

The photos with captions allow you to look through the eyes of your target group: seeing the underlying beliefs, values and norms that play an important role in daily life.

Design phase:

Design research


Online tool, Camera


1 week

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A step-by-step guide

1. Start by selecting 1-3 themes for the pictures. The theme should be related to your design challenge or vision. It is best when they are not too specific or give too much direction. 

For example: 

  • Learning is a better theme than school, 
  • Fun is a better theme than playing 
  • Opportunities or success are better themes than role models 

2.  Define a channel to share the pictures and be in contact with the group of participants (Whatsapp Group or Facebook group). The participants should be at least 4. The more, the marrier!

3. Give instructions to the participants to take and share pictures:

• Each participant will take and share one or two pictures related to the theme(s) every day for 7 days. If 7 days is too intense (for example because the participants have other research activities to join) you can reduce the amount of days to 4 or 5.

•  Each participant adds a description when sharing each picture, explaining why they think it relates to the theme. Any picture is good: there is no right or wrong picture. 

Keep the participants motivated to share everyday by posting questions, compliments and reminders.

4. By the end of the week, review all the photos and start looking for insights and patterns. Are there sub-topics that emerged frequently? Are there major differences and can these differences be related to certain characteristics of the participants (e.g. gender, age, location)?  This analysis is best done by printing the pictures, but it can also be done by placing them on a document next to each other. 

If possible, do the analyses of the images with the participants. Start by reflecting on the process: was there something they learned? Did they notice they started to look at their environment differently?

How other organisations used this tool

How to use the outcomes of the tool?

The images you have collected give you both a good overview of the context in which you are working, but it will also allow you to better understand the perspective of your target group. Use these pictures to inform your insights during the research phase.

Related tools

Capturing the lives of the users through their daily (inter) actions
The diary tool can be used alongside the photo collection, by combining them you can gather very personal data and use the images to put into the context
Social map
Understanding the social connections that influence your users
The images you collect can be used to give context to the social map
Visualising your user as a real person to create empathy for them
The images can be used to give context to your persona

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