Photography subjects that are off limits

What is con­sid­ered ‘off lim­its’ in pho­tog­ra­phy? Well, the answer of course can cer­tainly vary from one pho­tog­ra­pher to the next.

These days, pho­tograph­ing chil­dren raises a red flag for many peo­ple and some pho­tog­ra­phers steer clear away from them. There may be a sense of ‘intru­sion’ into the lives of these chil­dren, and pho­tograph­ing them may just not feel right. There is also the per­ceived risk that some­one may call the author­i­ties sug­gest­ing that the pho­tographs are being taken for sex­u­ally moti­vated rea­sons. Other pho­tog­ra­phers that pho­to­graph chil­dren do so in order to show the true beauty and inno­cence of who chil­dren are. They don’t care about per­ceived risks as they know that the pho­tographs they take are art­ful and eth­i­cal. Com­pletely dif­fer­ent sides of the story, right?

Another inter­est­ing choice of sub­ject to some pho­tog­ra­phers are street scenes — cap­tur­ing the beauty of sur­round­ings with peo­ple pass­ing by. No wrong doing right? Well again, to some pho­tog­ra­phers, there is a sense of dis­com­fort in shoot­ing com­plete strangers with­out get­ting their per­mis­sion first. Other pho­tog­ra­phers that know their rights (it’s legal to pho­to­graph any­one in a pub­lic place) have no issue with the ‘shoot first and ask ques­tions later’ policy.

There are many inter­est­ing sub­jects to shoot, and which is right depends on the photographer’s pref­er­ence, taste, and com­fort zone. What sub­ject mat­ter are YOU uncom­fort­able shoot­ing and why?

For more on this sub­ject, check out the Pho­tog­ra­phy sub­jects — off lim­its thread in our pho­tog­ra­phy forum.


  1. These days you can’t be too careful..especially if you walk around with a pro-looking cam­era and a long lens. I often shoot Engage­ment Ses­sions with a lens that looks like a bazooka and go out of my way to avoid back­grounds with chil­dren in them. It’s just not worth the hassle.

  2. Glenn Euloth says:

    I don’t think there are ANY pho­tog­ra­phy sub­jects that are OFF LIMITS with the excep­tion of images cre­ated by harm­ing some­one. Child porn, snuff images and other such harm­ful cre­ations should be OFF LIMITS because of the way they are created.

    Other dif­fi­cult sub­jects should be totally open and avail­able for the pho­tog­ra­pher who can han­dle tak­ing the shot. Quite often these are sto­ries that need to be told.

    I wish I could put my fin­gers on the arti­cle I read (or heard on CBC Radio) about a pho­tog­ra­pher who took a con­tro­ver­sial image. If I remem­ber cor­rectly, the sub­ject of the image recorded the last moments of a soldier’s life. He felt he may have invaded that man’s pri­vacy and prof­ited from his death.

    A close friend or rel­a­tive of the dead man took the time to track down and thank the pho­tog­ra­pher for image because it showed the true cost of war and hon­oured the soldier’s mem­ory. It was a very pow­er­ful message.

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