Nature Photography: Objectivity, Manipulation, and Ethics

Nature Photography: Objectivity, Manipulation, and Ethics

From stitching together images to baiting wildlife subjects, what's acceptable when it comes to nature photography?

By The Editors
Published: 01/30/2014
Magazine Category

Comments

When I share my photographs,

When I share my photographs, a friend often asks, "Did you set up that shot?" Although on one level, I recognize that is a form of compliment, I usually take offense, because I pride myself in taking photographs of what I find, what the camera sees, not what I stage. On rare occasions when I might deliberately set up a shot, I make sure I acknowledge that manipulation. The bottom line is that I can see when a manipulated image is valid, but in those cases truth via disclosure is the way to go.

Baiting for birds is almost

Baiting for birds is almost necessary. How else can you know where to be or catch that dramatic shot. It just should be in the disclosure. Is baiting an owl that much different than going to one of the Whooping Crane Reserves and taking pics of the cranes flying off in the dawn or dancing?

Also, by abiding by the rules, it gives all photographers an almost level playing field.

I agree that photographers

I agree that photographers must follow the rules of any contest or exhibit. However I think that cloning out minor distracting elements in a photo or compositing such as in the DQ'd image should be allowed. Placing the bird or animal in a totally different background of course would not be acceptable.

The most important criterion

The most important criterion of ethical nature photography is that no animals be harmed (which is why using food-animals as bait raises a red flag, as well as purchasing an animal who is then posed). The second most important is that the photo should never purport to be something other than what it really is: there must be a full explanation of the circumstances of the shot. As for digital manipulation for aesthetic purposes, that is justifiable, but then the photo is not a nature photo.

Most of all this

Most of all this info/pictures go against NATURE'S GRAIN ! Not contemporary nor artistic, just plain CHEATING

Your poll mixes questions of

Your poll mixes questions of ethics with questions of following rules. Whether an image conforms with the rules of any specified contest or activity is a conceptually simple question. How well the rules are written can compromise or support that simplicity. In the case of the grand prize competition, the rules were broken. To my judgment this degree of manipulation is not a matter of ethics.

Ethical behavior embraces a broad array of generally accepted practices and avoided circumstances; the subjectivity of it makes for a tougher compliance call at the edges. Clearly, harming a subject is unethical. Clearly, not disclosing artifacts of setting, subjects, or behavior is not ethical. With disclosure, the viewer can make his own judgments against his own standards. At some point, not disclosing manipulation of the imagery is not ethical. Thats an illusive point to define, as your grand prize competition attests.

Photographing a bird in a mist net raises no ethical questions unless doing so in some way risks or harms the bird.

Truth may be the best way for

Truth may be the best way for the purist nature photographer, but education of the public with dramatic, staged shots about the plight of a species should not be scorned. Nature needs all the assistance it can get and if staged shots will help with conservation efforts, public awareness, etc, then it should be allowed (with proper disclosures and ethical constraints.)

Truth may be the best way for

Truth may be the best way for the purist nature photographer, but education of the public with dramatic, staged shots about the plight of a species should not be scorned. Nature needs all the assistance it can get and if staged shots will help with conservation efforts, public awareness, etc, then it should be allowed (with proper disclosures and ethical constraints.)

As long as the photographer

As long as the photographer is honest about his image, I have no trouble with it. It is when he lies or implies an untruth that it becomes a problem.

Contest rules need to be

Contest rules need to be clearly stated and then followed. The question of baiting is quite difficult. Exactly what qualifies as baiting? A dead mouse to draw in a Barred Owl is obvious, but then is a feeder to draw in hummingbirds also baiting? I think baiting has to be acceptable as long as it is clearly stated. Game farm animals should never be acceptable in a Nature competition. Only truly wild animals should be acceptable.

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