How you can make a difference
Updated: Oct 27, 2021
And help change unethical behaviours by nature photographers
Set out below are some tips for how you can help change the way people take nature photos to lessen impact on our flora and fauna.
As a Non-Photographer who loves nature photos:
be aware of the kinds of things photographers do to get nature images.
don't 'like' or comment on images where you suspect the animal has been stressed or manipulated into a position. Popularity on social media is driven by an algorithm that rewards 'engagement'. Engagement includes likes and comments (positive or negative, they all count). By refraining from liking or commenting, the image will be less popular and the photographer has less incentive to repost similar images. If in doubt, scroll on. See: How to Identify Stressed Birds on Social Media.
don't 'like' or comment on images of baby birds in visible nests.
don't 'like' or comment on images of wild animals that may have been take at game farms. Usually, a photographer of a wild animal, such as a tiger or lynx, will say where and how they took an image. Where a photographer has many great images of wild and elusive animals, up close, and does not disclose how or where he or she obtained the image, this is a good sign that they are using game farms. For more information on wild animal game farms see Melissa Groo's article How to photograph wildife ethically.
if you are really concerned by an image you see on social media, it is best to send a direct message to the photographer or the site administrators setting out your concerns (and feel free to point them in the direction of this website) rather than make a negative comment publicly. The exception might be where there has been a gross breach of ethical standards or the law, eg where a photographer has obviously moved baby birds out of the nest and placed them in a more photogenic position. Social media can be a toxic environment and it's best to avoid public conflict (or defamatory comments) unless you are on solid ground and very thick-skinned. If I suspect or know that a photographer consistently acts unethically, I simply unfollow them.
if you are judging, organising, or involved in, a nature photography competition, club or forum, please make sure that it has specific rules prohibiting unethical conduct: see Winning at what cost?
If you are publishing nature images, ensure that all contributors have obtained images using ethical means.
don't like 'cute' images and videos of rare exotic animals in domestic situations. The animal will often have been obtained illegally. You don't want to do anything that indirectly supports the illegal wildlife trade.
As a Photographer, do all of the above PLUS:
be informed. Read the information available on this website and others referred to under Resources and become informed about the impact of various behaviours.
follow the ethical guidelines for nature and bird photography set out in Bird Photograhy and Other Nature Photography.
encourage others to do the right thing through education.
only take bird photography workshops or tours that openly advocate ethical birding. Any bird tour operator in Australia, in particular, that disturbs nesting birds or uses call playback without a licence is almost certainly acting unlawfully and liable to having their tour licence revoked.
avoid posting images of nesting birds, even if they are cute and taken in a public place. Monkey see. Monkey Do.
be honest about how you took your image and how it was edited.