Do I Need Permission To Take Photos?

Discussion in 'Photography Beginners' Forum' started by mulderitsme, Dec 4, 2015.

  1. mulderitsme

    mulderitsme TPF Noob!

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    Hi everyone, long time lurker, first time poster.

    I currently have a Canon Rebel T5, and I am purely a hobbyist -- I like to photograph wildlife, my dog, ect. Keeps me entertained and I love capturing memories. Here is my question:

    For a long time I've been very involved in working with the homeless population around my city, both directly on the streets and through shelter work and working with organizations. For a while I've had an idea for something, however I'm not sure if I would need to go through having people sign a release for this. Here's what I would like to do:

    I'm sure some of you have heard of the Humans of New York page on Facebook. My idea is, I would love to start a similar Facebook page for my own city, focused on homeless people only; in which I photograph the homeless population and share their stories and photos in a similar manner. My city is filled with a very large homeless population that line our streets, and over the years I've gotten to know them and hear their stories. Some are tragic, some amazing, some will make you laugh, and many will make you cry. Much of the homeless population on the streets around my city know me from helping them over the years and I felt a project like this would shed light on these individuals and help people begin to see the homeless as human beings as opposed to just a beggar on a street corner, as so many view them.

    However, I'm not sure how to even begin. It would all be non-profit, just me quoting a bit of their story and taking a few photographs, and putting them on the Facebook page that I would create for this project. Would I need these people to sign a release form of any kind to take their photo? Is there anything else I would need to do? I've had plenty of people over the years ask to take my photo or video record me, either for school projects or a news segment, ect. and I've never been asked to sign anything.

    I'd love insight on this! Thanks so much!


     
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  2. Overread

    Overread has a hat around here somewhere Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Generally speaking for editorial use you won't need any permission or signed documents or any of that.

    However it would generally be considered polite to ask - more so today as if you're posting online some of those you photograph might not wish to be presented to the whole world.

    When working with the homeless it would also be generally good practice to offer a donation to them as well; having read that you want to put part of their story up online chances are that you've already considered this aspect.
     
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  3. KmH

    KmH In memoriam Supporting Member

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    What country are you in?

    In the USA, like news photographers making photos for editorial purposes, you do not need a release signed by anyone.
     
  4. mulderitsme

    mulderitsme TPF Noob!

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    Thanks Overread! KmH, I am in the southern US.
     
  5. Designer

    Designer Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    IMO, they're not going to want to sign anything. If you ask them to sign a paper, they're going to be very suspicious of your motives.

    If it were me, I'd keep a pocket of $1 bills handy, and offer anywhere from $1 to $5 depending on how cooperative they are.
     
  6. mulderitsme

    mulderitsme TPF Noob!

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    I'm thinking they won't want to sign anything either. Some are willing to have their photo taken, just from past experience from asking to take their photo for the organizations I've volunteered with. It's all about building their trust and explaining that what I am doing is in an effort to help them, ect.
     
  7. EIngerson

    EIngerson Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    ^^^^ Pretty much sums it up.


    Take some time to hear their story.
     
  8. john.margetts

    john.margetts No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    While you do not need permission, please remember to be polite. If a particular person does not want their photograph taken, don't.

    On another forum, there was a chap bragging how he had insisted on his constitutional rights and chased an unwilling subject down the street to photograph him - appalling behaviour!

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  9. The_Traveler

    The_Traveler Completely Counter-dependent Supporting Member

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    Since you have gotten a bunch of responses, I'll give a counter weight.

    People in general, the public, understand homelessness, understand what is happening and, if they are prone to sympathy, are sympathetic.
    The problem with photographing the homeless is that many of these people are vulnerable to kindness, a few spoken words and they are willing to give up their own privacy for a little bit of virtually anything - friendship, money, food.
    So doing a broad reach, looking for those who make good pictures and are agreeable, a photographer is not necessarily giving a true broad picture, but is skimming the surface for his/her own ends.
    The photographer is using these people who, because of their life circumstances are vulnerable.

    Stop Taking Pictures of Homeless People | VICE | United States

    by Wendy Syfret
    Associate Editor, VICE Australia

    "Over the past year or so, however, I've noticed a disturbing trend that seems to plague the best and the worst of them: taking pictures of homeless people. I don't know what all these people saw that made them believe taking a picture of some dude having a bad time is art, but 99 percent of the time it's lazy and beyond lame.

    Street photography is a tricky balance between being an artist and being a creep, and it's something that even the best shooters in the world struggle with. It's no secret that a lot of the time you'll get a better photo of an unusual or amazing thing if the subject is unaware. But homelessness isn't unusual or amazing. It's not a surreal moment in time that you can capture and use to illustrate that the world is a brain-splittingly cruel place. A dog in a backpack is odd, and a person living on the street is a reality for millions of people.

    To be fair, the people who send in photo essays that casually feature these shots probably aren't trying to be assholes. At least I hope they're not. I assume they either think they're being edgy or poetic. But it's not at all edgy—it's lazy. You're not creating some sort of outsider art by taking a picture of someone less fortunate than you. ............. It's a way to shortcut your own experience by hijacking someone else's. "

    Poverty porn is ugly and, to me, repellent.
     
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  10. jcdeboever

    jcdeboever TPF Supporters Supporting Member

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    Well, at the end of the day it's someone's opinion. Having experience in this area, most homeless people are impaired and choose to live that way. Most are not in bad times, they are living the way they choose. I see taking pictures of them as no different than taking a picture of me. Lazy? Give me a pretentious break. People are afraid of what they do not understand and this lady is clearly that. These are real people, no different than any of us. We choose to be employed, have a home, pay taxes. They choose to do the opposite.

    I applaud the OP for going outside of their comfort zone, being respectful and thoughtful, and doing something about it. People are getting more and more ugly every day because of anger and hate. Has it ever occurred that "Homeless" people may be on to something?



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  11. The_Traveler

    The_Traveler Completely Counter-dependent Supporting Member

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    That's totally ridiculous crap.
    The homeless who live in shelters, the mentally disturbed, the single mother with kids and no job, the drug-addicted - they aren't choosing. Yes, you can cherry pick and find the few exceptional people who probably could live in another way but 'most.' Again, that's crap.

    That lady is the photo editor for a major web site - and she has the right to her opinion without being labelled pretentious.
    And I've been shooting street stuff for about 8 years - and I have the same opinion as she does.
    Am I pretentious because I think that taking pictures of the homeless is exploitative and lazy?
    It's lazy because you are using someone else's hard times to scoop up emotion for your shot - without knowing or doing any more than that.
    The shot is meaningless except to give viewers that little 'man, he's in tough shape - and I'm glad I'm not.' kind of thrill. Someone to feel better than.


    Except you have options and somewhere to hide from public eyes.
    Most of these people do not.
    Taking these pictures without a clear purpose that helps them in some real way is exploitative.
    Adding to the common knowledge with casual words and a photo one 'buys' is exploitative.
     
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  12. KmH

    KmH In memoriam Supporting Member

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    I want to clarify my remarks.

    The most important is - An online photography forum is a bad place to be seeking legal advice. Consult a qualified attorney.

    Terms you need to understand the legal definition of, not the common definition of:
    Editorial use - Defining Non-Commercial Use | Photo Attorney
    Commercial use - Commercial vs. Editorial Use of Photographs of People | Photo Attorney
    Publication - Are Photographs Posted On the Internet Published? | Photo Attorney

    You don't need permission to take photographs from public property.
    For some uses of the photographs you take you need permission from any recognizable people in the photo(s) to use their likeness.
    Recognizability is not only about being able to see a person's face. Unique clothes, a unique hair cut, tattoos, scars, and other things can make a person recognizable.

    You also need to understand that unlike federal copyright law, model/property release law is state law so there are 50 somewhat different versions of model/property release law out there.

    Photo Attorney
    A Digital Photographer's Guide to Model Releases: Making the Best Business Decisions with Your Photos of People, Places and Things
     
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2015

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