PWB Code of Ethics
  • Do no harm to subjects directly or indirectly (mental, physical or emotional) and do not participate in shaming practices.
  • Be sure to obtain consent for capturing the likeness of vulnerable peoples.
  • Treat all subjects with respect and dignity.
  • Accurately represent subject matter. Be aware of and avoid stereotypes, nostalgia, romanticism, cultural fetishism/exoticism and personal biases.
  • Retain integrity of the image and subject matter during the editing and culling process.
  • Do not accept compensation, favours or gifts that might influence the outcome of the project.
  • Do not interfere with nature. Leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but photographs.
  • Do not take selfies with endangered wildlife.

I. Copyright and ownership of photographs

II. Standards of practice for taking photographs

III. Informed consent

IV. Ethical use of photography

 The following guidelines are intended to ensure that the rights and dignity of the persons whose images are captured for photography projects are protected.

I. Copyright and ownership of photographs

 The photographer owns copyright of images and grants a royalty-free license with unlimited term to Photographers Without Borders and the Client/Partner organization. The photographer, PWB nor Client may not license the images to any other parties. All images must be credited to the “Photographer for Photographers Without Borders, year”

II. Standards of practice for taking photographs

 Photos taken by the volunteer photographer should respect human dignity and ensure the rights, safety and well-being of the person or people being portrayed.

·      Comply with local traditions or restrictions when taking photos of people, objects or places.

·      Inquire into national laws related to photography and privacy rights.

·      Gain verbal or written consent before taking photographs.

·      Respect a person’s right to refuse to be photographed. If you sense any reluctance or confusion, refrain from taking the photo.

·      Do no harm. Individuals or groups may be put at risk of reprisal, violence or rejection in their communities as a result of exposing their identity or personal story through the publication of their image.

·      Do not misrepresent the individual, situation, context or location of the photo.

·      Absolutely no payments or any other form of compensation are to be provided to subjects in exchange for their photo or consent.

 Photos of issues that are culturally or politically sensitive must protect the identity and privacy of individuals.

·      Do not identify individuals. Position the camera so that faces and other unique characteristics cannot be seen.

·      Gain written consent to use real names and locations in situations where disclosure could result in harm. Otherwise, remove detailed personal information such as names and locations in captions or any other associated documentation.

·      Identifiable images of individuals should not be used to illustrate sensitive subject matter in such a way as to indicate that the individual is connected with the issue.

 Photos of people with special needs are to be taken with particular care, compassion and protection of privacy.

·      Photograph all people with respect and dignity. Special care and compassion must be exercised with vulnerable subjects.

·      Survivors of sexual exploitation, gender-based violence or abuse are not to be identified as such (unless it is an objective of a project)

·      An individual’s status as a person living with HIV, TB or any other serious health conditions must not be revealed without written consent.

·      An individual’s engagement in socially marginalised or criminal activities must not be identified.

·      Care must be taken in photographing people in times of crisis. Do not exploit an individual’s vulnerability at times of trauma or grief.

·      Photos of children taken for work-related purposes must adhere to standards arising from AusAID’s Child Protection Policy and 

Code of Conduct for Overseas Service.

·      Before photographing a child, assess and comply with local laws, traditions or restrictions for reproducing personal images and gain consent from the child or a parent or guardian.

·      Ensure photos present children in a dignified and respectful manner and not in a vulnerable or submissive manner. Children should be adequately clothed and notin poses that could be seen as sexually suggestive.

·      Photos must be honest representations of the context and the facts.

·      File labels must not reveal identifying information about a child when sending images electronically

III. Informed consent

 All photos used, published or disseminated by PWB, partner organization or volunteer photographer requires the informed consent of individuals portrayed. Informed consent ensures respect for the individual’s autonomy and privacy, ensures they understand the implications, purpose and potential use of the photo, and avoids harming the individual through the inappropriate publication of their image or their story.

 Written consent

Staff and photographer are required to obtain informed written consent from every individual human photography subject if:

·      photographing individuals in the context of culturally sensitive, politically sensitive, or high-stigma issues

·      individuals may be put at risk of reprisal, violence or rejection in their communities as a result of exposing their identity or personal story through photographs, captions or any other associated documentation

·      photographing individuals:

o in all clinical settings e.g in a hospital, clinic, with midwives/nurses etc

o in all private settings e.g in a private home, within a classroom

o in circumstances where the photo clearly identifies a child or adult.

In order to comply with the written consent requirement:

·      in-country coordinator will be available and used for extensive photographic shoots to explain and communicate the purpose of the photos and gain informed consent

·      a record is kept by the photographer if written consent was not gained due to illiteracy but there was verbal agreement.

·      In-country staff and photographers are required to gain verbal consent from all individual human photo subjects.

Refer to the chart below to help guide your approach to photographing human photo subjects. The table summarizes some of the approaches to informed consent that we have observed in the context of international development photography. Use this chart to think practically about ethical considerations in development photography.


V. Ethical use of photography

Photos used by PWB, partner organization, photographer in publications and promotional materials must respect human dignity and ensure the rights, safety and well-being of the person or people being portrayed. Ethical use of photos includes ensuring accuracy in captioning, attribution and making sure they are used in the correct context.   

1.     Ensure photos and captions used to illustrate or support written materials are factual and in keeping with the context of the story. It is not appropriate to use images in a ‘generic’ fashion to illustrate subject matter when there is no connection between the image and the content of the material illustrated.

2.      No photo of a recognisable individual/sis to be falsely captioned or used in such a way as to imply information about that person e.g using a general image of a woman to illustrate an article or report about violence against women.

3.     Use disclosures where there is the risk of misunderstanding (e.g "The photosin this material are used for illustrative purposes only; they do not imply X on the part of any person who appears in the photos".)

4.     Care needs to be taken not to stereotype certain groups e.g beware of the repeated use of images of particular ethnic groups, nationalities or genders when illustrating particular issues.

5.     Photos must not be edited to alter context.

6.     If photos are edited to protect identities, this must be noted and explained.

7.     Photos of individuals should illustrate autonomy and dignity of person.

8.     Photos should support an accurate and balanced understanding of the aid program. Images should not be overly negative or simplify complex development issues.


To learn more about ethical photography, visit some of our sources: