Photography has come a long way since 1826, which is when the earliest surviving camera photograph is believed to have been captured. Taking a photo nowadays is one of the easiest and most common things to do. Smartphones have made it possible for practically anyone to take a snap of literally anything, but that doesn’t mean we should. Have you considered the ethics behind the shots you capture?
If a doubt has ever crossed your mind whether or not to photograph a person, animal or place, then you’re thinking in the right direction. In different countries, different people have diverse reactions to photography, based on personal belief, culture or religion. This is why certain ethics must be considered before you decide to snap a pic. We will break down the series of factors that contribute to ethical photography, which ultimately all point to the same element: Respect.
Travel photography ethics are especially important, because the images captured are usually widely exhibited and can have a very diverse audience. Let’s talk about your tour business website. We all know the saying “a picture is worth a thousand words”, but do those words always ring true?
As a travel operator looking to create a new website, your main goal is probably to entice visitors to click the “Book Now” button. You’ll be thinking about the awe-inspiring photos you’d like to incorporate to provoke interest in your tours and services, but the first thing you should ask yourself is, “do these photos convey the reality of what I’m selling?”. This might seem like an obvious question, but think of all the times you have purchased a product online based on the image you saw of it, only to find that it was not at all what you expected.
By conveying truth in the photos you use for your travel business you can manage guest expectations. What happens if you use a photo of an elephant to promote your safari tour that only focuses on observing lions? As there were no elephants to be seen your guests will be disappointed and this could affect your business reviews and reputation. Use photography to tell the truth about your product, and exhibit what it is you are selling in the same way your clients will see it when physically on the tour, no more and no less. Furthermore, Google will reward you for originality too.
Quick TourismTiger tip: Strive to use photos showing your tour guests (with their consent) having a blast on the tour, these will serve as instant visual testimonials for the tours and services you offer.
At TourismTiger we are dedicated to creating effective, accessible and SEO-friendly websites for tourism businesses. Whether you have a current website that needs updating and improving, or are a new business looking for an awesome and efficient platform to offer your tours, get in touch with us today for a free, no-obligation quotation.
Unwritten Ethics of Travel Photography
Tour operators are often the bridge between avid travellers and new worlds. When taking on a new group of travellers on your tour, you have the opportunity to educate them about the people and culture of the place you’re visiting. How does ethical photography come into this? Here’s how: In some parts of the world, snapping photos of absolutely anything is considered taboo. As a tour operator, especially if you are a guide, it is your responsibility to encourage your tour guests to be respectful when taking photographs. With this in mind, we’ve taken a look at some practices that equate to ethical photography.
Research and learn the laws: When going to countries or even cities that we are otherwise unfamiliar with, we should prepare by investigating what is allowed and what isn’t. In some countries you might even be committing a criminal offence by taking a photo, so prepare yourself by learning about the culture, people and places you are seeking to visit; and what you may or may not photograph. In many countries around the world, photography is banned in places of worship, such as churches and temples, as it is believed to diminish the sacred and intimate atmosphere.
Aside from architectural photography restrictions, in some countries it is also considered offensive to photograph people, which brings us to our next travel photography ethic:
Permission and consent: Popularly, tourists take snaps of anything and anyone that seems interesting and unfamiliar to them, but when you think about it, would you enjoy someone pointing their camera at you on a daily basis? Probably not. So when we’re in a situation where taking a photo would be convenient for us, ask yourself if it is a convenient situation for the subject of the photo. Are they comfortable with this? Or are we being invasive? When in doubt, ask for permission. You can sometimes tell by a person’s body language if they are willing to be photographed or by their reaction to you holding your camera. Nevertheless, a small hand gesture or literally asking the person will make it clear whether you are good to take the shot.
This applies not only to people but also animals. Many times wild animals are forced into uncomfortable situations just so photographers can get their money shots. This is not an ethical practice. Be sure to research the places you visit and learn about the conditions in which the animals are kept, so you can avoid supporting tourism companies that try to attract other travel businesses and tourists by unethically submitting wild animals into situations that could be cruel for them.
Privacy and confidentiality: When visiting remote parts of the world, we sometimes find ourselves in places where conflict or disaster has struck. The citizens of such places may not feel comfortable with tourists poking their cameras around photographing the disadvantages of that culture. Sometimes we take photos in such places to raise awareness on a global level, as many other people in the world would never know what happens in less developed countries if not for the media.
It is important to show utmost respect and care when photographing sensitive material. We must show consideration and never intrude on private moments such as grieving. When photographing minors or persons in clinical situations we should be extra compassionate and take care to protect the identity and privacy of individuals photographed if they so request.
Give context: To finalise, when sharing our photos, it is important to give extra context to the image. The saying “the picture speaks for itself” is sometimes not accurate. To avoid stereotyping or generalising we must provide context, sometimes even explaining where the photo was taken and with what purpose. This is especially necessary when a photo is exhibited to raise awareness of any cultural or political issues.
It is not only the responsibility of a tour operator to exhibit truthful images of the tour or activity they are selling, but also to educate their tour guests on the ethics of photography during their travels, to show respect and consideration to other countries and cultures.
In keeping with our lecture, the author of the photograph we used for this article is S. Hermann, and we acquired his photo cost free via Pixabay, which is a free stock photography and royalty-free stock media website.
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