8 Common Ethical Mistakes in Wildlife Photography
Our planet’s wildlife faces urgent threats from all sides: climate change, deforestation, and animal-human conflict. Today’s wildlife photographers can help advocate for their protection, but they can also cause damage to the environment, intentionally or otherwise.
In recent years, for instance, high-profile photographers have come under fire for chasing giraffes, posing models within feet of wild elephants, working with animal handlers, and staging pictures.
Mistake 1: Wildlife baiting
Snowy owls in Canada are baited with live mice. All ‘wildlife’ in Japan is bated, from the Sandhill cranes to the snow monkey, the swans, owls, and Steller’s Sea Eagles. The brown bears and wolverines in Finland are baited with dog food. The list goes on and on.
Mistake 2: Ill-considered use of flash
Learn as much as you can about the life forms in your viewfinder
A wildlife welfare issue that I’ve become very aware of recently is the ill-considered use of flash on wildlife, especially with nocturnal animals, the conservation and wildlife photojournalist Douglas Gimesy tells us. Depending upon how it’s used and the species, flash can potentially cause negative physical, emotional, and behavioral impacts.
Mistake 3: Geo-tagging everything
This one is less about how you make the images and more about how you share them with the world. In the last couple of years, experts have expressed growing concerns over the consequences of geotagging photos on social media; in 2018, for instance, the Jackson Hole Travel & Tourism Board urged visitors to stop tagging their locations, as “influencers” had flocked to the area in search of the perfect Instagram photo. Remote trails became crowded with an influx of tourists.
Mistake 4: Getting too close
One of the first rules of wildlife photography is keeping your distance. "Something I have noticed in wildlife photography is more people becoming interested in general, which is great, but it can stress the wildlife if people are too aggressive in ‘getting the shot" Lambert explains.