Travel Photography Ethics
We all know by now, photos make a trip last a lifetime and in today’s digital age, taking a photo has become very easy. You don’t even need to remember to pack the camera, as most cell phones are now equipped with technology that not only takes a photo, but also allows you to send it to your entire contact list, or upload it onto the internet for the world to see in a matter of seconds. Friends and family can view your photos instantly and share with their friends and family via Facebook and other social media networks. In addition, cameras are tiny, discreet, and easy to hide or sneak in to places that do not allow cameras. Photos and video images provide a great visual understanding and can inspire hope or cause great harm, depending on how they are depicted, or manipulated.
With all this freedom, comes the need for ethical responsibility and being a morally-conscious traveler. Just like we monitor our own lives for accuracy and to depict the best portrayal of ourselves, our trip photos should do the same; portray a true essence of the place we visited. Below are a few guidelines to follow when taking photos:
- Unless you are attending a play, parade, or other type of performance where people expect to be on display, always ask for permission before you take a photo of someone. Locals and native people are not “attractions”, and you should be respectful of their presence. If language is a problem, show them your camera and see how they respond. DO NOT OFFER MONEY to someone in exchange for taking their photo. This can be perceived as a form of prostitution in some cultures. Do not take photos of illegal activities, as this could put your life in danger. Leave thrill-seeking photo journalism to the professionals.
- Some of our tours will include having to go through a security or military check point. Do not take photos of military personnel, soldiers, or police.
- If the sign says “No Photos”, there is usually a good reason. Many sacred places do not allow photos to be taken at all, and some sites have never even been photographed. Photos should never be taken during religious ceremony, as it is both disrespectful and disruptive.
- Flash photography is usually not permitted in museums as it can breakdown the materials in the artwork.