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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.

:bigthumb322852917:


: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




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:iconanniegreen852:
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. 
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:iconkaz-d:
Kaz-D Featured By Owner Jan 26, 2014  Hobbyist Photographer
Awesome stuff! :)
Reply
:iconrikitza:
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 ...
Reply
:iconkaz-d:
Kaz-D Featured By Owner Sep 5, 2012  Hobbyist Photographer
Hii!
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!
Reply
:iconrikitza:
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.
Riki
Reply
:iconanotheroddity:
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.
Reply
:iconkaz-d:
Kaz-D Featured By Owner Aug 30, 2012  Hobbyist Photographer
Yes :nod: Thanks for reading!
Reply
:iconanim3admir3r:
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.
Reply
:iconkaz-d:
Kaz-D Featured By Owner Aug 30, 2012  Hobbyist Photographer
It is! :nod:
Thank you :heart:
Reply
:iconanim3admir3r:
anim3admir3r Featured By Owner Sep 4, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
:highfive:
Reply
:iconasfodelo:
Asfodelo Featured By Owner Aug 29, 2012  Student General Artist
So true, sometimes it's a very awkward feeling when you notice someone might be taking a photo of you/the place where you are. A couple of years ago I had to take a lot of photos in the street with some classmates. I was the only one who wasn't too shy to ask people if we could take photos of them. One time I also wanted to snap an accordion player in the street, but when I asked him, her wife (who was dancing to the rythm of the accordion) told me I had to dance with her first in order to take photos of them! Being polite can get you to the dance floor too :P
Anyway, asking first is always a good idea :)
Reply
:iconkaz-d:
Kaz-D Featured By Owner Aug 30, 2012  Hobbyist Photographer
Hahah that's fantastic! :D
Reply
:iconmslyoness:
MsLyoness Featured By Owner Aug 29, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Thank you for posting this. I myself avoid having my picture taken whenever possible, and get so irritated and nervous when someone's snapping away and I'm in the shot, not least because more than half of the time they don't ask if they can do so. I agree that candid shots are often the best, but thanks for reminding people that the subject has the right to say "no".
Reply
:iconkaz-d:
Kaz-D Featured By Owner Aug 30, 2012  Hobbyist Photographer
Oh yes, that frustrates me too so much!
:heart:
Reply
:iconsmokeymitchell:
SmokeyMitchell Featured By Owner Aug 29, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
I wouldn't mind someone taking my picture xD
Wonder why some people wouldn't want their pictures taken..
Very nice article :clap:
Reply
:iconkaz-d:
Kaz-D Featured By Owner Aug 30, 2012  Hobbyist Photographer
Ah lots of reasons :D
Reply
:icontherainbowbrain:
therainbowbrain Featured By Owner Aug 29, 2012
I'm terrible when it comes to speaking to people (stuttering). I miss so many great shots because I have such a hard time saying "hey, mind if I photograph you?"
Reply
:iconkaz-d:
Kaz-D Featured By Owner Aug 30, 2012  Hobbyist Photographer
You know, I used to as well. But you have to go for it :nod: just ask, and you won't regret it!
Reply
:iconrockerchick676:
Rockerchick676 Featured By Owner Aug 29, 2012  Professional General Artist
these tips were quite helpful! although I'm not a professional and just tend to take pictures for fun its great to know how to deal with Photographing People.
I mean I personally hate it when random people run up to me and take my picture and run away without saying anything. But usually if someone asks to take my photo I always try to be polite and say yes especially when cosplaying. But of course it would be wonderful if someone who took my photo would tell me where it is somewhere on the internet haha.
Reply
:iconkaz-d:
Kaz-D Featured By Owner Aug 30, 2012  Hobbyist Photographer
Excellent!
Ah yes, i suppose that's the thing when you're cosplaying, you instantly attract the cameras! If I'm out shooting I tend to give the subject my card so they can see where their photo will be at a later date :nod:
Reply
:iconrockerchick676:
Rockerchick676 Featured By Owner Aug 30, 2012  Professional General Artist
thats a wonderful thing to do! I know currently Im searching the internet to see if I can find a picture of myself at a certain convention. It would be great if everyone carried a card.
Reply
:icondawnsentinel:
DawnSentinel Featured By Owner Aug 29, 2012
If some one took pics of me I'd like to know where they would post it. Asking beforehand wouldn't hurt either.
Reply
:iconkaz-d:
Kaz-D Featured By Owner Aug 30, 2012  Hobbyist Photographer
That's exactly it :nod:
Reply
:iconsikiepsis:
SIkIepsis Featured By Owner Aug 29, 2012
It is also a legal thing. I don't know how it is in other countries, but here in Germany there's a law regarding "Das Recht am eigenen Bild" - The right of your own picture. Meaning without your consent it is actually illegal to publish or use a picture of you, with some exceptions but in general it stands.

I often feel pretty uncomfortable when viewing a lot of street photography here, since I often wonder if these people were even asked if they were okay with having their picture taken. It is nice to see that you, as a photographer give it a thought that you, in a way, invade their privacy. :)
Reply
:iconkaz-d:
Kaz-D Featured By Owner Aug 30, 2012  Hobbyist Photographer
Wow that's fascinating! It sounds quite strict, but rightly so I think.

Yes I like to respect as much as possible. However when it comes to journalism, I can be a bit - pushy in a way. Not that I'm rude or take liberties, but journalism is about documenting, emotion - events and so on, and if there are people captured on camera crying, or laughing, or mourning and so on - then I'm respectful, but I still snap away :/
Reply
:icondragonstormstudios:
DragonstormStudios Featured By Owner Aug 29, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
As a cosplayer I prefer for photographers to ask for permission before taking a photograph. For one, it gives me time to pose so I become the character rather than some weirdo in horns whose picture was taken just for the bizarre factor. Secondly, it sometimes feels like an invasion of privacy if someone snaps a photo of you when you are not aware of them doing so. One time some person took a picture of me when my back was turned, what the hell? I only realized it when I turned and saw his camera in my direction moments after I heard the click.
Reply
:iconkaz-d:
Kaz-D Featured By Owner Aug 30, 2012  Hobbyist Photographer
Argh that's so annoying! I can really imagine that as a cosplayer you must be thrust into the limelight without permission being asked, so many times!
Reply
:icondragonstormstudios:
DragonstormStudios Featured By Owner Aug 30, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Well for the most part you're kind of making an unspoken agreement with the community that if you're in costume, you must be noticed. You're so different from the people around you that it instantly gathers attention.

In a sense an outsider might say that you're 'asking' for photographs to be taken.

However, surely there must be some kind of common courtesy to ask permission before snapping a shot? Especially if its during an unflattering situation where your character is concerned.
Reply
:iconkaz-d:
Kaz-D Featured By Owner Aug 30, 2012  Hobbyist Photographer
Oh I think there definitely should be a common courtesy, too many people think that you're making an unspoken agreement. :<
Reply
:icondragonstormstudios:
DragonstormStudios Featured By Owner Aug 30, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Too bad its not possible to make it so. ;P
Reply
:iconpricechi:
pricechi Featured By Owner Aug 29, 2012
I have a habit of walking unintentionally into cameras! Even with people holding them.
I'm not a serious photographer, but this is pretty helpful!
Reply
:iconkaz-d:
Kaz-D Featured By Owner Aug 30, 2012  Hobbyist Photographer
Hhaha! :D
Reply
:iconmfdonovan:
MFDonovan Featured By Owner Aug 29, 2012  Student Photographer
Like this, this was very informative and I agree with you.
Reply
:iconkaz-d:
Kaz-D Featured By Owner Aug 30, 2012  Hobbyist Photographer
Thank you :)
Reply
:iconcherylblanche:
CherylBlanche Featured By Owner Aug 29, 2012
My french teacher once told us of her trip to France and how she took a picture of a historical building on whose steps some person sat. The person proceeded to go up to her and ask for money for having taken his picture, except she was only interested in the building and he just happened to be there. She showed him the camera and the deletion of the photo to get him to stop harassing her.
Reply
:iconkaz-d:
Kaz-D Featured By Owner Aug 30, 2012  Hobbyist Photographer
Yeah :( it's sad when that happens, but sometimes i see their points!
Reply
:iconcherylblanche:
CherylBlanche Featured By Owner Aug 30, 2012
Finding out you've suddenly become the face of a product or major gallery without even having been made aware is pretty invasive yes.
Reply
:icondeaconstrucktor:
DeaconStrucktor Featured By Owner Aug 29, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
That's one of the main reasons I avoid taking photos of people, or at least strangers. Probably it has more to do with my own insecurities than with how others might view the activity. I start imagining that everyone is wondering, "Who is that creepy weirdo over there, with the camera, hiding in the bushes?" When all I wanted to do was get a picture of that fuzzy caterpillar! :)

I read another photography article that suggested, that it pays to go shooting with another person (preferably female) as it tends to reduce the creep factor. Women tend to be less threatening, and that extends by association to the men they're with.

The paparazzi have really done a number on the reputation of photographers everywhere.

Lots of good info here, thanks!
Reply
:iconkaz-d:
Kaz-D Featured By Owner Aug 30, 2012  Hobbyist Photographer
:nod: I think that asking is great, so not avoiding it completely, but getting the confidence to request permission :nod:
Yes! Going with a female is somewhat better :D
Reply
:iconwdwparksgal:
WDWParksGal Featured By Owner Aug 29, 2012
Added to #DevNews posting Friday.

I always ask permission to post on the Internet when taking pictures of people willing to pose, but often I just put those pictures in my scraps or Sta.sh, or PhotoBucket. I have some civil war reanactment pictures I have permission to post and am thinking about putting those on my stock site. The costumes are amazing, often made with wool and cotton and look quite realistic.
Reply
:iconkaz-d:
Kaz-D Featured By Owner Aug 30, 2012  Hobbyist Photographer
Thank you!
:heart:
Reply
:iconasgardsguardian:
AsgardsGuardian Featured By Owner Aug 29, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
I always ask because it's the polite thing to do.
Reply
:iconkaz-d:
Kaz-D Featured By Owner Aug 30, 2012  Hobbyist Photographer
It is indeed :nod:
Reply
:icontanya3286:
tanya3286 Featured By Owner Aug 29, 2012  Professional Writer
This is definitely a sensitive and less talked about subject.

Amateur photographers should definitely skin though this. Well written, educational and helpful. :nod:
Reply
:iconkaz-d:
Kaz-D Featured By Owner Aug 30, 2012  Hobbyist Photographer
Aye I agree, people sort of gloss over it :nod:
Reply
:icontanya3286:
tanya3286 Featured By Owner Aug 30, 2012  Professional Writer
Yea.
And I meant *skim through, not skin through... :iconfacepalmplz:
Reply
:iconkaz-d:
Kaz-D Featured By Owner Aug 31, 2012  Hobbyist Photographer
I guessed :D
Reply
:iconmementomori19:
MementoMori19 Featured By Owner Aug 28, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Thank you for sharing. This was immensely helpful. Yes, I know common sense really, but it never really occurred to me. I have never taken photos in public places because of this fear, but maaaaaybe, I'll try it. :D Thanks
Reply
:iconkaz-d:
Kaz-D Featured By Owner Aug 30, 2012  Hobbyist Photographer
Thank YOU for reading! :heart: You should go for it, just ask :nod:
Reply
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