When by their own individual news publication there are

When is it unethical and inappropriate to use
a photograph?



In this essay I will be discussing in depth the ethical
principles in relation to photojournalism by answering the question ‘when is it
unethical and inappropriate to use a photograph?’ with reasons why. Similarly, to
journalists, photojournalists still have to adhere to same ethical guidelines when
deciding to publish a photograph in the media. Photojournalists should follow the
code of ethics set out by their own individual news publication there are
working for, where they decide what is considered to be tolerable. An example
of this is in America they have ‘The National Press Photographers Association’,
which is used to promote the highest of standards in the world of visual
journalism. There is also the Editors code of practice called ‘ipso’ which
stands for “independent press standards organisation” which sets out the rules
magazines and newspapers have agreed to follow. These regulations argued will
be supported by case studies which opposes the regulations that are expected to
be followed by journalists. There are many examples as to when it is unethical
and inappropriate to use a photograph such as fearing that an image is perhaps
too graphic to publish, breaches privacy, opposes accuracy or discrimination.

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It is considered by some people that it is most unethical
as well as inappropriate to use a photograph which appears to depict a dead
person in the media as it could can be upsetting to the audience. As well as
this it can be seen as disrespectful to family members and friends mourning a
loss. Also a photograph would not be needed to convey an image of the deceased
of the front page of a daily newspaper. According to ipso Editor’s Code of Practice
“Editors will be expected to justify intrusions into any individual’s private
life without consent” and that “approaches must be made with sympathy and
discretion and publication handled sensitively” (independent press standards
organisation, 2017).


Another reason linking closely to this is following a
staged picture from the bombings of Brussels which causes outrage amongst the
public. Photojournalist, Khaled Al Sabbah, was spotted “on video posing a girl in
mourning after the Brussels terror attacks” (Jamieson, 2016). Not only has this
destroyed the public’s trust in the media but it is also inappropriate as it is
an act of disrespect to the families and friends of those who have died in the
attack. This also leads to questions such as can we the audience trust what the
media tells us and how often are photographs used in the public eye staged. Within
the photograph that was taken the girl is depicted to be praying which is also
inappropriate as praying symbolizes religion which is something personal and
viewed by others as their safe space where they are able to connect with God.


due to a rapid change in new technologies photojournalists are able to use “new
methods of visual storytelling” (Hadland, Lambert and Campbell, 2016). This will
play a massive role in influencing the audience’s views and opinions by telling
a whole new story through the use of visuals. This leads to them being faced
with new risks for example the ability to distort and manipulate images. This subverts
the ethical codes that Journalists have should aim to follow, this is because when
a photograph is used with a lack of accuracy then the image is deemed to be
unethical. This can be supported by the ipso code of practice, as it reads “The
press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted
information or images” (independent press standards organisation, 2017).

This touches upon when photographs are published that have been altered in some
way to be perceived in a different light, to perhaps provide an alternative


Moreover, a
major factor in considering when a photograph used in the media is unethical
and inappropriate is if there is any discrimination taking place. An example of
this was quite recent as the image of actress, Lupita Nyong’o, appeared to be
altered on the front page of Grazia magazine. The photographer had altered the
photograph of her by airbrushing her skin and altering her hairstyle. This shows
a real lack of sensitivity as the photographer was ignorant to alter her image
to conform to stereotype of women of colour. As a result of this “The photographer
whose airbrushed image of Lupita Nyong’o prompted a storm of controversy”
(Singh, 2017) which caused Lupita to be “disappointed” in the photographer’s
representation of her. This raised issues within the beauty industry as the
photographer representation of diversity within the beauty industry was
tarnished as he manipulated the image to cater to a more “Eurocentric” notion
of the ideal beautiful hair that is presented in the media. Although it can be
argued that the photograph had already been manipulated even before the image
had been. Whitehead states in his article how “posing a subject in a certain
way, having a person act in an illustrative manner, or re-enacting a scene are
all forms of manipulation” (Whitehead, 2015). This supports the idea that the
photographer begins the manipulation process even before the image has even
been taken.


In addition
to this, it is seen as inappropriate and unethical for a photograph to be used
which illustrate a very graphic and disturbing image. An example of this is the
war in Iraq, photographer, Kenneth Jarecke, “photographed an Iraqi man burned
alive” (Deghett, 2014)




Subsequently, there is one exception to all of the following
reasons that have been stated is that if they can be demonstrated that it is
within the public interest to be published. In order to provide the reason of
public interest the editor would need to be able to demonstrate that they are a
reliable publication, as well as providing a reason as to why it is of public
interest. For example, revealing the identities of criminals who police are yet
to arrest so that it is already in the publics domain so that they are a made
aware. A case in the news where this was made evident was the powerful image of
a young boy that had survived the Syrian war that spread to Aleppo. This was in
the public interest as it holds a significant influence in improving the lives
and living conditions to those suffering in Aleppo. Without this photograph
there isn’t the slightest pressure on those who are able to help, actually make
a difference to those people’s lives. This shows that photojournalism how much
power one photograph can have to bring change, which is reinforced by Palmer’s
view that “photojournalism evokes powerful emotional reactions in audiences and
motivated real political change” (Palmer, 2017).


In conclusion I think that there are many times at which
it is considered unethical and inappropriate to use a photograph in the media,
such as the reasons I have previously explained. It is important that in
society today we have ethical standards for photojournalism which are still
changing and evolving into the set of rules we stand by today. Whilst there has
not been any massive uproar with unethical and inappropriate photos used in the
media in recent years the three main ones that have stood out are the image
taken of Lupita
Nyong’o that was manipulated, the powerful image of the young boy barely
surviving after coming out of the Syrian war in Aleppo, and finally what can be
considered as the most iconic photo is that of the “Napalm girl” during the Vietnam
war, which had posed numerous tough ethical questions.