Photographers Dilemma: The Ethics of Photography And How To Implement Them

As a photographer, you will have to have knowledge on the ethics of photography, which is the basics when photographing people or uneasy situations.

What can you ask your models when directing them? Is photographing local people on your travels acceptable? This article addresses the ethics in photography while aiming to help to define the photographers’ own ethical practice.

Despite the benefits that photography brings, the world is also filled with ludicrous photo manipulation and the circulation of images online without consent.

Photography ethics are the principles that guide how we take and share photographs. These ethics are subjective and contextual. Every person’s stand on ethics might be different, but there are certain codes to live by when photographing.

The Ethics of Photography
Image by Sally Mann

Every photographer has the responsibility to educate themselves on critical thinking, situational awareness, and cultural sensitivity.

The act of photography itself still has a number of ethical issues, which should be acknowledged by all serious photographers, whether professional or amateur.

Respect human dignity and ensure the rights and safety of the people being portrayed

No matter whether you’re taking pictures in your home country or some exotic locale, always respect the environment you’re in. Photographers should also treat all subjects with respect. In a situation in which someone needs assistance, photographers have a responsibility to act rather than document.

Experience of working through difficult ethical situations gives photographers tools to be more effective in their work. This helps photographers to build relationships, to communicate effectively, and to gain access to communities in a socially responsible way.

Also preventing photographers from unknowingly violating national or international laws or ethical norms about privacy and confidentiality, consent, and child protection.

the ethics of photography
Image by Sally Mann

For children in difficulty, I believe that the law on privacy has made some proper corrections to the excesses of past years. Obscuring the face of the child is not sufficient, since even a coat can make a person recognizable and therefore vulnerable.

The Rights of Privacy and Publicity

It’s important to try and empathize with your subject. How would you feel in their shoes if it was you being photographed?

There has always been discord between the photographer and the photographed, a contradiction that raises questions of ethical and moral dilemmas in street photography.

It may be possible to photograph the situation, but only if an agreement is given.

From the perspective of many contemporary street photographers, the notion of privacy shouldn’t limit the right to freedom of expression. After all, aren’t we constantly surveyed and photographed as part of everyday life without providing explicit consent?

Photographers should also follow national norms and laws regarding subject consent. In the United States, this means that the subject’s permission is required in private, but not public, places. There is a fine ethical line between invading a person’s privacy and capturing their true image.

The Ethics of Photography
Image by Sally Mann

Travel photographers may find local funeral customs a fascinating subject, but they need to remember that these occasions, by definition, can often be deeply distressing for those involved. It is unethical and inappropriate to just photograph, regardless of the feelings of the subjects.

“The ethics of photography are the same as the ethics of life, and all revolve around respect”

– National Geographic photographer Beverly Joubert

Creatively influenced, avoiding copying

Not only showing sensitivity and respect towards subjects and situations, but a photographer should also be respectful towards other photographers’ work.

The concept of plagiarism is legally a challenging matter since photographers, like all creatives, will most likely be influenced by the general visual material.

There is a point at which influence becomes copying, at least from a moral perspective if not legally. A photograph produced today will offer a different impact tomorrow.

The photographer must safeguard the truth they want to convey, and also safeguard the public by reporting what is not simply based on the need for career advancement.

Serious photographers should also learn about legitimate digital manipulation, which can turn a good shot into a better one and can be done in a completely ethical way.

It is only by ridding ourselves of the superficiality that is widespread at all levels that we will be able to undertake the path towards a change. This way we can enhance the value of ethics not only of respect for images but of all disciplines.

You can find more about the code of ethics on NPPA website.

If you liked this article, you might like The Art of Portrait Photography.

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