Candid Photos of People - Do you ask permission?

posted March 16th, 2016
I like the idea of street photography and candid action shots of people. What is the correct protocol for obtaining permission when a person's face is clearly visible?
posted March 16th, 2016
If you ask permission, I would not regard them as candid any more. "Street" traditionally doesn't "ask."
posted March 16th, 2016
It depends on the circumstance. If the person is the main subject then I usually go up to them and ask. If I am just randomly shooting street scenes as I walk along then I have the camera hanging in front around my neck and shoot using "sport" setting. I don't look through the lens as I shoot. It's not obvious that I am taking pictures as I often look the other way. Not everything turns out but I have taken some amazing shots using this technique.
posted March 16th, 2016
In general in the USA, if they are in public and on public ground, it is OK to photograph them. If you are going to use the image commercially (advertisement, selling it) it is always best to get a release.

It is always good manners and polite to ask their permission. Most will not have problem. Be prepared to delete the image if they say no. Being rude makes it harder for the next photographer.
posted March 16th, 2016
@frankhymus - I guess I mean after the fact in these circumstances.

@kimmer50 - I've seen a few of those "from the hip" shots here.

@chapjohn - So you might go up to a person after the fact if it is a good shot and ask them permission? Just in case you might want to use it. Do you offer to send them a copy?
posted March 16th, 2016
I don't think there is really proper protocol, as it's more about what the photographer is trying to accomplish with their photo. If a serious situation is happening and the photographer wants to capture the actual moment and the emotions along with it, I could see how/why the photographer might just shoot and not ask or make themselves known.

If they're going for more of a "documentation of persons" (think Humans of New York http://www.humansofnewyork.com/ ) then it certainly would be necessary to ask permission. In this vein of photography, a former 365 has a great collection he's working on "100 strangers" ( https://www.flickr.com/photos/vijaybrittophotography/sets/72157649445819603/#)

Good Luck with if you decide to pursue this style or not. I personally have stayed away largely because of your question. I wouldn't be comfortable photographing and putting on the internet the photo of a person without their permission and I'm not comfortable talking to strangers either.
posted March 16th, 2016
@mej2011 - Thanks, Melissa. That puts it in perspective.
posted March 16th, 2016
@sarasotab If they ask why I took their picture, I tell them. This would after because to ask before would not make it a candid.

Most photogs seem to be introverted type people so talking to strangers puts us into stress. There are a few extroverted photogs that make street seem so easy. Levi Sim is one of these.
posted March 16th, 2016
DbJ
Agreed with @frankhymus and @mej2011

There is no "protocol" per se, and generally speaking the objective in street photography is to go unnoticed. As far as "rights", there are two aspects: First when & what you can shoot, and second, what you can do with the photo afterwards. In the U.S. if you are on public property, you may legally photograph anything and anyone in view even if they themselves are on private property. (Not saying that's not creepy, just saying it's legal...think paparazzi.) Once the photo is taken, if you do not have model and/or property releases, the photo may be used only for editorial purposes. That means you can print it, exhibit it, post it to the internet, even print it in a newspaper, book or magazine without the subject(s) permission - again, as long as it is editorial use. If however, it ends up being used for any commercial purpose to promote any product or brand, you now need a model release (and property release for any recognizable private building or structure) or you could be sued by the subject (and/or property owner) for damages.

Ultimately, as Mellissa pointed out, it's your call. You can choose to have your style be that you make yourself known and ask if the subjects would like a copy. Just like HONY or other "strangers" projects that often include a short bio of the subject or an account of the interaction with the subject. From my own experience, I would anticipate that if you approach your subjects, while most of your subjects would not overreact negatively, they will more often than not be slightly uncomfortable that you took their photo and will have no interest in a copy and may ask you to delete it. The approach that HONY and other photographers who 'engage' their subject take is to first 'engage', then later ask to take a photo. But a typical street photographer shoots first, then disappears. LOL. The delicate balance is being unremarkable and unnoticeable without also being creepy. This is a reason why primes, and small quiet cameras without flashy metal are favored among street photographers. Small wide primes and cameras allow you to get close, to "feel" and even immerse yourself in the scene or the space of your subject without being too obtrusive. Telephotos just make you look like you're a private detective on surveillance = creepy.

I rarely get caught anymore, if I do I usually flash a big smile and walk away. It's never failed to appease so far. if the subject continues to look very uncomfortable and inquisitive I follow up with a compliment: "Your hat is so striking, I just had to take a photo of it, where'd you find it!?" I only show the photo if they ask to see it. I think in over three years I've been asked...maybe twice...by a subject who caught me and asked to see the photo.

One exception: Children. Being a middle-aged male, I don't take pictures of kids. Basically never. Under any circumstance. I have made rare exception and in those cases I do make myself known. I engage in conversation with the parent or supervising adult, allow my camera to be in plain view at all times, will comment on how excited or what a special moment it taking place and take a photo while standing right in front of the parent. The very very few times I've done that, the parent wasn't concerned. I still never showed them the photo unless they asked though. But I never try to sneak a shot of children, no matter how good I get at being quick. All it takes is one observer to get the wrong idea... Also, I never photograph the less fortunate (homeless)...under any circumstance. I will not exploit in the name of art.

I look forward to seeing some street work from you!
posted March 17th, 2016
As others said, if the subject knows it's not candid.

What no one else said on this international forum is if the photographer doesn't know, he could be violating the law. Some countries require the consent of the subject to photograph someone in public. Scroll down to the table: Country specific consent laws .

posted March 17th, 2016
I don't usually ask on the street, unless I was taking a portrait of someone.
posted March 17th, 2016
@chapjohn - Thanks
@dbj - Great information, thank you very much.
@fotoblah - That link to Country specific consent laws is very helpful. Thank you
@homeschoolmom - Thank you.
posted March 17th, 2016
@sarasotab, I look forward to seeing the results of your efforts. It would be nice if you write in the comment if you interacted with the subject or not. I will do the same.
I have been walking around with my (new ,much smaller) camera looking for these shots without looking creepy.
On the learning curve here.
I think in terms of posting photos of strangers on line, I wouldn't choose to post something obviously embarassing or possibly harmful to the person, just hopefully , interesting.
posted March 17th, 2016
People just look different if they know they are being photographed. They get their pout on and start posing. I find it's best to take the shot and then let them know you have done it. If they ask you to delete the shot, do so. If they are interested give them a card telling them where they will be able to see the shot....... or get their email address and send them a copy. This all helps to gain an audience for your work and everybody is happy. Most people are flattered by the fact that you find them interesting enough to photograph. If anybody gets stroppy just delete the shot and walk away. :)
posted March 17th, 2016
@lisainstpete - Thanks, after this discussion, I am thinking of just using my Iphone camera for these kinds of shots. Less invasive and commonly seen in public.
@swillinbillyflynn - Thanks, I agree about the candid shot, and I like the idea of giving them a place to see it. Good advice.
posted March 17th, 2016
I think @DbJ gave an excellent answer, but I want to add, that even as a female, I just don't do pictures of kids unless the parents know. As a substitute teacher I have access to kids all the time but the only pictures I've ever posted were ones from the back of the auditorium with all faces turned away, and one of the shadows of kids with hula hoops. Never identifiable pictures. I do take some at times and offer them to the school for their yearbook, because the school will know which kids haven't had a photo release signed. We have a huge prison here and the families of correctional officers usually refuse to have their kids pictures in the local paper
posted March 17th, 2016
@pandorasecho - Good advice. Thank you.
posted March 17th, 2016
DbJ
@sarasotab Hi Robert, that's actually my primary camera for street work as well. I had a previous project here on 365 which was all iPhone street photography. I discontinued the project but have been thinking about starting another. One tip for you: The iPhone camera can be tripped with the volume button on headphones. When I head out, I put on headphones and carry my iPhone as if listening to music, but instead have the camera app open. When I see something interesting I can just raise the iPhone and take a photo with the volume button on the headphones. I would say within a few weeks of daily practice you'll get to the point where you don't even need to look at iPhone to frame the photo (as long as you're open to final cropping and straightening in post...).
posted March 17th, 2016
@dbj - What a great tip. I did not know that about the volume button. Thanks!
posted November 1st, 2017
Going around with earphones in and an eyephone [sic] hanging out does seem kind of creepy; especially when the lens gets triggered by a tap on the volume.

:(
posted November 1st, 2017
I prefer to just point the lens right at them.

posted November 1st, 2017
This is probably about as sneaky as I can get.



But I didn't fool the cows.
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