Monday, March 26, 2012

Street Photography: Know Your Rights

Capturing photos of people as they go about their normal lives is a great way to get amazing photos, but it can be controversial.  Here's what you need to know.

Capturing someone unexpected can lead to great photos.
(Photo by Thomas Leuthard)

You Don't Need Permission to Take a Photo

Some people, maybe even most people, are going to take offense if you start taking their picture, even in a public place, if you don't get permission first.  There's just something icky-feeling about knowing that some stranger now has your image to do with as he pleases, and it definitely seems like an invasion of privacy.  

Some people may take offense if you take their picture without permission.
(Photo by Jeremy Brooks)

But the fact is that if you're in a public place, you can take whatever photographs you want.


You May Need Permission to Publish the Photo

As long as your person doesn't invade a person's privacy, and aren't using the photo for commercial purposes, you don't need permission to publish it.  If you're taking pictures for an ad, you need permission, no question.

If you think you can get free models for your ads, think again.
(Photo by Thomas Leuthard)

If you're taking a picture that will go up in a gallery where your work is for sale, the line is hazier. In the case the question is - it the purpose of the photo artistic, or commercial? In this case, if you can get permission, do so, even if you have to do it after the fact.  If you can't get permission, you may want to show off another photo.

Photos of Police

You are completely within your rights taking a photo of a police officer performing their duties (assuming it's in a public place).  Police officers may ask you to stop only if your are interfering with their duties, but that doesn't stop them from trying to get you to stop anyway.  

(Photo by Thomas Hawk)

Carlos Miller has a great blog on the subject of people being harassed for taking photos of police.

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