Introduction & background

In recent Environmental Photographer of the Year (EPOTY) competition years, we have taken a considered and vested interest in photography ethics. Our current approach is built on three main pillars:

    1. Our competition rules, and its ethics section in particular, outline the standard we set for our submitting photographers. 
    2. The criteria that our ethics panel and jury panel use to guide their decisions are publicly available on our website so photographers and panel members know what to look out for. 
    3. This ethics statement sets the expectations for EPOTY as an active participant in the conversation around ethics in photography. 

Our new ethics statement is based on and informed by our own research as well as discussions with the public, our ethics panel, and other experts in the field. It sets clear objectives and guiding principles for EPOTY’s activities and practices, and it provides additional context to photographers interested in submitting their work, as well as our judges, ethics panel, and the wider public.  


    • Provide clarity and transparency about the ethical standards and practices we strive to embody. 
    • Hold ourselves accountable to these ethical standards and update our practices accordingly. 
    • Encourage anyone passionate about photography to learn more about the position of ethics in the industry and to adopt its principles.
    • Encourage other competitions to reflect on their ethical guidelines and, where needed, develop a framework to fit their own practices.

Our guiding principles

These principles guide our selection process and subsequent use of photos as part of the competition, exhibitions, and any other commercial and non-commercial activities. We employ these principles to guide us on our way to a more ethical practice: 

  • Perspective The lives, dignity, safety and security of people are more important than any photo. This applies to the photographers we work with as well as the people they depict in their photos and how they are presented.

  • Responsibility We work together with an expert ethics panel to ensure as responsible a selection of our winners as possible. We:
    • Carefully consider any suggestions we receive from the public and we strive to incorporate the feedback immediately in the next stages of the same competition or the next edition (as relevant).  
    • Request feedback from our screening team, the ethics panel, and the jury panel, shortly after each party’s participation.  
    • Champion accurate captions that provide a clear context to a photo.  
  • Flexibility Every situation is unique and there is rarely a one-size-fits-all answer available. We will address each challenge by drawing on this ethics statement and the support of our expert ethics and jury panels as needed.


  • Discussion The photographer is the best-placed person to make decisions in the field. We expect that they are able to provide and support a rationale for such decisions and we created spaces for them to explain their processes in different ways: 
    • Our submissions form asks the photographer to include an ethics statement 
    • We give photographers the opportunity to respond to any concerns raised by the ethics panel during their review 
    • We are always available for photographers to contact us with any specific questions 
  • Curiosity We work to grow our understanding of what it means to apply an ethics statement in a practical context by:  
    • Speaking with experts in this field and other parties with vested interests 
    • Reading up on existing series of articles, podcasts, panels etc.  
    • Looking for updates and new learnings from photography organisations and other reputable sources

  • Alignment We are developing an internal resources hub around the practice of ethical photography, with the purpose of: 
    • Providing clarity about the considerations that can inform an EPOTY stance or opinion 
    • Facilitating our team’s own research 
    • Inviting our team to contribute their thoughts and comments 
  • Good faith All communications with photographers, partners, the public, and any other parties are conducted in good faith. This means we commit to:  
    • Adhere to our ethics statement
    • Be honest 
    • Observe reasonable standards of fairness 
    • Act consistently with any specified expectations 
    • Consider the other party’s interests

  • Openness We pledge to listen, learn and be open to suggestions and feedback. All feedback we receive is valuable to us. We consider it carefully as we review our processes at least once a year and make changes as needed. 
    • We conduct regular feedback surveys of internal and external contacts. 
    • You can contact us at with your thoughts, and we will endeavour to respond in a timely manner.


    • We pledge to annually review our ethics statement, and to update it as needed. 
    • Last updated: 04/05/2023 
    • We have a specific section on ethics in our competition rules. The rules clarify the expectations we set for submitting photographers, while this ethics statement presents the perspective through which we approach our work in photography at EPOTY and CIWEM.  
    • We commit to being open and responsive to feedback, which you can share with us by emailing us at