Ethical guidelines

These guidelines have been adapted from existing ethical guidelines for photojournalists and photographers working in the field of development (with thanks to CONCORD, Demotix, Media Helping Media, and the BBC). Contributing photographers are asked to abide by them. We will also use them when we are approving images to upload to the site.

  • Images should be based on respect for the dignity of people, belief in the equality of all people, and acceptance of the need to promote equality, fairness and justice. Photographers should respect cultural sensitivities, including with respect to local norms and cultures about taking photographs.
  • It is crucial to respect people’s privacy, especially the privacy of those who are the most vulnerable. Images should be based on the understanding, participation and permission of the people being photographed wherever possible. People should understand how and where images of them are going to be used, and the fact that online images could be searchable forever. Even though signed model releases are not legally required for editorial photography, written or at least verbal consent should be sought wherever possible.
  • Photographers should never expose someone to risk, ridicule or humiliation; people have to live with the fallout the photograph will bring. Neither should photographers expose a subject to danger in order to get or improve the shot. It is important to conform to the highest standards with respect to human rights and the protection of vulnerable people.
  • It is not desirable to simply go for shocking, sad and emotionally charged images; to do so may be exploiting victims and failing to uncover the causes of their distress. Photographers should avoid stereotyping, sensationalising or discriminating against people, situations or places. It is important to represent any situation truthfully, both in its immediate and wider context, and to try and convey the underlying causes of what is being portrayed.
  • Photographers should keep an accurate record of all that they shoot, including time, date, location, circumstances and details of all the parties involved. They don’t need to have the whole story behind what they see, but they do need to be totally open, honest and transparent about what they know and do not know. Any research underpinning images should be thorough and checked with independent sources wherever possible. Photographers should also be aware that there are those who will want to set up an event for their own purposes, and be wary if they are offered a seemingly amazing photo opportunity.
  • Editorial images should never be stage-managed to hype up a story; and images should not be cropped or edited beyond what is technically necessary to display them. Powerful images can inform public debate and shine a light on wrongdoing and abuse, but it is still critical to be as objective and honest as possible at all times.