Ethics of Wildlife and Nature Photography July 14, 2007
People love to take pictures of animals! And people love to look at pictures of animals. Both these are reasons why this website exists.
But for those who take photographs of animals, it’s not just a matter of clicking the shutter and happily showing everyone the picture. Whenever someone takes a photograph of an animal it affects the animal in some way. The ethical photographer always considers this impact while he or she is taking the picture.
Most photographers are conscientious and respect the animal that they are photographing. In these cases, the interaction is passive; the photographer takes the picture, quietly withdraws and that’s that.
The pressure to get a good picture can cause the photographer to forget or, worse, to deliberately choose to ignore ethical photography guidelines. The most egregious example is when the photographer kills the animal, such as a butterfly or beetle, then poses it in a position to try and pass it off as a photo of a live creature.
A less serious practice is when the photographer physically traps the animal to hold it in a certain pose or to place it in fake surroundings. Is this practice ethical? In rare circumstances, the procedure may be justified if there is a strong case for the educational value of the photograph and if an expert animal handler is supervising the photographer (unless the photographer is an expert).
For example, insects are quite difficult to photograph as they are small and move quickly. Some photographers will capture the specimen and place it in a refrigerator or cold box and then pose the animal which is rendered sluggish by the low temperature. Alernatively, the photographer may use a carbon dioxide source to knock out the bug which will rest on any surface as it is recovering. The insect is unlikely to suffer permanent harm if these procedures are carried out carefully but in most instances, ethics dictate the preferable alternative: to photograph the animal behaving normally in its natural surroundings.
People have been known to throw food to attract animals closer or to cut away vegetation that was in the way of their subject. What’s the point? If in the end, you don’t get the perfect picture, surely it is more rewarding to treasure sharing that moment with a truly wild animal and the experience of intimacy with nature.
It is best to be quiet and gentle when taking photographs of wild animals. Careful observation and patience, plus a good understanding of the animal’s behavior and habitat will yield much better photos than barging in and trying all manner of things to attract the animal’s attention or to get it to move to a more convenient location.
Photos featured in this website
Where possible, all photographs of animals in Jungle Photos are photographed in natural situations. None of the animals nor their surroundings in wild settings were harmed or manipulated to create a better picture. Most of the insect and amphibian photos are of wild animals in their natural habitat.
Due to the difficulty of photographing birds, mammals and reptiles in the wild, many of these photos are of captive animals under controlled situations, such as in zoos or gardens. Most photographs of fish are of specimens caught by fishermen.
The decision to include these photos was weighed against not including them and therefore having to omit the relevant educational information. Future updates to the website will include more detail about the status of the animal when the photo was taken. Please contact Jungle Photos if you have questions or concerns about the animals depicted on the website.
North American Nature Photography Association
Ethical Wildlife Photography
Ethics in nature photography
Code of ethics for wildlife photography
Nature Photographers Ethics Resource Page
Ethics & Etiquette for Wildlife Watching and Photography
Flickr photography ethics group
Photography and The Law: Know Your Rights
"Ethics is not definable, is not implementable, because it is not conscious; it involves not only our thinking, but also our feeling."
— Valdemar W. Setzer