Informed Consent in Development Photography

The Practicalities of Informed Consent in Development Photography. Photo: Save the Children

The Practicalities of Informed Consent in Development Photography. Photo: Save the Children

Getting informed consent from people we photograph is essential – and not only since the EU has passed the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that defines photos as personal identifiable information which requires special protection.

Obtaining informed consent is essential if we want to treat people with respect and empower them to have agency, rather than objectify them as visual elements that we can use in our fundraising and advocacy materials. And while getting verbal consent is often easy, getting informed consent is far more difficult. After all, we frequently ask people to have their photos taken, who may not be able to fully grasp what happens with their photo and what the images will be used for.

Last year, Save the Children published an interesting piece of research on how people reacted to seeing how their images were used in NGO materials. However, while interesting, this still does not help us obtaining informed consent. The other day I came across another short toolkit by Save the Children that tries to address this issue called “The Practicalities of Informed Consent in Development Photography” (PDF).

What I like about the document is that it tries to be pragmatic and breaks consent down to a level that helps identify potential problems. For example, it recommends asking “Would it be ok for you if this photo was printed on a poster that can be seen in your village”, rather than asking “can we use this photo in our marketing materials”?

You can download “The Practicalities of Informed Consent in Development Photography” (PDF) here.

Do you have experiences with obtaining informed consent? Please leave a comment below!