Nikon School

Ethics of Photography

By : Nikon School Blog   |  22 Jun, 2016  |  66

Right from the beginning of photography, unethical practices have been used by many photographers to gain fame or money. However, after a couple of decades into the digital era, this has increased exponentially. Almost every day, we hear about photographers using unfair means to get the image they want, or even to get more followership on social media. Of course, we are not talking about commercial or art photography here. A photograph can be made or captured. The ethics we are talking about refer to the latter, where we try to capture a moment as it happened. On the other hand, commercial photography is about creating an image, as per a very specific requirement, like a client's brief to shoot a product.

While what is right and what is not will forever remain subjective and be hotly debated, a few simple ethics of digital photography can be followed by all photographers to make sure they remain on the right side of the ethical line while capturing a moment.

A street photographer tries to shoot candid moments. While the decisive moment we all crave for is often found after frustrating waits, some photographers simply stage the moment. Asking someone to run or jump, or to look in a certain direction are commonly used unethical practices.

Paying local people like to stage a scene is equally unscrupulous, if the shot is claimed to be candid. As an ethical street photographer, one is expected not to stage scenes or direct people. Let's wait for the real moment and savour the success if and when it happens.

Invasion of privacy is a strict no. Being a photographer does not give you the right to enter someone's premises without permission, or even to shoot someone's portrait if they are not comfortable with it.

To show someone suffering for specific journalistic purposes maybe considered acceptable, but if someone is suffering and can get disturbed due to your presence, it is not ethical to be there.

Perhaps the most hotly debated ethical issues concern wildlife photography nowadays. Disturbing reports of animals being fed, chased, scared, or simply stalked to get the desired photograph are constantly on the rise.

Experienced and professional wildlife photographers are expected to know the do's and don'ts of shooting in the wild, but often, enthusiasts new to the field forget that they are inside the animals' habitat and their very presence can be disturbing to the animals.

While shooting wildlife, follow t¬¬¬he rules, be silent, and don't let your photography disturb any animal in any manner whatsoever. Don't feed the animals to get closer or do anything that might make them deviate from their natural behaviour. Learn to use your gear in the most effective way so that you get the image when the moment presents itself. While we must process our images to bring out the best in them, ethics are blatantly violated while processing. Adding colours that were not part of the original scene, removing elements from a frame, or creating composite images to create new frames out of two or more unrelated ones, are all unethical photography practices.

Photographers are also travelers or tourists, and must follow simple ethics like not damaging someone's property while shooting. You must keep religious and local traditions in mind, like avoiding entering places of worship with shoes on, or talking on phones in such places. You must not try to steal a shot where photography is prohibited by law or tradition.

Taking someone's image on social media and claiming it as your work is pure theft. If you're inspired by someone's work and shoot your version of it, it can be called ethical as long as you credit the original author.

Taking unethical shortcuts to get what you want may get you accolades in the short term, but the real photographer in you will blossom when you shoot with ethics, despite the apparent restrictions it poses.

images used are for representation purposes only. No unethical practices were used for the images used in this article.

Comments (24)


Mr. Amitava Paira

Really Helpful

Mr. Amitava Paira


Mr. Abhinava Pandey

good points to remember

Mr. Abhinava Pandey

everyone should follow

Mr. Vishnu Das

I truly agree with the ethical part. Happiness getting like this is priceless.

Mr. Simon Binay Purty

must follow

Mr. Madan Kumar

Very? unfortunate.. A true wildlife photographer should always respect the nature and the privacy of its inmates..

Mr. Abhishek Golatkar

absolutely true

Mr. Vivekananda Pradhan

Very true!

Mr. Bhaskar Nath

nice click

Mr. Juman Jyoti Kalita

ethics in photography is missing these days the power of editing is so familiar that it is able to attract anyone a disappointing and a bitter truth

Mr. Vishal Sanwal

wildlife photography is gud experience

Mr. Pratul Pal

Ethics are not followed now-a-days... This is unfortunate..

Mr. Shankar Prakash Alagesan

Essential information to photographers...

Mr. Parag Jadhav

Nice one. ...

Mr. Pratul Pal

nice clicks

Mr. Pratul Pal

Valuable discussion...... Ethics should kept in mind...

Mr. somanath sahu

good & valuable information that we always keep in our mind during shooting

Mr. Prabir Chakraborty

Thanks for the information. In nature all things not in our control. Mainly in bird or wildlife photography some basic adjustment I think need to permissible....

Mr. Pritesh Pokle

Dear Ankur, Every RAW photograph need some post processing to get things correct. But we should edit pictures to the least possible, we should not overdo anything.

Mr. Pritesh Pokle

The environment, people, atmosphere of certain places and behaviour of people & other living things should not be distributed at any cost. Things happen naturally are more energetic and attractive than created.

Mr. Ankur Verma

I am shooting in raw format & processing them in Nikon Capture/ Adobe Lightroom software(s). Is this ethical? I am new to this community and photography, may you please suggest since some articles suggest that digital enhancement/ processing is not the best practice.

Mr. Sandeep Kumar

Ethics to be followed.

Mr. Sandeep Kumar

Good to highlight the photography ethics.