CEGA uses photos from the field on our website, in printed materials, and in presentations. The majority of these
photos do not come from professional photographers, but from students and staff working in field settings. Our
ability to publish photos from multiple contributors is an asset, but it requires faculty, staff, and students to be
highly conscientious when taking photographs, and mindful of the fact that photographs may be used later in
- Images of relevant public spaces (landscapes), non-recognizable persons in public places, and
recognizable public figures in public spaces may be published without consent.
- Images of identifiable private persons NOT involved in human subjects research may be published if
verbal informed consent is obtained from all subjects (either before or after the photo was taken).
- If the identifiable person is involved in human subjects research, prior written informed consent must be
obtained and documented, and protocols for obtaining informed consent must be approved by a qualified
- All photos should be accompanied by the name of the photographer, approximate date, and context (i.e.
location, if available and appropriate, or an explanation of the subject matter). For photos taken in the
context of a research study, the photographer should identify the study by name or include the name(s) of
one or more investigators or implementing organizations involved in the study.
- Photos should not invade the privacy of individuals and should not include details (such as signs or text)
that allow the identification or tracing of persons who have not provided consent. This is particularly
important when sensitive, personal, or private information is revealed in the photo or corresponding
caption (e.g. HIV status).
- Photographers should engage ethically and respectfully, always preserving their subjects’ dignity.
- Special consideration must be used when photo subjects may experience negative consequences as a
result of having a photo taken and/or published.
No Consent Needed
- Non-recognizable individuals in public (i.e. faces and identifying features are obscured).
- Public figures in public (e.g. celebrities, MPs at campaign launches, etc).
- Crowds in public (e.g. an audience at a conference or a market).
Verbal Consent Required
- All identifiable individuals, in all settings, whenever possible.
- Parents, guardians, or teachers of identifiable children (or vulnerable persons) who appear in public
Written Consent Encouraged
- Recognizable providers and clients in clinical settings.
- Recognizable or non-recognizable individuals in any setting where personal private information is
exposed in the photo or documented in the caption, such as:
- Health Status/Behavior: e.g. HIV+ persons at a clinic; images of sex work, drug use, etc
- Criminal Behavior: e.g. images showing a perpetrator or victim of violence
- Political Participation: e.g. images revealing the identity of a protestor or dissident
Written Consent Required
- Identifiable human subjects involved in academic research, or identifiable household members of human
subjects (e.g. children playing in the family compound during a survey). Note that informed consent must
be obtained and documented using protocols approved by a recognized IRB.
- Photo subjects who may experience negative consequences as a result of having a photo taken
Not Allowed Ever
- Private property of a human subject involved in research that could reveal the subject’s identity.
Obtaining Informed Consent
“Informed consent” means that the subject is fully aware of your intentions for taking a photograph. It may be
useful for you to show prospective subjects an example of an image that has been published before taking the
photo (i.e. a flier or booklet), so that they can see what might eventually appear in print or online. Before taking
photographs in another cultural context, talk to your colleagues and learn how the culture views photography, as
well as the issues you are interested in documenting. Find out if photography is considered rude or sacrilegious.
Show extreme care and sensitivity when photographing taboo practices, stigmatized populations, or vulnerable
populations. Some issues are sensitive in most societies (e.g. abortion, HIV/AIDS, malnutrition, prostitution). At
the very least, obtain verbal consent to take and use a photo.
Obtaining written consent is not practical in all circumstances. Written documents may have little or no meaning to
people who speak a different language, people with low literacy, and people who live in cultures where
photography or publications are not common. In these cases, it may be appropriate to use verbal consent. When
possible, establish a relationship before you start taking photos. When you approach photo subjects in the field,
briefly introduce yourself, be courteous, and explain the purpose of your visit or the reason you want to take
photos. In clinical or educational contexts, it is often necessary to speak with the clinical director or teacher before
you begin photographing:
“I am taking photos for CEGA, an organization working to improve health in [your country]. Do I have
your permission to take some photos for our organization’s use in published material?”
If you don’t speak the same language, communicate with your body language. If you sense any reluctance,
confusion, or disdain from possible photo subjects, please refrain from taking the photo.
In situations where written consent is the best practice or is required, consider these tips:
- Prepare your consent form ahead of time in the local language.
- If you are photographing human subjects who are participating in research, ensure that the study’s
consent forms and protocols include language about photography (or create a separate photo consent
form and protocol). These materials must be reviewed and approved by a qualified IRB.
- For subjects with low literacy, ask the subject to make a mark on the consent form. If the person does not
want to or cannot use a writing tool, obtain verbal permission that is witnessed by someone else, who can
sign the consent form.
- Subject to IRB approval, consent may be given by parents or guardians for photographs of minors or
those who are developmentally disabled.
- If you are unable to prepare written consent forms in the local language, orally translate the content of the
form to your photo subjects, or use an interpreter.
Sample Language for Written Informed Consent
“I consent to the worldwide publication of photographs in which I can be recognized. I understand that these
images will be used for educational purposes and that the photographs may be published with information about
my country/location, but without other identifying information such as my name.”
All photos should include a detailed caption and source including photographer, description of the photo (e.g.
subject matter or context, if applicable), country and date, if possible.