Do I Need Permission To Take Photos?

mulderitsme

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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!
 

Overread

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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.
 

KmH

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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.
 
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mulderitsme

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

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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.
 
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mulderitsme

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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.
 

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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.

^^^^ Pretty much sums it up.


Take some time to hear their story.
 

john.margetts

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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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The_Traveler

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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.
 

jcdeboever

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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.
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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The_Traveler

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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.

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.

Give me a pretentious break. People are afraid of what they do not understand and this lady is clearly that.

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.


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.

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.
 

KmH

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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
 
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jcdeboever

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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.

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.

Give me a pretentious break. People are afraid of what they do not understand and this lady is clearly that.

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.


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.

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.

Having served several years inside the community, I can assure you that most "homeless" people choose to live this way. I did not say all as there are exceptions. Spending time with them, getting to now them actually reveals this. Simply to say they are on hard times is short sighted because the majority of them are actually choosing to live that way and are content with it's perceived short comings.

So the lady being a photo editor for a major website is an expert on homeless people? I think not, she could stick to what she is good at, whatever that may be. She is being pretentious by attempting to impress viewers on basically a cultural / community issue on her view on whats good photography and what is not. Are you pretentious? I think not. Just because you agree with her point of view doesn't make you pretentious.

I could say (I'm not) a street shooter showing up at a gay rights rally is being lazy too. What makes their pictures more interesting than say a man sleeping on a slab of concrete in downtown Detroit? Is it the subject? Is it in the fact the street shooter planned going there with people engaged in a belief which opened up the opportunity to shoot more interesting pictures because of the sheer volume of people?

The OP is creating a project that they feel may have an impact in some way, no different than the street shooter capturing people at a gay rights rally. Actually, maybe the street shooter is not doing anything but taking pictures that have good composition and exposure. In my opinion, to imply that taking pictures of the "homeless" is lazy is narrow minded and she took the opportunity to write an article to impress viewers.
 

Buckster

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Real life isn't all sunshine, rainbows and smiling, well-dressed, sweater-coordinated, posed portraits of families in picture-perfect backgrounds.

Photographs of people and things that are sometimes difficult for some to look at are important. They help force society to confront aspects of reality that they might otherwise too easily sweep under the rug and avoid. Often, it is exactly those types of photographs that move people to try to help, and I consider that a very good thing.

Think of the work of Dorothea Lange, Kevin Carter, and so many others who made such societal impact with their photos that they helped motivate possibly millions of people to help possibly millions of others.

People need to see such images, and to do that, those images need to be shot.

Describing these attempts to bring needed attention to the plights of these people as, "poverty porn" is offensive to my sensibilities.
 

jcdeboever

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Real life isn't all sunshine, rainbows and smiling, well-dressed, sweater-coordinated, posed portraits of families in picture-perfect backgrounds.

Photographs of people and things that are sometimes difficult for some to look at are important. They help force society to confront aspects of reality that they might otherwise too easily sweep under the rug and avoid. Often, it is exactly those types of photographs that move people to try to help, and I consider that a very good thing.

Think of the work of Dorothea Lange, Kevin Carter, and so many others who made such societal impact with their photos that they helped motivate possibly millions of people to help possibly millions of others.

People need to see such images, and to do that, those images need to be shot.

Describing these attempts to bring needed attention to the plights of these people as, "poverty porn" is offensive to my sensibilities.

Well said.
 

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