Getting Consent

Any journalist, photographer or videographer should make it a priority to get consent to take a picture or shoot a video. This will help you to appear more professional in your approach, and will help protect you from legal action.

Remember that you need to get approval to film or photograph people, but also to capture visuals of protected places such as people’s homes and public institutions such as hospitals, prisons, schools. Ethics entail respecting other people’s rights to privacy and protection, in whatever form these may take

The first step in getting consent is to clearly explain who you are, your reasons are for taking the photo/video, and how it will be used. Then you either need to get written or verbal consent. For an example of a written consent form, please see this Consent Form Template from This is just a sample, and your form would need to be customized to fit your project and specific legal protections.

One issue to consider is that your subjects may not be literate, or may even speak another language than you. You must be able to explain your intentions in a clear way to every subject and document consent. Consider using visual-based explanations (drawings, diagrams, photos), or documenting consent with a tape recorder or on video prior to filming. Take a look at these materials from WITNESS on Informed Consent.

Obtaining consent is important for ensuring your safety when reporting. Never try to get information from people without first informing them of your intentions. It can be very dangerous for you if someone should discover that you have not been truthful with them. It is always better to tell the complete truth and be turned away than to put your safety at risk. Remember, there are many other stories you can write about!

While this may all sound tedious, it is very critical. Having documented proof showing that the people you interviewed consented to taking part in the activity can protect you from legal action.