Recent reports in the news regarding the abuse of nature for the sake of a photograph have brought the question of photography ethics to light. Are you being ethical in your photography of wildlife?
Let's talk ethics...
When your profession is photography, there are certain ethics that you are expected to uphold such as those set out by the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA). There are several standards to adhere to but the most prevalent one for wildlife photography is this: ‘Treat all subjects with respect and dignity. Give special consideration to vulnerable subjects…’
However, even if you take photographs in your spare time, you should still adhere to ethics that ensure the nature scene you are trying to capture remains unspoiled. It is also very important to ensure the safety of your subjects, especially if they are vulnerable animals.
A dangerous trend
In February of this year, the world was horrified by images (and a video) of a man taking a dolphin from the sea and then passing the creature around a group of tourists who took selfies with it until it died. Further reports claim that the dolphin had been washed up on the beach and was already dead before being taken from the water. This story was so shocking because, seemingly, the price to be paid for a selfie was the life of a mammal.
Just a couple of weeks later, there were reports of a woman who pulled a swan from the water by its wing to take a photograph with it and then left it to die. Regardless of whether this is a true story, the images do show a woman grabbing a swan by the wing while trying taking a photo with it. No photography ethics are being upheld and, again, an animal has to suffer so that the photographer can get the shot they want.
Capturing nature at its finest
To truly capture an image of nature, you have to let it run its course. There can be no staging, coaxing or manipulation of the setting. To observe nature at its finest, you need to have an abundance of patience and an ability to either be completely unseen by your subject or make it so that they are comfortable enough with you that they will ignore you. Check out our post on observation and its importance in photography.
Whether your subject is a tropical fish or a grizzly bear, knowing that you’ve been able to capture something so beautiful without harm or disruption of habitat will be worth the extra care and patience taken. Plus, you can produce beautiful customised canvas prints knowing that there was no cost to nature. That’s definitely something you can have pride in when looking at your work hanging on the wall.