The study that this case study is drawn from examined rituals and places of young university students' alcohol consumption. Video ethnography was used to capture the multiple sites and perspectives on drinking. It was used with students who acted as both researchers and research subjects. We discuss the politics, ethics and practical requirements for participatory video research. To be effective, it had to be worked into the project from the ground up with multiple meetings to develop shared goals with participants. We discuss it in relation to another technique, that of photo voice. Both allow for the researcher–researched power dynamic to be challenged. A challenge for researchers using this method is in the presentation, and we discuss the assumptions that are encoded in common documentary techniques. Researchers have to be aware of them, sometimes make use of them and continually critique them.