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Thread: Nature Photography Ethics

  1. #1

    Default Nature Photography Ethics

    The following information on nature photography ethics has been compiled from naturephotographersnet and is meant to serve as a guide for the nature photographer.


    Every place, plant, and animal, whether above or below water, is unique, and cumulative impacts occur over time. Therefore, one must always exercise good individual judgment. These principles will encourage all who participate in the enjoyment of nature to do so in a way that best promotes good stewardship of the resource.

    Environmental: knowledge of subject and place

    Learn patterns of animal behavior--know when not to interfere with animals' life cycles.
    Respect the routine needs of animals--remember that others will attempt to photograph them, too.
    Use appropriate lenses to photograph wild animals--if an animal shows stress, move back and use a longer lens.
    Acquaint yourself with the fragility of the ecosystem--stay on trails that are intended to lessen impact.
    Social: knowledge of rules and laws

    When appropriate, inform managers or other authorities of your presence and purpose--help minimize cumulative impacts and maintain safety.
    Learn the rules and laws of the location--if minimum distances exist for approaching wildlife, follow them.
    In the absence of management authority, use good judgement--treat the wildlife, plants and places as if you were their guest.
    Prepare yourself and your equipment for unexpected events--avoid exposing yourself and others to preventable mishaps.
    Individual: expertise and responsibilities

    Treat others courteously--ask before joining others already shooting in an area.
    Tactfully inform others if you observe them engaging in inappropriate or harmful behavior--many people unknowingly endanger themselves and animals.
    Report inappropriate behavior to proper authorities--don't argue with those who don't care; report them.
    Be a good role model, both as a photographer and a citizen--educate others by your actions; enhance their understanding.


    American Birding Association

    Everyone who enjoys birds and birding must always respect wildlife, its environment, and the rights of others. In any conflict of interest between birds and birders, the welfare of the birds and their environment comes first.


    1. Promote the welfare of birds and their environment.

    1(a) Support the protection of important bird habitat.

    1(b) To avoid stressing birds or exposing them to danger, exercise restraint and caution during observation, photography, sound recording, or filming.

    Limit the use of recordings and other methods of attracting birds, and never use such methods in heavily birded areas, or for attracting any species that is Threatened, Endangered, or of Special Concern, or is rare in your local area;

    Keep well back from nests and nesting colonies, roosts, display areas, and important feeding sites. In such sensitive areas, if there is a need for extended observation, photography, filming, or recording, try to use a blind or hide, and take advantage of natural cover.

    Use artificial light sparingly for filming or photography, especially for close-ups.

    1(c) Before advertising the presence of a rare bird, evaluate the potential for disturbance to the bird, its surroundings, and other people in the area, and proceed only if access can be controlled, disturbance minimized, and permission has been obtained from private land-owners. The sites of rare nesting birds should be divulged only to the proper conservation authorities.

    1(d) Stay on roads, trails, and paths where they exist; otherwise keep habitat disturbance to a minimum.

    2. Respect the law, and the rights of others.

    2(a) Do not enter private property without the owner's explicit permission.

    2(b) Follow all laws, rules, and regulations governing use of roads and public areas, both at home and abroad.

    2(c) Practice common courtesy in contacts with other people. Your exemplary behavior will generate goodwill with birders and non- birders alike.

    3. Ensure that feeders, nest structures, and other artificial bird environments are safe.

    3(a) Keep dispensers, water, and food clean, and free of decay or disease. It is important to feed birds continually during harsh weather.

    3(b) Maintain and clean nest structures regularly.

    3(c) If you are attracting birds to an area, ensure the birds are not exposed to predation from cats and other domestic animals, or dangers posed by artificial hazards.

    4. Group birding, whether organized or impromptu, requires special care.

    Each individual in the group, in addition to the obligations spelled out in Items #1 and #2, has responsibilities as a Group Member.

    4(a) Respect the interests, rights, and skills of fellow birders, as well as people participating in other legitimate outdoor activities. Freely share your knowledge and experience, except where code 1(c) applies. Be especially helpful to beginning birders.

    4(b) If you witness unethical birding behavior, assess the situation, and intervene if you think it prudent. When interceding, inform the person(s) of the inappropriate action, and attempt, within reason, to have it stopped. If the behavior continues, document it, and notify appropriate individuals or organizations.

    Group Leader Responsibilities [amateur and professional trips and tours].

    4(d) Be an exemplary ethical role model for the group. Teach through word and example.

    4(e) Keep groups to a size that limits impact on the environment, and does not interfere with others using the same area.

    4(f) Ensure everyone in the group knows of and practices this code.

    4(g) Learn and inform the group of any special circumstances applicable to the areas being visited (eg., no tape recorders allowed).

    4(h) Acknowledge that professional tour companies bear a special responsibility to place the welfare of birds and the benefits of public knowledge ahead of the company's commercial interests. Ideally, leaders should keep track of tour sightings, document unusual occurrences, and submit records to appropriate organizations.
    Last edited by Rajan Kanagasabai; 29-06-2009 at 08:31 AM.

  2. #2


    Thanks for posting this Rajan. Indian photographers in general are far behind when it comes to field ethics. Hope this will help change that.


  3. #3
    Join Date
    New Delhi


    Thanks for posting a compilation of best practices. In India wildlife photographers are most of the times least concerned about the welfare of the subject.

    Most of the birders and bird photographers play bird sound recordings to get the bird out in the open. At times a few fellows destroy nests of rare birds, so that others can't photograph it.

    A few others photograph captive animals and try to pass it on as wild. You find these all the time in the popular photosharing sites. Since it is done by established photographers I guess it is due to the pressure to show something new all the time.

    The best photographs are taken when the animal is relaxed. Only then one can see and photograph natural behaviour. Our wildlife photographers need to understand that. The more time spent with the subject, the more is the chances of good photographs.


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