Photographer Ethics



North American Nature Photograph Association (NANPA) believes that following these practices promotes the well-being of the location, subject and photographer. Every place, plant and animal, whether above or below the water, is unique, and cumulative impacts occur over time. Therefore one must always exercise good individual judgment. It is NANPA’s belief that these principles will encourage all who participate in the enjoyment of nature to do so in a way that promotes good stewardship of the resource.

Environmental: Knowledge of Subject and Place

  • Learn patterns of animal behavior – know when not to interfere with animal’s life cycles
  • Understand which wildlife species are most sensitive to disturbance and when they are most sensitive to disturbance (eg., nesting season)*
  • Respect the routine needs of animals – remember that others will attempt to photograph them, too
  • Use appropriate lenses to photograph wild animals – if an animal shows stress, move back and use a longer lens
  • Acquaint yourself with the fragility of the ecosystem – stay on trails that are intended to lessen impact

Social: Knowledge of Rules and Laws

  • When appropriate inform managers or other authorities of your presence and purpose – help minimize cumulative impacts and maintain safety
  • Learn the rules and laws of the location – if minimum distances exist for approaching wildlife, follow them
  • Understand the provisions of the Alberta Wildlife Act, and federal Migratory Bird Convention Act and Species At Risk Act related to the protection of wildlife and their habitats, including nests, dens and hibernaculum
  • Understand the setback and timing criteria for activities in the vicinity of key habitats of sensitive wildlife species in the prairie and parkland region of Alberta 
  • Understand the status of wildlife in Alberta as outlined by the Alberta Endangered Species Conservation Committee, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada  and in the General Status of Alberta Wild Species, the Alberta Wildlife Act and the federal Species At Risk Act.
  • In the absence of management authority, use good judgment – treat the wildlife, plants and places as if you were their guest
  • Prepare yourself and your equipment for unexpected events – avoid exposing yourself and others to preventable mishaps

Individual: Expertise and Responsibilities

  • Treat others courteously – ask before joining others already shooting in an area
  • Tactfully inform others if you observe them engaging in inappropriate or harmful behavior–many people unknowingly endanger themselves and animals
  • Report inappropriate behavior to proper authorities – don’t argue with those who don’t care, report them. Violations of the Alberta Wildlife Act, Migratory Bird Convention Act or Species At Risk Act should be reported immediately to Report A Poacher (1-800-642-3800)
  • Be a good role model, both as a photographer and a citizen – educate others by your actions; enhance their understanding

Adopted February 3, 1996 by NANPA Board of Directors

*Bolded sections added to make the principles more applicable to Alberta and Canada

North American Nature Photography Association

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One thought on “Photographer Ethics

  1. If you see a photographer with his/her camera up too his/her eyes, please pause for a moment.

    Don’t talk on your cell phone when close to a photographer. So far, friends have missed photos of American redstarts, Wilson’s Warblers, etc. because a fellow hiker couldn’t pause for a second or so.

    If you are a photographer or anyone else for that matter, please stay on the trail. Do not pick vegetation surrounding your desired wildflower photo or lie on the vegetation. Don’t trample the other vegetation.

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