Ethics and Photography


  • To understand different ethical situations in taking pictures of people
  • To develop a standard procedure and form for getting consent


  • “Ethics Scenarios & Guidelines for Pictures” handout (1 per participant)
  • Consent form (or examples of consent forms)

Prepare Before

In this lesson, you will distribute consent forms for taking pictures, so you will need to know what your consent form is. Your school or organization might have a photo release form already — check there first.  If you have a school newspaper or any publication that takes pictures, ask what they use to get consent.

Warm Up

Describe a time when someone you know took a picture of you when you did not want them to.  What was the situation?  How did you feel?  OR  describe a time when a stranger took of picture of you.  What was the situation?  How did you feel?  Did they ask permission or not?


Get the group into five teams with at least two people in each team.  Each team will be given a scenario that they have to act out.  Everyone in the team should have a role, so you may need to create characters to fill out the scene. Teams should have at least five minutes to prepare their skit.


After each team goes, ask the following questions:

  • If I were in this person’s shoes, how would I feel?
  • What is the photographer saying with this picture?
  • Does the photographer have permission to take the picture?
  • Is the photographer respecting the person?
  • What are the risks or unintended consequences in taking this picture?
  • What are the benefits of taking this picture?
  • What can the photographer influence with this picture?

After all teams have gone, ask the following questions:

  • Are there any circumstances where we want to “create” a picture?
  • What are the advantages of capturing a candid moment?
  • Are there ways we can capture a candid picture and get consent?
  • How can we make sure we aren’t taking advantage of people?


Establishing our ethics is very important.  People must be able to trust us with their image and with their story. Also, we should not take advantage even if they have given permission and for research, never manufacture a picture.

Review your consent policy and asking permission.  As a group, read your consent form aloud.


Get back into your original teams.  Recreate your situation and in your replay, act in an ethical manner.   If you need to get consent, ask for consent. After each situation replays, ask if there are other ways of approaching this situation so that people feel as if they have many options.


Why do we need consent?  Practice asking for consent in a way that feels natural for you.