Shop Mobile More Submit  Join Login

:iconkaz-d: More from Kaz-D

Featured in Collections

Events and Social affairs by CharonLloyd-Roberts

Journals by pyro-helfier

News And Journals by AquaQueen27

More from DeviantArt


Submitted on
August 28, 2012
Submitted with Writer


76 (who?)

Permission to Photograph People

It's a tough topic and one that most of us like to shy away from rather than embrace, but the honest truth is that the shots of people that you get - the best kind - are the ones that are candid, journalistic or spontaneous. That usually means asking permission afterwards, or not asking permission at all - which can appear quite odd, to some. One of my biggest concerns and anxieties is having my camera out in public. I recently went to a beach, of all places, and was shooting the coastline when a horrible feeling crept over me and I realised that there were lots of people around and that I was invading, a little bit, on their privacy. These guidelines are useful for shooting on the street, at public gatherings and events and at more formal occasions such as weddings.

Nutso by MoMona

:bulletblack: If the person is going to be the main subject of your photo - then it's kind to ask permission, get permission, and then snap away. This is in particular quite important when you're travelling in other countries. I once decided to snap an accordion player on the tube in Paris. I was subsequently followed for three stops whilst he demanded money in payment for me taking his picture. Be careful about your subjects, things can be delicate, especially in countries that are foreign to yours.

:bulletblack: Getting permission doesn't always involve that piece of paper with a signature on. At weddings in particular, you can simply raise your camera, and capture your subjects eye hopefully. They will often, with just the smallest nod, pose all of a sudden and then they're yours. At big gatherings like this, it would be impractical to ask each and every person so sit down and scribble their signature on a permission slip.


:bulletblack: You need to start getting signatures if you're planning on publishing your shot and it shows a person quite clearly, and particularly if you're planning on using the shot for promotion or some other such thing. There was recently an article in the newspaper about IKEA and the fact that a family walked into a store and saw a picture of themselves hanging in frames that were for sale...they had no idea such thing was happening and it turned out that IKEA had trawled the internet for a stock shot, and found them - the perfect family! Be careful about your intentions, and be open and honest.

:bulletblack: No permission? Hostility? Move on respectfully and try something else. There's no use arguing, being covert or trying to wrangle somebody into your view finder. A no means no, and you should, as a photographer and a human being, respect that.

:bulletblack: When photographing children, regardless of all of the above, permission needs to be gained. Preferably from a parent or guardian. Additionally when shooting a wedding professionally, it's worth checking beforehand whether any parents would mind their children aka bridesmaids and such, being snapped. It's really important to be careful in this area, there's no sense in getting into trouble just because you were too lazy or forgot to ask.

:bulletblack: Travel light - if you're looking to shoot candidly then lots of equipment and lots of people can be quite daunting. Try and be as minimal as possible to make it easier for your subjects to adapt to the situation.

:bulletblack: Don't bribe - it's best not to tip or give gifts. Arm yourself with a business card or a website link to your facebook page or blog so that if people are interested they can go and see their photographs, but try not to offer money. If you're photographing a street busker however, it's polite to give a few coins in thanks. (Which I should have learnt!)

Ultimately, think about how you'd feel about being photographed covertly. Additionally think about how protective you'd be if you have children. Apply the same rules to those around you as you wish to have applied to yourself - and give the utmost respect as much as you can. Happy Shooting!

Elegance in Town by Rikitza

Add a Comment:
anniegreen852 Featured By Owner Jan 24, 2014
I love doing  portrait photography in Brisbane. However, I also love getting spontaneous snapshots of people. The pictures that truly capture the essence of being human are the best. 
Kaz-D Featured By Owner Jan 26, 2014  Hobbyist Photographer
Awesome stuff! :)
Rikitza Featured By Owner Sep 5, 2012   Photographer
Dear Katy,
Your article is excellent, as most of your activity displayed on DA. Since you were using my pic "Elegance in Geneva", I might testify that sometimes it is practically impossible to ask for a permission, the circumstances of taking this specific pic included. I took this pic -while the couple appearing in the pic was sitting in a sidewalk restaurant- from quite a distance (using the Nikon coolpix 9100 at max. zoom), through some kind of glass wand separating the restaurant area from the rest of the sidewalk.
I believe that except for explicit infringement of a law (and I do not have the slightest idea about any legislation in any country in this sense) as long as you do not target any profit or cause any harm to the persons appearing in the pictures, there should be no real need to the receipt of an explicit permission. Would you or someone else in DA have a different opinion then certainly the category of "candid pictures" should have been cancelled not to say that maintaining it in the event that such a legislation might be existing would instigate to infringe such a law ... For sure, regarding children the situation is more delicate and personally I try to refrain from this ...
Kaz-D Featured By Owner Sep 5, 2012  Hobbyist Photographer
Thank you :)

I'm definitely not saying you have to get permission at all times :no: I have lots of candid photography in my gallery and I never once spoke to some of the subjects. So I completely agree with your point, sometimes it's impossible for sure! Also I love your piece, for the candid-ness of it especially. Catching people completely unawares is sometimes magical!
Rikitza Featured By Owner Sep 5, 2012   Photographer
Katy thx a bunch for your opinion.
It helps me overcome the feeling of "un-easy ness" that I have sometimes when taking/posting candid pics ...
Besides that, I highly appreciate your contribution to the DA community.
AnotherOddity Featured By Owner Aug 30, 2012  Student Traditional Artist
Glad to see this. I goes without saying that you should get permission before getting photos of a stranger, but I'm glad this was made clear.
Kaz-D Featured By Owner Aug 30, 2012  Hobbyist Photographer
Yes :nod: Thanks for reading!
anim3admir3r Featured By Owner Aug 29, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I'm glad this was written. It's quite irritating to have a complete stranger start taking photos of you. Especially when they don't ask for your permission or tell you what it's for. The last thing I would want to see is my picture plastered all over the internet. Because once it's up there it is practically impossible to take down. Not to mention it's just plain rude. I also like how you suggest the photographer put themselves in the other persons place.
Kaz-D Featured By Owner Aug 30, 2012  Hobbyist Photographer
It is! :nod:
Thank you :heart:
Add a Comment: