Photo Point Monitoring

    Photo Point Monitoring

    What is photo point monitoring?

    Photo point monitoring provides an easy and inexpensive way to monitor and track changes of a stream or lake.  Photos may be used to document efficacy of new management practices and locations should be strategically placed to capture the monitoring objective.

    Photo point monitoring is utilized by many agencies, including the Division of Water Quality, to document changes in stream shape, riparian habitat or other land use improvements. Photos are taken on a regular basis (once a month, quarterly, yearly etc.) from the same position and field of view.  Using site marking and good documentation, photos can be taken by multiple people and remain consistent.

    How to take the photo?

    • Hold the camera at eye level. Try to include about 1/3 sky in the photo for scale and for consistent replication.
    • Take the photos in early morning, late afternoon or slightly overcast days to eliminate harsh glares or dark shadows.  Avoid days when visibility is poor due to fog or heavy rain.
    • Photos should include as much of the water body and its banks as possible.
    • Print off copies of your first set of photos and keep them in your notebook. Use these as a reference when taking new photos, taking care to line them up exactly.

    photpoint before and after

    How often?

    It depends on the project and the changes you are hoping to capture (monthly, quarterly, yearly, etc.).  To capture seasonal changes, Tier 1 volunteers collect points three times a year, in April, July and October.  Take additional photos when you notice something different to document. 

    Where to take the photo?

    Tier 1 volunteers:

    • For a stream: Take photos facing upstream and downstream from your site.
    • For a lake, reservoir or pond: Take photos facing left bank and right bank (if sampling from shore or dock), and straight out from your site (note what direction if you are on a boat).
    • If your view of the waterbody is not clear from you monitoring location, find a nearby location that has a better view. Take notes on the location you took the photo from and email these notes to, so they can be added to your site information form.
    • How to Take a Photo (see above)
    • Upload your photo to the CitSci database along with your site data.


    Tier 2 volunteers:

    You will likely be taking photos at pre-determine sites in which case you may skip to taking a photo.  If you are setting up a new site, here are some things to consider.

    • What are the changes we are looking to document?
    • Will the photo capture the "area of interest"?
    • Is the location consistently easy to access?
    • Will the location of the photo point need ot change over time? (ideally no)
    • You want as much of your site visible as possible from the photo point location.


    Fill out a photo point registration form

    • The site name (your UWW site name, or assigned by coordinator)
    • The retake frequency (e.g. seasonally, monthly, etc.) Mark these dates on your calendar so that you do not forget. This frequency will be established specific to the project and need.
    • The subject and purpose of the photo point monitoring site (e.g. ‘Monitor UWW site’, or ‘To document recovery after bank stabilization’)
    • Establish a site marker: Determine a marker from which you will be taking photos. An ideal marker would be something permanent like a large tree or a bridge. Describe and take the GPS points of the marker. Take photos of the marker and place in Google Drive in your ‘notes’ subfolder. Label the photo ‘site_marker_X’ GPS points should be taken in the decimal degree format e.g. 31.542321342  ̊N, 152.463564354  ̊W
    • Determine the direction photos are to be taken and record these on the registration form.
    • When you have completed the form, scan or take a photo of the form and upload it into the Google Drive ‘notes’ folder associated with the site, this form will be used as reference for taking photos. Be sure to send the form to

    Naming the photo:

    Please name the photos including the official site name (as on your site registration form), direction.  

    Tier 1: Use UP or DOWN for streams and LEFT or RIGHT when on the bank) or N-S-E-W Cardinal directions for lakes.  Example: SAP01L-UP-06252017

    Tier 2: use cardinal directions (N-S-E-W).  Also include the date mmddyyyy. . 

    Uploading the photo:

    If you are using the CitSci database to submit data, submit the photos at the end of the datasheet.

    If you are taking the photos for additional projects, UWW or the project coordinator will arrange a location to share the photos.