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Is it ok to photograph people without their consent?

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Is it ok to photograph people without their consent?
9 years ago, July 30th 2009 No: 1 Msg: #81583  
What made me post this is something I saw when I was in San Cristobal De Las Casas two months ago. I saw a tourist position his mates on some steps leading up to a plinth that supports a wooden cross in a town centre plaza. At the bottom of the steps and between him and his friends was a bench and on it were three indigenous women with their children. He'd clearly positioned his mates on the steps under the guise of photographing them, but really he wanted a photo of the women below them on the bench dressed in their indigenous costumes. The women knew it too and all of them covered their faces with their scarves in an action of defiance. But the photographer was persistent and continued snapping away until he got his shots regardless.

Many different indigenous peoples sell their textiles on the streets dressed in their traditional costumes in San Cristobal. But many indgenous people walk though the town also dressed like this for no other reason than those are the clothes they always wear and have always worn. You get the feeling that although being in San Cristobal feels like being in a cultural museum it is actually a working town. At first I found the indignous people in San Cristobal a little reticent towards foreigners. But after being in San Cristobal a couple of weeks I thought "maybe they're just sick of having tourists stick cameras in their faces everytime they nip into town to buy a pint a milk".

I don't really have many photos of people from the countries we've visited. I wouldn't want to ask someone for a photo only for them to tell me they wanted money for letting me photograph them as happens a lot in places where people in their cultural regalia and tourists collide. I wouldn't pay someone for a photo. But also I would feel a bit weird about taking photos of them on the sly or against their will. Or is all fair in love and getting the perfect photo for your blog? Any thoughts?
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9 years ago, July 31st 2009 No: 2 Msg: #81648  

9 years ago, August 31st 2009 No: 3 Msg: #84867  
N Posts: 3
Personally, I have no problem with taking photos of someone without their consent.
The first reason is that there is no malicious intent in the photos i take. If I see a really pretty woman that I wanna capture, I'll snap a shot. I would never just walk out in front of her and take the picture, though. I have a 500 mm telephoto that takes care of it for me.
The second and most important reason is, well, it is perfectly legal. As long as she's 18+, and in public, there is nothing against the law about it. If she happened to see me take the picture and asked me to delete it, i of course would, but 99% of the time people are just too busy or not paying enough attention to even notice, and if they did, very few are so uppity that they would actually come over and ask you to delete it. Reply to this

9 years ago, September 8th 2009 No: 4 Msg: #85664  
N Posts: 3
I think people should consider NOT taking pictures without the persons consent ANYWHERE in teh world. How would you like a total stranger taking pictures of your kid at the mall? Would'nt that upset you? Or take pictures at you while you are parking, talking on the phone, working?
People should really start thinking that its not our right to do whatever we want, anytime and anywhere. Theres limits to everything. Take pictures at statues and churches ( with limits), buildings, animals, parks, fish.
I doubt that many people that take pictures of the native woman in Guatamala, without asking, would take a picture of a crip or blood in LA.
Whaddya think? Reply to this

9 years ago, September 9th 2009 No: 5 Msg: #85757  

Whaddya think?


I think if a person shows annoyance, or states an objection then dont take the photos. Otherwise, not everybody minds having their pic snapped and it may be overly cautious to presume that everybody objects to the same as what we ourselves object to. Reply to this

9 years ago, February 4th 2010 No: 6 Msg: #102397  
N Posts: 1
It is absolutely not alright to take pictures of individuals without their consent. Riding the bus down town, it is absolutely enraging when a man tries to take a picture of an attractive women, and many of these men are not just individuals living on the street. A few have been older men dressed in nice suits, as well as decent looking men in their twenties. It is our duty to be an ally to the one who is being oppressed and politely point out to this individual, that this is not ok. You always need to inform why you would like to take a picture. I especially liked what "annarosita" wrote would you take a picture of a crip or a blood in LA?
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9 years ago, February 4th 2010 No: 7 Msg: #102495  
Having been a professional photographer I am always conscious about taking an individuals picture. When I was working we always ask permission and if the photo was to be published we had releases with us. Now I just do photos as a hobby but I still respect my photo target. I often wish I could shoot a particular subject but I don't want to offend someone. Reply to this

9 years ago, February 15th 2010 No: 8 Msg: #103740  

It is our duty to be an ally to the one who is being oppressed and politely point out to this individual, that this is not ok.


When we dont know if a person minds having their photo taken or not, it would be presumptious of us to decide the person is oppressed into not objecting to it for themselves, wouldnt it?

Sometimes people take my photo without permission, when I am out at night. It doesnt bug me. But, maybe for some, it has happened a bit too often and started to irritate. Reply to this

9 years ago, February 22nd 2010 No: 9 Msg: #104539  
This is exactly the issue I entered this forum to learn about. My goal is to try and eventually become a travel photographer. Part of caturing the essence of a place is capturing unplanned images of the locals. I have been known to ask permission to take photo's but when the image subject knows you're taking the photo it never comes out the right way. When the subject is a performer then I have no problem just taking the photo because they are in the entertainment industry and I've been lucky enough to get some great ones, but I've missed quite a few spontaneous shots because of a hesitation of taking the photo without permission. If I WAS to get a fabulous image of someone spontaneously and they didn't know I'd taken it, am I able later to try and sell the image or do I have to have signed consent? Reply to this

9 years ago, March 12th 2010 No: 10 Msg: #106304  
I love photography and most of all photography of people. I travel a lot and how can you go to colorful countries like Mexico, Cuba or Morocco and NOT photograph people? I think it's mostly about your own attitude. You don't have to go over bodies to get your money shot, there are other ways to make your subjects feel comfortable and at ease.

Those few times when i have gotten into argument with somebody about photographing them, a smile usually helps. In very dire need, if they demand that you delete the photo or get abusive with you - you can just point out that if they walk around in the public area, they subject themselves to being photographed, whether they like it or not.



People are specially easy to photograph in Morocco, but Mexico was also pretty easy


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9 years ago, March 19th 2010 No: 11 Msg: #106862  
N Posts: 3
hmm. Maybe i'm just ugly or something but i don't recall ever having a stranger take a photo of me. Reply to this

9 years ago, March 27th 2010 No: 12 Msg: #107390  
If these people were to travel to Paris, they would certainly take picture of the Eiffel tower and the people around... I live in Mexico, a personally already got taken pictures with my kid as I was biking under the rain, and it made me smile, and rather proud of being of such interest !


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9 years ago, April 6th 2010 No: 13 Msg: #108136  
After going through the thoguhts of peer bloggers I support that fact that its not good to take photographs of someone without his consent. But in my perception its fine until its not having something objectional.

Poeple photography is all about capturing the candid shots with expression which are real and i personally feel if you ask someone for permission you will never get that true expressin or emotion which you want to want to capture.

So in a nutshell Do poeple phorography capture some beautiful faces & great expressions but if someone is offensive to it .............. respect there privacy. Reply to this

9 years ago, May 5th 2010 No: 14 Msg: #110210  
If people are part of the scenery of a photograph, I don't even think twice. If they're going to be a prominent part of the photo I'll check with them if I can, and if they are going to be the primary subject, I always check, and sometimes (depending on the feel of the situation) I'll offer to pay. This is partly for my own benefit, because if I've paid them, I don't feel self-concious about getting a whole roll or asking them to move this way or that. At that point they're a model. I've never asked for a release signature but it's something I might start doing now that I travel with digital.

I have in fact been on the other side of it. I lived in Korea for a year and traveled a lot in the countryside. In some of the villages I'm sure I'm the first blond-haired white guy they ever saw outside of TV, and people were constantly taking pictures of me. It never bothered me a bit. In fact, to this day I'm amused to imagine there must be a few dozen pictures of me with groups of kids in photo albums across Korea. Perhaps I didn't mind because I was the guest in the country, but I really think it's just a personality trait. Some people don't care, some get bent out of shape, and some are the natural entertainers who will jump into your picture. So if someone really does seem to mind, just shrug and move on. (I'd hesitate to push the legal issue, especially if you're in a foreign country and are just arguing from a pedestal. It would suck to find out the hard way that it's actually NOT legal where you are to take pictures of people in public.) Reply to this

8 years ago, October 7th 2010 No: 15 Msg: #120596  
N Posts: 13
I picked up good book on amazon by a travel photog and writer that addresses this subject. He reccommends asking out of common courtesy. How to sell digital travel photos

I ask now but didnt always I have had mixed response but have also met some good people by asking and you can often get a release if you want to sell the photo when you ask.
Hud Reply to this

8 years ago, October 30th 2010 No: 16 Msg: #122028  
It's difficult. I often photograph people, usually just zooming in without them noticing. I don't see anything wrong with it if the person is not recognisable, for example if they form a silhoutte against something, or are just a small figure to illustrate the size of something, or if you have zoomed in to focus on a detail of costume and so on. If people are performing I assume they are agreeing to have photos taken of them, so people dancing, juggling or just dressed up and sitting on the street are fair game.
As for randomly taking photos I think there is a huge unfairness between countries. Why do people think it is ok to photograph children on the streets of Thailand or India, or a Guatamalan woman carrying her baby, or a tribal woman with bare breasts walking through her village in Africa... yet they would be concerned about the man on the London bus photographing a girl, or a stranger at their kids' Nativity Play snapping pictures.
I think if it is purely for personal use and only going to be displayed in your own photo album then it's ok, as long as you are aware of the person's feelings and if they notice you or look upset you stop, but for people in some countries it must be frustrating to endlessly have people taking pictures because you are different to them and seen as something unusual and exotic. I would probably be amused if someone took a photo of me walking into Tescos, but if it happened several times a day??
I think if we expect to take photos abroad we need to be more understanding in our own countries. While working in England a couple of Indian women, obviously on a business trip or something, asked to take photos of the school kids I was with and were refused because we can't have people taking photographs of our kids in school! Personally I just thought, uh they are foreigners and want a photo of the cute English kids to show people back home - where's the harm?
I usually don't comment if people take photos of me while travelling, after all I'm taking pictures of people too. I did once move on from a cafe in India though after the same group of men had taken at least 5 photos of me on their mobiles. It started to feel a it uncomfortable then. Reply to this

8 years ago, November 22nd 2010 No: 17 Msg: #123455  
If it is a public place then you can, unless they clearly express they don't want their picture taken. If its children, whole other story. Get their parents permission, if you are publishing it somewhere get it in writing.
It is absolutely not ok to take someones photo with out their consent, and if you make any sort of money off of it its completely illegal.
For travel photography I usually walk around, smiling and just by raising the camera slowly people have time to express whether this is ok or not. After I usually show them what I took. But granted, I have gotten yelled at before anyway. In Savannah I was hired to shoot an event and a woman thought I was taking a picture of her little girl, turned around and started screaming in my face demanding to know why I was taking photographs of her daughter until I explained that I was paid to be there and I was actually photographing the overall promotion stand. Reply to this

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