Aims and objectives

This module will:

  • explain eProfessionalism and how it will help you in the workplace
  • help you understand the difference between eProfessionalism and professionalism
  • explore the different facets of being an eProfessional
  • explore some of the legal, ethical and organisational constraints to recording and sharing images.

After completing this module, you will be able to:

  • know what is meant by eProfessionalism
  • build your online presence as an eProfessional
  • understand the legal, ethical and organisational rules around image-sharing.

8. Use of images

Photos and images for work or study

There are many legitimate reasons to take and share images with other people in a work or learning environment:

  • communicate important information and quickly receive feedback from colleagues
  • share interesting case studies in an educational context
  • document your work experience in a way that respects client confidentiality.

An eProfessional should be aware of legal, professional or organisational responsibilities when taking, sharing and storing photos or images.

Clinical photography is widely practised in Australian hospitals for the purposes of teaching and research, and to more effectively consult with colleagues.

A 2013 study by Burns and Belton on camera-use by Australian clinicians at an Australian tertiary hospital found that 47% of surveyed staff captured photographs of patients in the last year. The authors found the “endemic policy non-compliance in the area of consent for clinical photography” to be particularly problematic, writing:

The current lack of compliance for consent, capture, storage and disposal of images, in conjunction with misconceptions regarding copyright, puts patients’ personal information at risk with a high potential for harm given that the security and distribution of electronic information is only as good as the least dependable individual.

If you are a clinician, read the Australian Medical Association’s (AMA) Clinical images and the use of personal mobile devices.

The risks in sharing photographs

  • Once you share an image it can enter the public domain and be very difficult to remove
  • Information in an image can be combined with other publicly available information to identify a person
  • Facial recognition software is increasingly able to identify people.
There may be legal, professional or organisational rules around protecting confidentiality.

Consent to use photos or images

In many cases, you should first seek consent prior to capturing a person’s image. A person grants their consent when they give verbal or written approval or authority for you to take a photograph.

In Australia, when photographing in a public place, you do not usually need to ask for consent. This is because there is no general right to privacy under Australian law. However, the Arts Law Centre of Australia recommends that when taking photos in a public place that the photographer:

should be prepared to respond to this situation, either by acknowledging the concerns of the parents [or others] and adopting appropriate strategies, such as explaining what you are doing and asking it is OK to take photographs; or otherwise have the information on street photographer’s rights so that you can have a conversation in which you explain what you are doing and why you have a right to engage in street photography.

How should you obtain consent?

As part of the consent process, you should:

  • notify the other person that you wish to take a picture
  • confirm that they can give consent (unless it is obvious)
  • ensure that they understand how you intend to use the image
  • record how they wish to be identified in any captions
  • ensure that they provide assent or approval.

The Australian Medical Association's Clinical images guide which includes how to obtain consent.

Written or verbal consent?

Obtaining written or verbal consent may depend on the circumstances. If dealing with vulnerable groups (including children or patients) it is generally advisable to seek consent in writing. This is sometimes called a model release.

At UQ, the University's Office of Marketing and Communications mandates the use of consent forms where an individual's face is recognisable (with some exceptions), or where an individual is below the age of 18. Having a consent form will prompt you to make sure you cover all points of the consent process.

Verbal consent may be enough for low-risk situations.

You are involved in a field work-placement for your tourism course, working with a group of eco-tourism operators. You wish to take a photo of the group for your Twitter account. Although they readily agree, as you explain what you intend to do with the photo, you get the impression that not all people in the group are familiar with Twitter and may not understand how it works. Have they given you informed consent?

Use of photos and images

It is important that the image is only used in a way that is consistent with the conditions under which consent was granted. For example, if the individual, as part of the consent process, asks to be identified a certain way, you need to ensure your caption reflects that.

Plastic surgeons often use photography to connect with potential patients and for educational purposes.

Read When Is Posting about Patients on Social Media Unethical “Medutainment”? This article describes a fictitious case study in which Dr Mayer obtains consent from Alexis to take photos, but Alexis is still upset with Dr Mayer’s social media post.

How did Dr Mayer make Alexis feel and what might Alexis do as a result?

De-identification of images

There may be instances where you may use an individual's image, provided you de-identify or anonymise the image first. This process may involve:

  • removing names and location information (in image metadata)
  • blanking out distinguishable features (e.g. jewellery, tattoos, birthmarks)
  • avoiding capturing an individual's face.

Insensitive sharing

Sometimes people share images in ways that do not necessarily break legal, professional or organisational rules around image sharing, but that nonetheless reflect poorly on that individual. For this reason, you should always avoid posting images that may be interpreted as insensitive or insulting.

Storage and access

Storage of photos and images used in a professional capacity should be planned and secure with decisions about who will have ongoing access to the photos and images decided in advance.

Photographs of patients, taken in a clinical setting, need to be protected from “misuse, loss, unauthorised access or interference, modification, and disclosure” (See the Australian Medical Association's Clinical images guide.)

Information to consider when storing images


Is there a particular location or platform to story the photos and images? Images stored on a personal mobile device or USB drive may be more vulnerable to loss than those saved on a computer drive or cloud platform. Read about local and online storage in our Working with files module.

Once photos and images are uploaded to the secure location, they should be deleted from any other device such as a mobile phone or camera.

Access and privacy settings

When you consider the location or platform you also need to think about who will have access to the images. Are there privacy controls that need to be put in place to ensure the images are only accessible to relevant people?

Midwifery and education students are expected to use ePortfolio to document their educational journey and reflect on their professional experiences. At the same time, both cohorts of students work with groups of people where confidentiality is paramount.

ePortfolio allows users to upload text, images and video content. While this can be a vital tool for course coordinators to assess learning, students may also sometimes use their ePortfolio to demonstrate their professional competencies to potential employers.

Images appearing in ePortfolios may not necessarily breach confidentiality if shown to your course coordinator, but they may when shown to potential employers.

Metadata and captioning

It is very important that metadata and captioning of the photo or image are appropriate. Metadata is data about data. In the context of photography, most smart devices automatically attach metadata to images, including when and where the image was taken (with longitude and latitude coordinates). Documenting the caption for the image should be part of the consent process. Your organisation may have guidelines on how images should be captioned.

Read about metadata in our Working with files module.

Duration:   Approximately 35 minutes

Graduate attributes

Knowledge and skills you can gain to contribute to your Graduate attributes:

 Effective communication Effective communication

 Critical judgement

  Ethical and social understanding

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