ETHICS FOR THE PRESS PHOTOGRAPHER
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.
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.