Photographing strangers

CrazyEye

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99.9% (maybe more) of photos I've taken do not have people in them. Recently, I started trying people pictures: pictures of my friends' children on the playground, some portraits of my niece. But, I really love pictures I see of "unfamiliar" people, à la National Geographic.

The problem is that I'm not brave enough to go up to a stranger and ask them if I can take their picture. Will the person be flattered or insulted (for example, if they are homeless or don't look like me)?

- How should a photographer approach a person?
- When is a photo release form required and how do you ask them to sign it?
- What about when you don't speak the same language?
- If you want a candid photo, is it ok to take the photo then ask for the release afterward?
- What if the subject is a child and there is no parent around?
 

DReali

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As far as I know in England, Switzerland and Italy photo release forms are only required if you plan on making money off your photos. In some cases, such as photo journalism, this doesn't apply. I never have asked for someone to sign one and never even printed one because i never plan on making money off these kinds of photos.

With most people I just stick my lens in their face and fire away. In most cases people will walk past with a perplexed look, probably asking themselves "did that guy just take a picture of me?". For me its all about catching a glimpse of humanity which can only be done through luck and timing. IMO asking someone in advance for their picture most of the time yields false expressions and poor results. If I am photographing someone that I think may be offended or start trouble I smile first and trust me, a smile goes a long way. If they have a problem I'll explain "I'm sorry, it's digital I'll erase it". If the smile doesnt do it I ask (I would do this with homeless people) but as I never take photos of the homeless I never ask. This also depends on where you are; Italy and Switzerland are genrally more tranquil and safer than certain cities in the UK and America so use your own discretion. This is just how i do it and by no means intend that it should work for anyone else so don't take my advice word for word (i don't want to be resposible for any problems you may encounter:lol:)
 

Pugs

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99.9% (maybe more) of photos I've taken do not have people in them. Recently, I started trying people pictures: pictures of my friends' children on the playground, some portraits of my niece. But, I really love pictures I see of "unfamiliar" people, à la National Geographic.

The problem is that I'm not brave enough to go up to a stranger and ask them if I can take their picture. Will the person be flattered or insulted (for example, if they are homeless or don't look like me)?

- How should a photographer approach a person?
- When is a photo release form required and how do you ask them to sign it?
- What about when you don't speak the same language?
- If you want a candid photo, is it ok to take the photo then ask for the release afterward?
- What if the subject is a child and there is no parent around?

I don't know where you are and I'm definitely not a lawyer, but this is my understanding:

- You only need a model release if the image is going to be used to promote something (like your photography business, or if you're going to sell it as a stock photo that can end up being used in advertising of some sort).

- You can make money off of the image without a model release if you are selling it as art or photojournalism.

- As long as you are in a public space and your subject is in a public space, you have the right to photograph them.

- If the subject has a "reasonable right to privacy" you may not photograph them (ie: in their home, a restroom whether public or private, etc...)

- Even if your subject is in a public space, if you have to trespass, you may not photograph them.

- Some municipalities/states restrict public photography (for instance New York city is considering banning photography in the subways... though I expect a legal challenge on that if it passes).

- Children are fair game under the above rules, but beware angry parents who don't give a damn if you have a legal right or not.

Like I said, though, I'm not a lawyer or legal expert and this is merely my understanding of things. PLEASE check with lawyer in your area!
 

Mike_E

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Shoot first. Ask when you get around to it. Always act like you are supposed to be doing exactly whatever you are doing.

Also remember to smile (pleasantly)- it helps a lot.
 

skieur

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I- Even if your subject is in a public space, if you have to trespass, you may not photograph them.

This is the only part you got wrong. It is not against the law to take photos of people even while trespassing on private property in Canada, US, Britain or many other countries. You don't make sense here either because if your subject is in a public place, how can you possibly trespass to take their picture, since you would have to be in a public place as well.

skieur
 

Fiendish Astronaut

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It might kind of ruin the photo if you have to ask first. Some reportage photographers don't want people to know they're being photographed until it's too later! On the other hand if you want somebody to smile for you then probably best ask them.

Skieur - I can imagine a situation in which someone might stand in somebody's garden in order to take "candid" pictures of someone walking down the street.Nevermind if you're taking pictures; you are still trespassing and the photographs might be evidence that's used against you!
 

skieur

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Legally, you can take a photo of anyone in a public place because they have no reasonable expectation to privacy. The exception in a few locales is someone who is being treated on location for injuries or medical issues. Common sense exceptions also include washrooms, changerooms, court, military installations of a secret nature etc.

If the use is for advertising purposes, a release is necessary but editorial or artistic use is OK.

However, how you go about it can lead to other charges. Blocking a persons progress down the street even temporarily by sticking a camera in their face could be construed as assault or intimidation in some areas or harassment in others. Setting up a camera on a tripod in a busy location could be consider loitering. Any activity that obstructs pedestrian traffic may require a permit in still other areas.

So pick your camera location carefully, stay on the move, and don't be too aggressive.

skieur
 
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CrazyEye

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Legally, you can take a photo of anyone in a public place because they have no reasonable expectation to privacy. The exception in a few locales is someone who is being treated on location for injuries or medical issues. Common sense exceptions also include washrooms, changerooms, court, military installations of a secret nature etc.

If the use is for advertising purposes, a release is necessary but editorial or artistic use is OK.

However, how you go about it can lead to other charges. Blocking a persons progress down the street even temporarily by sticking a camera in their face could be construed as assault or intimidation in some areas or harassment in others. Setting up a camera on a tripod in a busy location could be consider loitering. Any activity that obstructs pedestrian traffic may require a permit in still other areas.

So pick your camera location carefully, stay on the move, and don't be too aggressive.

skieur

Why do some photography contests require a release?
 

a_spaceman

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in my view, if you ask and they say yes you'll be fine.
but then, i never went further than asking a lady if i could take a photo or two of her dog...!
on the other hand, i've been asked to pose a few times. what they did, and you should do, is be friendly enough, say you want to take a photo of them and tell them why, whatever is the reason. quick and to the point, knowing what you're doing and informing them of what's going on. i guess that if they'll say no it is for shyness, not for legal views, ethics or anything like that.
 

tenlientl

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First time I took my dSLR out was also the first time I took pictures of people I didn't know. TBH, I just snapped away.

I didn't care what they would think. I just smiled. Male, females, children, seniors.

There's times though where I was sexually attracted to certain females, so I hesitated taking the pictures because what If they said something.. That woulda crushed my ego a little bit, but whatever. Did it anyways.

Just smile. It's what I did, they smiled back.
 

skieur

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Skieur - I can imagine a situation in which someone might stand in somebody's garden in order to take "candid" pictures of someone walking down the street.Nevermind if you're taking pictures; you are still trespassing and the photographs might be evidence that's used against you!

Actually, the way trespassing works is that if you are asked to leave the property and don't, THEN you are trespassing. Trespassing is automatic ONLY if you have, for example climbed a fence or disregarded obvious signs. Photos that you have taken are not evidence against you either unless for example they could have only been taken by climbing over a fence, taking a chain off a gate etc. which considering zoom lenses might be pretty diffiult to prove. Moreove in some areas the charge of trespassing is not likely to be laid, or if laid, not likely to be prosecuted unless the evidence is irrefutable and it is accompanied by other more serious charges such as damage to property, theft, vandalism etc.

Also of course, taking photos is not illegal, so any photos are still your property and cannot be seized without a warrant even by the police.

skieur
 

RMThompson

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Actually, the way trespassing works is that if you are asked to leave the property and don't, THEN you are trespassing. Trespassing is automatic ONLY if you have, for example climbed a fence or disregarded obvious signs. Photos that you have taken are not evidence against you either unless for example they could have only been taken by climbing over a fence, taking a chain off a gate etc. which considering zoom lenses might be pretty diffiult to prove. Moreove in some areas the charge of trespassing is not likely to be laid, or if laid, not likely to be prosecuted unless the evidence is irrefutable and it is accompanied by other more serious charges such as damage to property, theft, vandalism etc.

Also of course, taking photos is not illegal, so any photos are still your property and cannot be seized without a warrant even by the police.

skieur

I :heart: skieur
 

Alleh Lindquist

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If you want to sell the images as stock you could think about putting something in your model release stating that they will be paid a small percentage of revenue if the image sells this will give your subjects a good reason to sign a release.

If you’re not going to sell them then you don't need a release. I actually was at a Seth Rosnick seminar a while back and he does this a lot. He mentioned if you shoot with a wider angle lens and just go right up to your subject and talk to them you are far less likely to have issues than if you are across the street with a 200mm.
 

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