A framework for assessing photographs for the emotional and social health of young people (SHAPE) is described and tested, within the context of a rural program. Two independent raters assessed the photographs of participants. To assess inter-rater reliability, Cohen' K and Kendall's W were calculated. The two reviewers' assessments of photographs were in agreement. The assessment of emotional/behavioural display showed 82% agreement. Agreement between reviewers' judgements of proxemics (W = .866), interaction (W = .722), engagement (W = .932) and overall impression (W = .804) were all significant (p < .005). The method yielded results indicating that participants found gardening immediately engaging but their approach to equines exhibited a change from fascination to confidence during the program. The visual-diary method is a useful and sensitive method for research: where resources are limited; to complement traditional measures; for use with people who lack appropriate verbal communication or literacy skills to complete questionnaires; young children; other underrepresented groups.