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  • Writer's pictureJade Baird

Ethics and Conservation Photography

Salmon swimming in a stream.

Photo by Fernando Lessa

As humans, we need to be conscientious of the impact we leave. Conservation photography is a prime example of this—we’re stepping into our subject’s home, and we have to respectfully minimize our impact with every footprint.

Any ethical organization that utilizes conservation photography will have a code of ethics that is easily accessible to the public. Here’s a breakdown of ours.

Our Subjects Come First

In essence, this is about passively witnessing the wildlife without interfering in their lives. As conservation photographers, disturbing our subjects is the last thing we want to do. So what does this look like? This means we don’t manipulate our subjects with inappropriate tactics. No baiting, no attractive recordings, no pursuing agitated animals.

When in the field, photographers need to be alert to the effect that their presence has on the subjects. Maintaining a respectful distance at all times is mandatory. Spending less than 1-2 hours with our subjects is ideal, as it can be challenging to discern how our presence impacts the animals, even when they seem calm. This is notably most important around breeding animals, especially around dens and nests. In addition, we're wary of disturbing nocturnal animals during the day, and we try to avoid using flashes at night, as sudden bursts of light could disorient nocturnal subjects.

Bottomline: minimize our impact, and don’t disturb the animals. That’s how conservation photographers put their subjects first.

Leaving As Little A Footprint As Possible

Stepping into the wilderness with a well prepared plan and equipment can help you lessen your impact. Research the ecosystem and wildlife you plan to photograph, so you can make educated decisions when in the field, and utilize those large camera lenses.

Abide by the seven “leave no trace” principles, which include thoughtful recommendations such as plan ahead, leave what you find, dispose of waste properly, and be considerate of humans and wildlife alike.

Don’t damage vegetation to obtain your photograph, and be mindful of fragile plants. Ask yourself: what endangered plants are in the area, and how can I make sure I don’t damage them? Stay on trails to avoid trampling vegetation, spreading invasive species, and causing erosion.

And of course, don’t litter!

Respecting Others

You want to treat clients, coworkers, and members of the public with respect and professionalism. Keep your voices low when in the field, as to not disturb wildlife and others, and be mindful of the noise you make at all times, such as closing car doors, talking on the phone, etc.

In addition, it’s vital for photographers to recognize when they’re on Indigenous land, and to respectfully abide by all relevant protocols, restrictions, and laws.

We respect your feedback, as well. If you ever feel like our content does not align with the ethical ground rules we’ve laid out here, please tell us.

Post-Processing Images & Disseminating Written Information

This point is about transparency. When it comes to post-processing images, our photographer’s will not manipulate an image to a point where it no longer truthfully reflects the scene or subject as it was first observed. A noteworthy level of digital manipulation should always be disclosed by photographers.

Additionally, research and education are cornerstones of who we are. When it comes to our captions on social media and other written materials, we ensure our information is truthful and accurate. Everything we publish is carefully fact-checked for accuracy from reliable sources.

You can trust that the CCPC will never deceive our audience, and we will always prioritize education and transparency.

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