Using photos and videos offers another way to collect, analyze, and present information about congregations. Sometimes called “Visual Research Methods,” this way of understanding a congregation treats photographs, film, video, print media, digital media, maps, and drawings as data. Photos and videos can be created by you, someone else in the congregation, or a creative professional.

Getting Started

Sometimes the images are used as part of interview to initiate conversations, to explore experiences and emotions, and/or to elicit participants’ stories (see photo elicitation). Transcripts from these interviews, in turn, may be analyzed for salient themes relevant to the research, as is done in qualitative data analysis. Others have used photography or videography to explore and tell the story of a congregation, its architecture, or the broader context in which it is located. A content analysis of images may be undertaken in which the researcher creates quantitative data by counting features of photographs to explore the meanings present in the images. These numerical data may be represented as visualizations through which the data are further explored by the researcher. And images themselves offer an important way to help others ‘see’ what is going on in, through, and beyond congregations.

This series by Roman R. Williams, PhD, is an in-depth exploration of how to use visual methods to better understand congregations. Dr. Williams is Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology and Social Work at Calvin College.

Check back for more blog posts and resources in the new, exciting series.

Coming Soon: New “Using Photos and Video Tool”

Our Studying Congregations Tool Kit features easy to use quick guides for better understanding a community of faith. They are ideal for religious leaders, seminarians and anyone else who wants to better understand a congregation or religious community.

The Tool in Action