Misrepresenting subjects?


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Oct 16, 2012
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Disclaimer - only an example, I am not going to do this.

So recently I was on the job taking photos of a very emotional event. Before the event when things were being setup one of the crew's kid was throwing a fit about something completely unrelated to meaning of the event. I took a photo that makes it look like the child is crying because of the emotion of the situation rather than crying about not getting his/her way.

Would it be wrong to play it off as a photo of a child moved to tears by the heaviness of the event? where do you folks stand on this type of issue?
I've had pictures where something other than what was implied was actually happening. I don't bother to explain or judge. If the picture works, it works.
It would depend on the application IMO. If you were shooting a PJ piece for a newspaper, then yes, it would be wrong. If it was a portfolio shot, or a piece for exhibition, then no... as Manny said, an image that works is an image that works!
I wouldn't feel like it's ethical to use it as if it had been taken during the event. I don't know that I'd use it at all, for a portfolio maybe - but it's a child of someone working the event??? I'd at least be getting a release signed by the parent before any potential usage, unless it was for media coverage of the event where a release typically wouldn't be needed - but even then it's misrepresenting that the child was reacting to an occurrence during the event.

Since the child was with a parent working the event it almost seems a misuse of the opportunity of being behind the scenes during set-up (because before an event typically the area isn't yet open to the public). I'd probably be trying to find something else going on prior to the event to photograph.
In this instance it's probably good to use, but maybe not all. Let's say you were shooting porn. One of the make up artists, who is attractive in her own right, happens to cough while you're taking a "behind the scenes" shot. It just so happens that she is only view able from the neck up in the shot, making whether she is clothed or not indiscernible and her cough makes her face look as if she is having an orgasm. It would probably be best to not misrepresent that one.
I don't think the point is that it's a child, so no real need to address those issues here, imo. Runnah's question, I think, is more about the fact that the photo LOOKS like it portrays one thing, when actually it's something entirely different.

And I absolutely agree with John. If it was going to be used in an article about the event, I feel like it would be purposely misleading and unethical to use it. But for just the sake of displaying the photo, it really makes no difference.

I have a photo of my boys, taken by my sister when they had joined us on a day trip to a quaint little town we like to visit once in a while. In the photo, the boys are sitting on some stairs and their posture, their downcast faces all give every indication that something horrible has happened and the grief is just starting to sink in. The reality is that they were sitting on the stairs because their mother and aunt had taken TOO long already and were STILL taking photos, and they were absolutely bored out of their skulls and didn't have any electronic devices with which to occupy themselves.
There is not a THING wrong with that picture and it makes no difference what "story" or emotion someone gets from looking at it. Now, if I were to use it in an article on helping teens deal with grief, THAT would be disingenuous.

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