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A question of etiquette

This is a discussion on A question of etiquette within the Digital photography forums, part of the Photography & Fine art photography category; Curious how other enthusiasts view this topic. When on the street is it etiquette to take photos of unknown subjects ...

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    Pharaoh is offline Junior Member
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    Lightbulb A question of etiquette

    Curious how other enthusiasts view this topic. When on the street is it etiquette to take photos of unknown subjects without establishing or obtaining some sort of permission? I’m sometimes unsure about the correct answer to this.

    My own perspective, I feel like the generalized open street is fair game. As an example, I saw a photo on the site here featuring a person walking down the street in a snowstorm with a box over their head (nice catch btw). That’s not the sort of stuff I wonder about. But supposing you are out taking photos of complete randomness, whereas one comes out portrait caliber and doesn’t look random at all?

    Does sharing or making other use of such a photo cross any lines? I have contemplated this issue several times. When waiting around I have a habit of fiddling around with my camera to get ideas about what’s what & where – maybe refine a setting or two based on results from goof off shots. Generally these pictures are deleted right after a quick review of the results . One scenario I find my dilemma occur is if I’m out and someone stops and poses (usually for a phone or small p&s photo) If I’ve got a lens that reaches properly, I might snap a shot of my own to see what the light, angle etc. produce.

    Once in a while I’ll get a shot that either the subject or overall composure keeps me from dumping the image but at the same time (after the fact) I’m a little bit weary on sharing or saying look what I got. Likewise there are unexpected flicks of people I do know to at least some degree but not really certain if, other than amongst the personal circle – they’d have feelings about their image shared.

    So I’d be interested to hear what any of you maintain as personal rules or guidelines if any on the subject matter? TIA.

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    I've seen this question on many forums - maybe even this one before, however, I'm too lazy to search...

    In any event, I'll give you my take and what I understand the law to be. Note that I am NOT a lawyer so if you take any advice from me you're on your own.

    Whatever happens in public is fair game. There are no rules or regulations about what you are allowed to shoot from a public location. You cannot stick your camera into someone's window, however, if you can see it from the sidewalk then you are good to go - unless you ever hope to make money off the shot. If you are selling the shot then a whole bunch of new rules pop in with model releases, etc., etc.

    When I'm out shooting in the street I'll often try to get one or two candid images with strangers in them. I'm not the chatty type so I rarely approach and ask permission which is the polite thing to do, however, since I'm not selling the shot and since I try not to be noticed, no one is the wiser and what they don't know won't hurt them. That's my plan and I'm sticking to it!
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    Thanks for the compliment on my box shot...lol

    For me, I think street shots with people as a whole within a scene is fair game.

    If it is specific portrait of a specific person as in say "100 strangers" or any street people portraits that I take, I ask permission prior to taking a shot. If they say no then they say no, but usually they are quite obliging especially after I've spent some time talking with them, listening and getting to know them...they usually are quite interesting people who are just dealing with their own set of demons the best/only way they know how. And I have developed a repoire with many I've run into after taking their photo or meeting them for the first time. I think that's important to me and besides....I'm a bit more chatty than many people.
    If it came to me making money off a shot then that is a bit of different kettle of fish but that is not why I take these kinds of shots anyhow.
    That's my take on it anyhow.
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    Pharaoh is offline Junior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by Iguanasan View Post
    When I'm out shooting in the street I'll often try to get one or two candid images with strangers in them. I'm not the chatty type so I rarely approach and ask permission which is the polite thing to do, however, since I'm not selling the shot and since I try not to be noticed, no one is the wiser and what they don't know won't hurt them. That's my plan and I'm sticking to it!
    Good points. While I'm not above asking, the shots I'm speaking of don't generally involve planning other than I'm there at the time.

    An example that comes to mind - I was out to try to take photos of a local airshow. While waiting for the jets to arrive on scene, I b.s.ed and took various pictures from all directions. A couple speaking a different language came with in 15 meters of where I was positioned... set up one of those shishkabob (sp?) skewer type tiny tri-pods and took a picture together with the Golden Gate Bridge in the(ir) background. O.K. I snapped a shot in the opposing cross direction with Alcatraz in the background.

    My expectation is the shot will be garbage, if I'm lucky I'll learn something about the light, shadows etc. which was my original intention anyway. But every now and then what I'll come away with is a picture that I feel offers a natural (usually joyous) appearance. Where it's a mystery what's going on out of view of the camera that caused the subject's natural expression.

    But fact is, the subject (in this case) was actually posing, just for a different composition and camera. By not directing the staged energy towards me/my camera, the result (at least I think) appears more candid and natural.

    But I get what you're saying. For me a lot of it depends on other factors (besides my willingness to chat etc.) as to whether or not I'll approach and ask permission. Often it's more so based on my observation or perception of the events unfolding. I.E. my calculation of whether or not the 5 seconds spent asking were the only 5 seconds I'm gonna get out of the subject at hand anyway.
    Quote Originally Posted by casil403 View Post
    Thanks for the compliment on my box shot...lol

    For me, I think street shots with people as a whole within a scene is fair game.

    If it is specific portrait of a specific person as in say "100 strangers" or any street people portraits that I take, I ask permission prior to taking a shot. If they say no then they say no, but usually they are quite obliging especially after I've spent some time talking with them, listening and getting to know them...they usually are quite interesting people who are just dealing with their own set of demons the best/only way they know how. And I have developed a repoire with many I've run into after taking their photo or meeting them for the first time. I think that's important to me and besides....I'm a bit more chatty than many people.
    If it came to me making money off a shot then that is a bit of different kettle of fish but that is not why I take these kinds of shots anyhow.
    That's my take on it anyhow.
    You are welcome. Although we are all familiar with the saying: It's nice to make money doing something you love... I'm (a novice) and definitely not talking about money making photos.

    Stationary / more static, I'm generally going to ask the subject, and especially someone down on their luck. But that's usually more what I'd call planned anyway. The scenario usually isn't the result of coincidence.

    Something I guess I've never forgotten.... (20+ years ago) @ an airport terminal (same flight) was James Earl Jones sitting there reading the Sunday paper. Long story short, my grandmother wanted his picture. My cousin suggested asking first... politely approached, and (JEJ) replied in a very polite tone, I'd really rather not. My cousin told my grandmother: See he doesn't feel like being photographed or mobbed.... Soon as the paper folded my grandmother starting firing off shots like there was no tomorrow.

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