If you own a photography business, that means that every day you're faced with choices. You make choices about how to market your business, how to interact with clients, and how to conduct yourself and your business. Sometimes these choices cause us to consider the best way to run our business. Sometimes, because we are human, these choices us tempt us to take shortcuts, or even worse, to cross the line. With that in mind, here's my thoughts on a set of Photographer's Ethics.


(Image licensed and used with permission from The 3D Studio)

1. Only show work in your portfolio you created, preferrably for a client. If you want to show work you shot with a model, or at a workshop, your blog is a better place - unless you have a gallery specifically for this stuff on your website.

2. Don't steal photos. Presenting someone else's work as your own - whether in person, or on your website - is illegal and unethical. It will get you bounced out of this industry faster than just about anything else.

3. Don't steal music. If you use music on your website, or in slideshows - whether in person or online - only use music you've licensed.

4. Don't lie to your client or to potential clients. If you are uncomfortable working for a client, "I'm not available," is a perfectly acceptable answer. "I'm already booked," is not - unless you actually are.

5. When you take a retainer, put it aside. Don't spend it on operating expenses. Likewise, when you collect money for an album, or other product, put the amount needed to cover your costs in a separate savings account. This money is not available for you to spend - they are committed funds.

6. Collect appropriate sales tax on every transaction. Never fail to include sales tax as a way to sell against your competition. Remit taxes to the appropriate government agencies (local, state, federal). Speaking of Federal, keep accurate records and file your taxes accordingly.

7. Keep your word. Deliver all images and products as promised. If you make a promise, you have to keep it. If you say images will be available in 6 weeks, then you must deliver them in 6 weeks. If you can't, be upfront and honest with your clients and give them a reasonable idea of what to expect.

8. Carry liability, equipment and errors and omissions coverage for your business. Those are three separate issues. If you're a member of Professional Photographer's of America, you can obtain equipment coverage, and may be a part of their Indemnity Trust, which is similar to E&O coverage. Still, working with a local insurance agent that can help you assess your needs is an investment work making in your business.

9. Always have backup gear. If you're shooting an event (like a wedding), there's no excuse for not having sufficient backup equipment in case something happen. This means at least 2 camera bodies, as well as batteries, extra flash, several lenses of various focal lengths, and memory cards. Remember, anything with an on/off button will eventually fail.

10. Don't practice on your paying clients. Golfers don't try new shots during a tournament, they do it during practice, and on the range. This doesn't mean you can't explore and experiment sometimes - especially once you know you've gotten what you need. It does mean that you better know what you're doing before you start accepting money. If you want to practice, second shoot.

What about your list? What would you add to a list of photographers ethics and core principles? Leave a comment below.