by Jeanne Houpe

A press photographer’s reputation

is often based on his own code of ethics. Although getting the story is the ultimate goal, ethical standards can “make or break” a career.

As a press photographer, it is your duty to document newsworthy happenings – never altering circumstances or interfering with action to enhance your photographs. Your photos should tell a story just as it happened. Meeting the high standards of good press photography requires patience, determination and a strong set of ethics.

Obeying these basic rules can be the difference between success and failure:

  • Arrive early – at least 45 minutes to an hour before the event is scheduled to begin – in order to check in, find the press area, check out the stage or facility lay-out and choose a vantage point.
  • Never show up for an event unprepared. Not only should you have all the proper equipment, you should have a basic knowledge and understanding of the event. Do your homework!
  • Try to work with promoters and authorized officials rather than against them.
  • Conduct yourself in a professional manner at all times. Photographers who complain or cause problems aren’t likely to be admitted again.
  • Don’t just start shooting. Take time to think about what you’re covering.
  • Stay within the boundaries of the photographers’ area. Never interfere with the action, criticize a player or performer or interrupt an authorized official.
  • Have patience. Resist the urge to inconvenience other photographers by changing spots. Your opportunity will come.
  • Although it can be necessary to fight for a good position, always be courteous. You’ll find other photographers are usually willing to share their space – if you offer them the same courtesy. Try your best to get along with other members of the press.
  • Always live up to your obligations to promoters and publications.
  • If you agree not to sell the photos commercially, do not break this agreement.
  • Always clean up after yourself – film wrappers, etc.
  • Never photograph anyone in a compromising situation (backstage, locker rooms, etc.) unless it’s a public figure in a public place which qualifies for news. Don’t abuse the privileges you have been granted.
  • Remember you are a photographer not a spectator.

Breaking News:

The nature of breaking news makes preparation impossible. However, when you arrive on the scene with your camera, you are a press photographer – expected to live up to the same ethical standards you have learned to display at scheduled media events. With a little practice and common sense, high ethical standards should come as naturally as pressing the shutter.

Author: lordnelga

Freelance press photographer, photojournalist, investigative journalist.

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