The uses of photography in clinical nursing practice and research: a literature review

J Adv Nurs. 2004 Nov;48(4):397-405. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2648.2004.03208.x.


Aims: The aim of this paper is to report a study to identify themes and provide a 'snap-shot' of the scope and uses of photography in clinical nursing practice and research.

Background: Despite the dominance of vision as a way of understanding the world in Western societies, the applications of photography in clinical nursing practice and research have not been well synthesized or reported in the literature.

Methods: A computerized search of CINAHL database was performed using the terms photographs, photography, photographic, photovoice, videorecording and videotaping. Hand searching for additional citations was also undertaken.

Findings: The identified papers on photography were categorized into broad themes that reflected the different applications to which photography had been applied: documentation and surveillance; therapeutic intervention; teaching, learning and evaluating performance; research methods; and descriptive and instructional literature. Approaches to the use of photography, as recorded in the nursing literature, are broad and include: wound surveillance, covert patient surveillance, photo essay, art therapy, self-portraits, life albums, simulated recall, participant observation, photovoice, photo hermeneutics, production of research scenarios, and video modelling.

Conclusions: The most common applications of photography in nursing and related journals include photo elicitation to promote understanding in research, videorecording as a method of teaching and learning, and as a method of observation, with more creative approaches tending to be employed in health professions other than nursing. Few reports gave explanations of how researchers negotiated ethical concerns when seeking approval for studies in clinical settings, and few gave details of the processes of data analysis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Nursing Process*
  • Nursing Records
  • Nursing Research / methods*
  • Photography*
  • Teaching Materials
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Video Recording