At Raincoast we are committed to only using images and video that are ethically obtained. We believe that a photographer or videographer should not just consider ethics when capturing media, but should embody them at the core of their work. A photographer is in constant relationship with, and should be accountable to, the people and other animals they interact with.
Being respectful at all times before, during, and after a shoot helps to ensure we maintain a healthy and mutually beneficial relationship between the subject and photographer, as well as the safety and conservation of the wildlife, the places they call home, and that people’s stories are told with consent and collaboration.
We will use these ethical considerations to guide both our acquisition and use of photography, whether for use on our website, social media platforms, printed materials or other uses. In addition to our own staff, we will actively encourage others to comply with these guidelines.
Ethical and collaborative storytelling
We strive for ethical and collaborative storytelling when interacting with people and communities. Prioritizing consent and consultation is very important to us to ensure the media is not extractive, but mutually beneficial to the people and communities we work with.
Not the Indigenous person you had in mind
This guide from Jess Housty lays out important considerations and questions to consider when working with Indigenous people and communities. Jess Housty is a member of the Heiltsuk First Nation and Executive Director for QQS Project Society.
We check in with subjects before sharing
Sharing someone’s image or interview carries a huge responsibility. In post production, the editor has the ability to shape the story, both in the caption and in the video cut. We endeavour to obtain consent with subjects before the post or videos go live to make sure the person and their story is properly represented. We follow crediting requests and guidelines provided.
At Raincoast, we actively encourage a ‘wildlife welfare’ ethic among our staff and other conservationists. We believe that the suffering wildlife endure because of humans is our collective responsibility and presents a moral imperative for conservationists and animal welfarists to carefully consider and act upon. This is why we practice non-invasive research. Read more about our our conservation ethics. Read our wolf photography ethics.
We always put the wildlife first.
We go prepared
We follow laws and protocol
Before leaving for an expedition or shoot, we follow relevant protocols and restrictions of the Indigenous Nations in whose territories we will be active within; we also follow other relevant regulations at all times (such as Canada’s marine mammal regulations and the BC Wildlife Management Act).
We research before going into the field
In addition to field crew being appropriately trained in wilderness first aid and safety in wildlife research, we work to ensure that photographers know the signs of discomfort and unease in the creatures they are photographing. This serves to keep both wildlife and humans safe.
We are well equipped
We ensure we are well equipped with the right photography gear, such as a substantial telephoto lens or rain protection.
We are passive
We do not interfere with or seek to alter wildlife subjects’ behaviour
We will never bait, lure, use calls or other disruptive techniques to engage subjects. To the best of our ability, we will never interfere with an animal if it appears to be engaging in breeding, nesting or caring for young.
We mind the distance
We always allow wildlife subjects to determine the distance they are comfortable with between themselves and the photographer.
We mind the time
We are cautious to spend no more than 1-2 hours with wildlife subjects (unless regulations are more stringent) to reduce the impact that our presence has on their routine, even if the animal seems comfortable. If the animal knows we’re there, they may not feed regularly or behave as usual.
We mind other impacts of our presence on the animal and its home
There is an extensive list of other things that can impact animals and their habitat. We never use flash. We use caution and try to stay on paths where we walk/set up to prevent damage to sensitive ecosystems. Our goal is to leave no trace of human activity.
We are transparent
Wildlife is truly wildlife
The wildlife in all the photos and videos we use are truly wild, and will never come from a photography game farm or wildlife in captivity unless that is the relevant focus.
We maintain integrity while editing
We make sure to preserve and maintain integrity of all images during the editing process. This means not altering or manipulating images to differ substantially from the original.
We are transparent with how we caption our photographs. If there is a backstory that isn’t obvious from the photo, we share it. We always provide a credit to the photographer. However, we are also mindful of sharing the location of where the photo was taken. It can significantly increase traffic to these locations and may place certain animals at risk of harm if it is shared.
Call us out
We commit to being open and responsive to feedback on this subject. If you think we are not aligned with these ethics, let us know.
Beyond our own staff and contractors we benefit from photography donations and use from a range of photographers. We aim to ensure any photography we use has been obtained with similar principles to our own. In this regard, we ensure all photographers are aware of this code of ethics.
Taking a precautionary approach
Some of these considerations are complex. With close up shots it can be hard to determine how close a photographer may have been. We will use our best judgement to decide whether or not we will use a photo.
High quality wildlife photography is an increasingly important component of our work, especially as we seek to inspire action on behalf of wildlife and their habitats. As such, we benefit greatly from donations from a range of photographers. To respect this cost, time, and effort we will never use an image without seeking and engaging express permission and will credit photographers accordingly. When we have the resources we pay for photography and respect people’s time and effort.
Sources and references
Jess Housty – You’re not the Indian I had in mind
International League of Conservation Photographers
Melissa Groo – Ethics from Empathy
Brad Hill – Wildlife photography Ethics
National Geographic – How to photograph wildlife ethically
Ethics are complex and this policy serves as a guide that we review.