Architectural undergraduate education uses visual methods within both teaching and design processes. One method, photography, is mostly used for illustrative documentation. However, using photography more creatively offers rich potential for student engagement with the social environments they work within. In this study, students digitally photographed the built environment of Karakoy, Istanbul and went through a process of keywording and interpretation of their photographs. The results function in a documentary capacity, but also provide insights into the students' social understandings of the built environment, which, in the context of architectural teaching and learning, has value for both students and instructors. (C) 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.