Portraying an experience, a person, or a community using images can be extremely powerful. We previously talked about the power of images and the way stories can inform, change or influence perspectives, or with that very same power, mislead and cause harm to a person or a community.
When photographing your story, please keep the following things in mind so that we can do our best to avoid unintentionally causing harm to ourselves and community members.
- Be respectful: When photographing other people or their property, be courteous and ask for permission before doing so. Respect their decision should they decline to be photographed. Portray your subjects as accurately as possible, afforded with utmost respect and dignity.
- Do not trespass into private property and follow laws, rules, and regulations in public areas such as parks and streets.
- Secure written consent from your subjects or anyone who can be identified in your photographs. These consent forms will be distributed by the research coordinators. You may need to secure written consent from parents or legal guardians should your photos include minors.
- Be mindful of identifiable details within your frame, or details that you or people you photographed may not want included. Other than a face, a person can be identified through photographs of their clothing, private property, and identification cards, among others. Before submitting photos to this research, it is highly advisable to check with your subjects if there is anything in the frame that they may not want revealed.
- Staging scenes can be okay at times. Many family portraits are posed and staged. However, do not claim that a scene is “candid” when it is not.
Editing, Captioning and Presenting
- Submit only photos that you took: Claiming someone else’s work as yours, or failing to give proper credit to another photographer’s work is very likely to be in violation of local or national copyright laws.
- When editing, avoid adding or removing elements in the photograph. This practice is considered unethical in many disciplines of documentary photography. Cropping to improve the composition of a photograph is largely okay, but always evaluate context changes when doing so. (Read: Photo cropping mistake leads to AP soul-searching on race)
- When writing your narrative or caption, be conscious that you are writing from YOUR perspective. Do not assume someone else’s thoughts, feelings or opinion on a subject as fact, unless it is explicitly stated by that person. For example, avoid writing “Maria thinks that I should help out with the household chores more” if this is an assumption on your part.
If you are unsure what is okay and not okay, please do not hesitate to discuss with the research coordinators and your fellow co-researchers.