The Ethical Photographer

Railroad track deliberately photographed so it was not all "glowing and pretty".  It is NOT to be used as a location backdrop for photography.  "The Track next to the Church" on a foggy morning from the parking lot that sits next to the tracks. Better to be alive and well - not a tragedy on the tracks. (c) Rebecca LaChance, 2015, Thurmont, MD.

Railroad track deliberately photographed so it was not all "glowing and pretty".  It is NOT to be used as a location backdrop for photography.  "The Track next to the Church" on a foggy morning from the parking lot that sits next to the tracks. Better to be alive and well - not a tragedy on the tracks. (c) Rebecca LaChance, 2015, Thurmont, MD.

The metaphor is so...

You've seen them...the family walking down the tracks with their two toddlers.  The high school seniors sitting pensively on the tracks, looking off into...somewhere. And, the biggest horror of all, the infant or toddler sitting on the tracks with a stuffed animal or family pet! 

That last one warrants more exclamation points!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

We get it...something big in the track of your life is changing. You can't see the future.  But please, the metaphor is so...

  • overused (and inaccurate)
  • outdated
  • illegal
  • and downright dangerous!

Infants, children and wild animals

I bet you saw this photo online...the newborn on a bale of hay with deer in the immediate background. 

Yes, it was a lovely photograph.

Yes, it was "magical".

My first thought was, "oh look, the photographer composited a photo of deer behind the newborn."  No, that's not what happened......

The photographer uses a location where deer are "not afraid of humans".  And when parents (!) ask for the deer/newborn photo, she informs them she can't guarantee the deer will show up. 

The point is...she KNOWS the possibility exists that wild animals "not afraid of humans" may wander into the photograph.

Folks, I have four words for you...Deer. Ticks. Lyme. Disease

Do you really want to expose your precious newborn bundle of joy to that possibility?  Google the effects of Lyme Disease and you'll change your mind in a hurry about how much you really want that deer anywhere near your newborn!

(And can we go off-topic just a wee bit here?  What is so wrong with a simple picture of a newborn, as a newborn, wearing a onesie?  Why does the newborn have to be dressed out as a flower? or hanging in a basket from an "artistically placed" twig? or perched on a hay bale?) 

(What message does it send that we feel the need to decorate these perfect little beings? that we think we have to improve this beautiful little creation with artifacts and doo-dads?)

(The most beautiful and moving newborn photos I have seen are black and white prints of the newborn, as a newborn - not a bumblebee.)

(Just putting the question out there.)

Okay - back on topic...

We're not talking about Bambi... a cute, anthropomorphized cartoon.

We're talking about wild animals.

Wild animals have their own imperatives...which include food, survival, protection of their own newborns.  And, they move at the speed of lightning. That deer doesn't care if your newborn is cute, or the picture is a "once in a lifetime" event.

You CAN NOT predict the behavior of wild animals...especially wild animals that are "not afraid of humans".

Ethics

Straight from the dictionary...

noun eth·ic \ˈe-thik\
      : rules of behavior based on ideas about what is morally good and bad                                
      : an area of study that deals with ideas about what is good and bad behavior

Ouch!  That's harsh!

Let's make it more palatable...

When one gets into the deep study of ethics, you find ethics is really a mode of decision-making.  What are the factors that make a decision "good or bad"?

The one making the decision has to judge and discern what is "good or bad" in the situation.  The decision maker must have a developed structure or guiding principle behind her decision-making.

However, good decisions can only be made when one has all the pertinent information available.

The only way any photographer is going to know if an action is potentially dangerous is by learning...whether it be by the school of hard knocks; or more easily, from a professional who can share pertinent information, knowledge, wisdom and experience.

Indeed, the scenarios listed above may be reasons to bring back the apprenticeship system for professional photographers! 

(Let's just toss that idea out into the social media, shall we?)

Or, perhaps the beginning photographer should be required to engage in a structured study about the art, science, legalities and practicalities of photography before "opening shop".

Personally, I believe that ethics and professionalism go hand-in-hand.  I would like to believe that all professional photographers adhere to an ethical standard of good decision-making.

Hmmm...an ethical standard and professionalism.  What does that look like in real life? 
  1.  A professional photographer will never endanger you or your loved ones.  You REALLY want that photo on a railroad track or with wild animals?  Stand in front of a painted backdrop of a railroad track or wild animals. 
  2.  A professional photographer THINKS about potential consequences and takes responsibility for guiding you through a beautiful, and safe photography session.
  3. A professional photographer EDUCATES the client about their time together; what to expect, what will happen. and what will NOT happen (i.e., no railroad photographs).
  4.  A professional photographer has liability insurance (among other types of insurance).  Aha! When was the last time you asked your photographer about insurance?  Never...am I right?
  5. A professional photographer has a business license, collects and pays sales tax, and other taxes.
  6.  A professional photographer will suggest safe alternatives...and probably more creative ones.

Those are some hallmarks of a professional, ethical, photographer.  There are so many more hallmarks; oh yes, topics for another day.

The point is....

Just because someone has a camera and you pay them does NOT automatically make them a professional, nor an ethical, photographer

Just because someone has a camera and you pay them does not mean they have all the knowledge and skill to guarantee your safety and your comfort.

Don't be upset when your photographer refuses your railroad tracks request. 

Don't be angry when your photographer refuses to let wild animals into your photo shoot.

Say, "Thank you."

And congratulate yourself for choosing an ethical, professional photographer.

Expect the best. Anything else is an adventure.

Rebecca

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