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

The photo of the bird's body

The photo of the bird's body with the pug's head is clearly not a nature photo. There is little of nature in it but it's fun and imaginative and, for a second or two, astonishing. Like the famous photo of the rabbit with antlers. It's fun making photos like those so call them whatever you want. Except for nature photos. I don't object to photos that have things added or removed to enhance 'natural' images or to reveal things about a bird, say, that are blocked by an intervening branch. I am not rigid about the "ethics" of what is right or wrong about 'nature' photography. I do think that things that are changed from the original photo should be acknowledged. No apology needed.

I think that the category

I think that the category "nature photography" is misleading in and of itself. Artists often manipulate imagery to achieve their desired ends. Also, trying to discern if these photos are ethical or not is also an empty gesture. What we really should be examining is our relationship with animals, wild and domestic. Most of our behavior in relation to animals is unethical, from the way we raise (meaning enslave, torture, and murder) food animals to our wanton destruction of habitat and hunting for sport (read as killing for fun). Rather than questioning the ethics of photographing a mist-net caught bird, let's discuss the ethics of using a mist net.

rules make it better for the

rules make it better for the amateur

I've read that the Ansel

I've read that the Ansel Adams photo was very hurried in fading light. True or false?

I think a new category needs

I think a new category needs to be added. How about Nature-Art Photography? It would be assumed (and encouraged) that the image has been enhanced beyond just lighting and color adjustments. I think a new category needs to be added. How about Nature-Art Photography? It would be assumed (and encouraged) that the image has been enhanced beyond just lighting and color adjustments. This would allow those who want to go beyond just a photograph to be able to express themselves, get recognition for their efforts, and compete in contest against like-minded individuals.

State the rules simply, be

State the rules simply, be specific, and comply with them.

Is digital sharpening

Is digital sharpening acceptable?

Nature Photography can have

Nature Photography can have multiple purposes. If documentary, Nothing should be added or removed from the image. Image can be sharpened, nose removed (noise was not there in nature, but is an artifact of the camera), and minor adjustments for color correction if caused by the camera/lens. If captured subject it should be noted )many scientific photos of hard to capture subjects such as insects are captured, photographed in studio and released. If taken as photographic art and manipulated it should be noted and not eligible for nature photographic contests.

Very interesting fine lines

Very interesting fine lines being drawn here. The two main points should be disclosure when any alteration is done or staged, and purposeful representation of 'nature'. Art is a different realm and very legitimate. How the images are represented are determined by their ultimate purpose: art or nature/science. Both are valid parameters, but each needs to be fully disclosed so as not to be misrepresentational in use.

There is definitely a

There is definitely a difference between art and authentic nature. Authentic nature should be just that, authentic, no alterations. Ansel Adams' was altered for art. Gahan and Wolfe's photos were altered for the art of a cover. However, when the photos become embedded with scientific text inside, for example National Geographic, then the photos should be authentic.I'm sure they are altered for light etc.for articles, but they should be showing for example natural numbers of species, natural habitats, and distance between subjects. I believe that's what readers expect. Photos that show animals in captivity should state that. I agree that Studebaker's owl should have been disqualified. He tried to show a posture of the bird that he either did not capture or captured without his idealize background. Audubon should continue to be specific about authenticity. I commend Studebaker for his wonderful photo and for acknowledging the editing. And to Mr. Deutsch for being in the right place at the right time which is what makes nature photography so amazing.

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