Photo Attorney

Nov 1, 2006

The Ethical Photographer

Photographers often are asked to photograph sensitive subjects and photo retouchers frequently are expected to alter reality. While these activities may not be legally prohibited, should ethics mandate certain responses?

While the law represents some ethical principals, law and ethics are not interrelated. Many acts that may be deemed unethical are not illegal and many unlawful acts may not be immoral. Consider these recent instances where law and ethics affected photography.

(1) Photographers shot the Amish despite their beliefs that prevent them from having their picture taken.
(2) A photographer was accused of manipulating a photo of a little girl to give her cleavage.
(3) Russian airport police seized politically provocative photographs.
(4) A retoucher altered the picture of a model's body to unrealistic proportions.
(5) A photographer allegedly manipulated a photo of Beirut.

Many professions have adopted ethical codes. Lawyers have Model Rules of Professional Conduct. Doctors have the Principles of Medical Ethics. The National Association of Realtors has a Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice.

What about photographers? Areas of photography are so diverse that one set of ethics can not apply to all. For example, the National Press Photographers Association's Code of Ethics can't fit the needs of nature or fashion photographers. The North American Nature Photography Association's "Principles of Ethical Field Practices" doesn't address all ethical concerns for nature photographers and certainly won't relate to product photographers.

Perhaps each professional photography associations should develop an applicable code of ethics for its industry. In the meantime, each photographer can include ethics in the equation when calculating shutter speed and aperture.

Take my advice; get professional help.
PhotoAttorney®

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