Ethics for Nature Photography

This I Believe

We share this earth with all the flora and fauna about us, this life has as much right to exist as we do. My rules are to do no harm; I do not think it trite to say “take only photos; leave only footprints.” My promise is to do nothing that will unduly stress any animal, plant, or ecosystem. I do not cut trees or even their branches to improve a photo; I do not bait, I do not lure; if an animal appears stressed or anxious I will leave.

I would like to tell a story. My husband and I were photographing on the Atnarko River. The salmon were spawning. A Mom grizzly brought her triplets to within four meters of us – it was we who were stressed but she put us at ease with her calm demeanor. I truly hope that my demeanor is equally calm and puts nature at ease.

I love the natural world, I will protect it.

Karen Cooper

While on the subject of ethics in photography I would like to say a few words regarding digital manipulation. Visitors to my gallery have asked about “photoshopping,” “enhancing”, or “manipulating.” Do I do it? The short answer is yes and no.

I shoot in RAW. The average person, an amateur, will shoot in JPEG which automatically applies a generic edit to the photo; I am a professional and wish to control those edits myself through the RAW format. The RAW format does not give a direct realistic image but it does gather far more information – the resulting “edited” image is more true to reality than the simple JPEG. So in general are my images manipulated? No – they are faithful reproductions of what you would see with your own eyes if you were in the field with me at the time of the photo.

I do however also present “enhanced” images and when I do so I make it obvious. For example abstracts of multiple exposures, or the addition of a vignette, or a time lapse exposure of a water fall or Milky Way.

I hope this short essay on ethics is helpful. Please feel free to contact me with questions.