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Sassalyn Nov 22, 2003 7:40 AM

Taking People Photos
Hi Guys,
I got a new gig with a magazine as a photo journalist. as my forte is more on nature, i need some advice on taking people pictures. My questions are:
1. Do i approach the subjects and ask permission or do i try to snap them from afar? I dont like people who pose
i prefer them to be doing their thing.
2. All other advice is greatly appreciated.

bcoultry Nov 22, 2003 8:45 AM

I don't know much about this except for one thing: I believe that, legally, release forms signed by the subjects are necessary. Somehow, this doesn't seem a requirement with celebrities, but I do know that, the few times I supplied photos of people for magazines, those release forms were a must.

PrmseKpr Nov 22, 2003 9:46 AM

I don't know about legality, but of course anything taken from public property is fair game. I once was at an event that was heavily attended by the media. The event was open to the public and there was no admission charge. I noticed one of the photogs going up to people "I'm so and so, with such and such, you were in a photo I took, can I please get your name?" I have a feeling he was just asking their name so that when the picture runs in the paper the caption writer could then say "Joe Smith of Anytown, USA ..."

bcoultry Nov 22, 2003 10:05 AM

Here's a link to information quickly found via Google:

Simon Courcha Nov 22, 2003 7:11 PM

The law probably differs from country to country, but generally if the subject is in a public place you don't have to ask permission to take or publish their picture. If it's a private location then that's a different matter.

If you're doing photojournalism then you may want to get a completely natural shot - a shot where the person's behaviour is not going to be altered by their perception of your presence. On the other hand, often with photojournalism youíll be on a particular assignment, and you may be aware that thereís a particular sort of picture that will best fit that assignment. Getting that picture may require the active co-operation of the people involved.

Either way, you should always be polite and never pushy. If someone spots you taking their picture then acknowledge them. If a subject appears uncomfortable then give them space. It may take a while to get used to, but eventually you will gain confidence and thatíll help people become more comfortable with you.

KevinG Nov 22, 2003 8:36 PM

If you are taking photos from _public_ property, then legally you can photograph anything you want... even if the subject is NOT on public property. IE, while walking down the sidewalk I can take a picture of Joe Schmoe's dog lying on his porch... or even Joe himself mowing his lawn. It may be rude, but it's legal.

Personally, I wouldn't have a problem taking photos of people if they are out in public, doing things that are not personally embarrassing for them. If they are walking down a city street or otherwise out in public, anyone can see them, they have no expectation of privacy. Even so, I doubt I would take a picture if they were doing something that would embarrass them, ie, picking their nose or fixing a wedgie ;). It wouldn't be illegal, but again, I just think it'd be rude.

If someone saw me and objected, I would simply apologize and delete the picture while they were there in front of me.

Here's a useful guide to your legal rights.

PS: this little guide was written by an attorney, who apparently is also a photographer and author of a book called 'Legal Handbook for Photographers' :


bcoultry Nov 23, 2003 3:42 PM

Nevertheless, publications--in particular, magazines--often require a "model" release for the express purpose of avoiding lawsuit. You don't have to get the signed release before the picture is taken, but you do have to have the it at some point. Thus, you don't have to tell the person you're photographing that you're doing so before or during the act, thus turning him or her into an unnatural stick.

Here in the U.S., there are far too many people (and lawyers) looking to make a buck via lawsuit, and it hardly matters whether the person or entity being sued has done something illegal.

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