Charities, Photography & Consent


If your charity is well informed about getting consent, you probably won’t need this blog post. But if you’re still not getting consent (by which I ideally mean signed consent forms) from your photography subjects, then grab a cup of tea and a biscuit and settle in for a few minutes, because this is an important one.

An international delegation watches a community meeting in action in Bugogo, Rwanda

Informed Consent – what is it?

It’s exactly what it says on the tin: it’s consent from a photographed individual confirming that they understand how their photo will be used and agree to share their photographed likeness with your supporters (and indeed, the world).

Why you need it

As charities we work in emotive situations – we’re there to help people at some of their lowest moments in life. To help lift them up to a better place, or try to ease a burden, or do our best to right a wrong. So it stands to reason that if someone has shared their story with us, we owe it to them to portray it in the most respectful way we can.

When you need it

Whenever you’re taking a photo of an identifiable subject that you intend to use in publications for your charity, in whatever medium (print, digital, etc).

How to get it

At events

Getting consent at events is a simple one: the easiest way to do it is to inform your attendees at two points that you intend to capture photography on the day: one, on the invite (this especially easy to include if your event sign-up is a page on your website) and two, on the day of the event where attendees check in.

At the registration desk have a large (at least A4) sign propped up, which notifies attendees of the fact a photographer will be capturing the event, where these images will likely be shared (i.e. on our social media channels, newsletters, etc), and to ‘please inform a member of the team if you do not wish to be photographed’. If possible, have samples of previous printed newsletters on the table so that attendees can look through and see how you use photos.

Appoint a key team member to liaise with the photographer and make it clear who doesn’t want to be pictured, and ask this team member to also take a written note and point out the people to the comms team, just in case that person incidentally ends up in any of the provided images, an they can remove those images from the album.

From Fundraisers

The easiest and simplest way of getting informed consent from fundraisers is during the initial sign-up stage. If they’re applying for a fundraising place, be sure to include a photography and filming opt-in on the form. If the form is online the opt-in cannot be a pre-filled checkbox if the consent is to be informed; instead your potential fundraiser must have to actively check the ‘yes’ box themselves.

Once those forms have been filled in, ensure your fundraising team adds a note to your CRM, or fundraiser’s file, to clearly mark those fundraisers who are happy to be involved in communications.

Out in the field

If you’re an international charity, you depend on photos from the field to sustain and promote your work – and informed consent in these situations can often be the trickiest.

Ideally you want signed consent forms from identifiable people, especially if their story is being used as a case study. I recently came across this fantastic blog post from Water Aid’s Senior Photography Officer outlining their clear and respectful approach to getting shots from the field: if your role includes handling images from the field, this hits the nail on the head.

On organized shoots

Again, these are some of the easiest to gain consent for, but always ensure that you do it prior to taking that first shot. Sit down with any potential case study and explain to them how you use images and where you use them (examples like previous publications or your Instagram feed are great things to show at this point). Have them sign a clear release form before going ahead with the shoot once you’ve discussed these points and if they’re happy to continue.

I would suggest also doing this with staff who have agreed to be part of the shooting day, so that there can be no misconceptions about where or when the images might be used, especially if they subsequently leave the organisation.


For gaining active consent you need:

  • A simple, concise and easy to understand release form for shoots. (Here is a great resource of example forms – click the ‘preview of sample’ links to read the forms without downloading)
  • Examples of where and how imagery has previously been used, such as Annual Reviews, your Facebook page, etc.
  • Active consent wording for online forms (such as for fundraiser onboarding) that is simple, clear, and concise. For example:

“I give consent to be filmed and photographed for the charity during the fundraising event. [charity] uses these photos to celebrate their fundraisers’ achievements, and to promote the vital work they do. To find out more about how images are used, click here*.”

*This then ideally links to a page that opens in a separate tab, describing the ways imagery is used at your charity. The page doesn’t have to be long, but it should assuage any reservations that your supporter might have about being photographed and explain clearly how images are used.

And finally:

  • Training for data-handling staff members who will need to file the consent forms or add to CRM profiles, so that all staff who have access to supporter databases can clearly understand who and who has not given consent to be in promotional work.

Is there something you think I’ve missed off the list here? How does your charity gain consent from your photography subjects? Or is there another consent issue I’ve missed? Let me know below…

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