Collaborations in the UK, Africa, Asia and Europe

Photographing People


The ethics of photographing people is a wide ranging debate that Gail (founder of Responsible Photography) is very mindful of - much of her professional work involves working with, and photographing people, from a variety of backgrounds.  Some of the viewpoints heard from people whilst working and travelling have made Gail question the ethics of people photography.   Alongside the explosion of digital and mobile 'phone photography, the way images  are used, shared and infringed on the internet has also impacted the way many people use, and think about, images. 

There are lots of opportunities for 'people photography' - such as family events or street photography at home but often when travelling, it is the people that we are most interested in photographing. However, just because we are away from home or somewhere different, it doesn't automatically convey the right to photograph people indiscriminately!   Often the people you meet when travelling  result in the most memorable situations and photographs, but sometimes there may be culturally sensitive issues to think about before reaching for the camera.

Sadly in this day and age, child prostitution, child trafficking and other crimes against children are facilitated via the internet, and photography can play an unwitting and innocent role. Something else to think about is the fact that there are still  lots of people in the world who do not have clean water or enough to eat, let alone access to mobile telephones, the internet and printed media - so they will have no idea where their photograph may end up or how it may be used. Whether a professional photographer taking photographs to raise awareness of a story or someone taking photographs for pleasure,  photography is no longer straight forward and perhaps it is time to stop and think a little before 'clicking' away. 


Here are just a few pointers to think about when photographing 'people', which can easily be overlooked in the excitement of taking that  'all important shot'. 

  • Be respectful when taking photographs - be aware of cultural sensitivities and social customs..

  • Make sure that people you photograph, whether at home or on holiday, want to be photographed, by talking to them and getting their permission. 

  • If people ask to be paid, then the usual advice is to decline and not take the photograph. However, this is an individual decision and in some places people now genuinely make a living through having their photograph taken. They may have a set price or in some situations you may have to negotiate - remember the local exchange rate or cost of living rather than western rates, so that you don't over pay or set a precedent. 

  • NEVER pay children or ask children to pose for a photograph for money, or pens/sweets - this is wrong. Not only could this encourage children to ask other travelers/tourists for recompense/gifts, but worse still, it could encourage them to leave school.  Please don't encourage children to ask for money, gifts or items.

  • Do you  ask a parent's permission before photographing a child or children, be it at home or on holiday? 

  • What do you do with the photographs when you get home? Do you leave them on a card or your computer, or do you put your favourites in an album or print a book, or do you post them on a social media service? 

  • If you use social media such as facebook, twitter, instagram, pinterest, whatsapp, blogs etc etc, PLEASE read the terms and conditions carefully, copyright your photographs and think carefully before sharing a photograph of a person who has trusted you with their image.

  • Do you enter photography competitions? And if so, do you check carefully the terms and conditions.
    Try not to compromise either your own rights or the rights of someone you have photographed.

  • Do you remember to give or send copies of  photographs to those whom you have promised to do so?

©Gail Ward

All images and text on Responsible Photography website is  copyright. All Rights Reserved. All Moral Rights Reserved. No images, text or information on this web site may be copied, reproduced, transmitted or stored in any form or by any means without the prior written consent of Gail Ward of Responsible Photography. This includes print or electronic copying to any media or any websites or digital storage or use in any country. Some images, text and information is the copyright of third parties.Touts les images sur ce site m'appartiennent ,tous droits reserve qui peuvents etres achetes. Aucune image  ni renseignement sur ce site internet ne peut etre reproduit, transmi ni garde dans n'importe quelle sans accord ecrit de Gail Ward. Website ©Gail Ward and Responsible Photography partners  2002-18