When I’m photographing wildlife I’m trying to document wild behaviour, something that occurred naturally. I’m not trying to create something that was fake and contrived.
You can’t get privileged views of wildlife and their behaviour unless you are either unnoticed or ignored. Make the subject completely at ease should be your aim, they shouldn’t know you are there if possible.
Think your a witness, a spectator and that should reflect in your images. I try very hard to respect the wildlife I’m watching. It’s simple to do once you start to think differently and with the subjects welfare first and foremost.
The rewards for this approach are priceless encounters that will teach you such a lot about wildlife and your own photography. Work with what nature gives to you, compose your images naturally and as seen, and develop your own style each time you enter the natural world.
If you place out bait or feed wildlife in order to get your images then be honest with the public. If you’ve changed anything in order to get your photos then again just be open and honest with those that view and comment on your work.
If you visit places where they place out feed so wildlife comes to a specific spot. For example like Red Deer do in a few places in the Cairngorms, Scotland then be honest in your description. But ask yourself was it necessary to do all of that in order to just get your images?
If you then use those images to win awards but aren’t honest with the story behind them then this shouldn’t be allowed because you cheated, by faking that encounter. Many photographers sadly gain praise and awards from such images that they then use as an unconscious bias and message to make out they are better that others.
Things are changing, with many photography agencies, photography competitions now asking for more information about the image and the story behind it. Sadly many photography competitions aren’t and are employing as judges the very people that participate in these unethical practises, who are then asked to judge other photographers work.
All forms of live baiting should be banned; Diving Kingfishers etc. Those that facilitate such practices should be prosecuted under the current countryside act that is in place to protect all wildlife.
The public are also becoming aware of the fakery in so many of the images of the natural world that now saturate social media, all looking for likes, comments and praise.
Integrity and transparency are so important in an industry that is losing its skill base while photographers are exhaustively chasing that “award winning” title at any cost.
On the homepage of my website I have my own ethics statement of purpose to how I work as a professional wildlife photographer. For over ten years I’ve tried to highlight these issues and show a better, more ethical way of working.
Wildlife first, photograph second, before any self advancement by photographers that use wildlife simply as a commodity.