Consideration of methodological issues when using photo-elicitation in qualitative research
evidence and practice    

Consideration of methodological issues when using photo-elicitation in qualitative research

Sarah Church Head of Midwifery Division & Associate Professor, School of Adult Nursing and Midwifery, London South Bank University, London, England
Julie Quilter Clinical Assessor, Competency Test Centre, University of Northampton Innovation Centre, Northampton, England

Why you should read this article:
  • To understand the definitions of photo-elicitation methods

  • To develop a critical awareness of the methodological issues associated with using photographs in qualitative research

  • To understand how using photographs can enhance qualitative interviews and promote innovative research proposals

Background The use of photo-elicitation interviews (PEIs) has increased in popularity across a range of disciplines including healthcare. Although qualitative researchers have embraced PEIs as a creative way to explore people’s experiences of their lives and environments, the methodological and practical aspects of using photographs have received little attention in the literature.

Aim To discuss the use of PEI techniques, including sourcing and using photographs.

Discussion The authors discuss definitions of photo-elicitation, and explore the value of and difference between using photographs taken by the researcher and those taken by participants. They consider methodological issues in the context of a small-scale focus group study that used PEIs to explore young women’s conceptualisations of teenage and older motherhood.

Conclusion Using photographs in research is far more complex than providing participants with cameras or presenting them with photographs. Researchers must be aware of the potential bias in the choice, selection and sequencing of photographs, as well as the methodological considerations associated with PEIs.

Implications for practice This article highlights the value of using photographs in qualitative research and presents some of the methodological issues that nurse researchers need to consider when designing and conducting research using photographs.

Nurse Researcher. doi: 10.7748/nr.2021.e1729

Peer review

This article has been subject to external double-blind peer review and checked for plagiarism using automated software


Conflict of interest

None declared

Church S, Quilter J (2021) Consideration of methodological issues when using photo-elicitation in qualitative research. Nurse Researcher. doi: 10.7748/nr.2021.e1729


In memory of my colleague and co-author, the late Julie Quilter, who died last year during the peer-review process. Her interest in teenage and older motherhood inspired the original research and her enthusiasm guided the writing of this paper

Published online: 11 February 2021

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