Have a Doughnut: Photos vs Videos in Online Qual

As this picture and caption makes abundantly clear, online is a wonderful medium for rich self reporting using photos and video. While video is considered to be the ultimate in capturing participant experiences, photos can be equally strong in the right context and much more efficient. So which to use when? Let's compare shall we?

Video is great in that it's the richest medium and can really bring people to life. However, video is expensive in terms of time and effort by participants, can be awkward for some participants, and requires more analysis and editing time on the back end, not to mention bandwidth and storage.

Photos are very efficient, can help folks capture more immediate moments (like the doughnut moment above), and they don't have nearly the back end analysis and presentation overhead that video does. Photos are also excellent for projective and metaphor exercises. People also tend to be much better photographers than videographers on the whole, and have a better shot of taking good quality pictures than good quality video.

Which you use when is a factor of goals for the activity, study and the type participans you are working with. Photos tend to be better for capturing very quick moments like the donut moment above. So moment to moment diaries around usage and consumption are a good match for photos. Video is great for environments and processes - "here's what I do, and where I do it." While cameras are getting easier and easier to use in terms of taking video, participants still have to post the video, which can be a time consuming process, so if you have a lot of activities planned, picking your spots for video makes sense. Also, keeping in mind the technical sophistication of participants is always key in making sure activities match the abilities and availability of your participants.

In the end, it's not an either or decision. Video and photos can be used in concert together within a study to leverage the best of each in bringing your participants to life.

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