Clinical and photographic methods were used to assess retinopathy during the examinations of diabetic patients enrolled in the Early Treatment Diabetic Retinopathy Study (ETDRS). In analyzing available data from eyes randomly selected for deferral of treatment, the authors compare the clinical detection (including contact lens biomicroscopy) with photographic detection (30 degrees stereoscopic color fundus photographs) of diabetic macular edema. Based on clinical detection, 53% (1778 patients) had hard exudates within 1 disc diameter (DD) of the center of macula, 56% (1868 patients) had retinal thickening within this region, and 31% (1027 patients) had thickening at the center of macula. These analyses show agreements of 83, 78, and 83% between retinal specialists and photographic graders when assessing these three characteristics, respectively. Agreement was 81% in the detection of macular edema for which treatment is indicated (clinically significant macular edema). Each method has its advantages but in general there was close agreement between these methods, particularly for clinically significant macular edema, which supports the reliability of each method.