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Photography Question 
Bennie G. Lindeque
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/25/2004

Photographing People: The Legalities

What are the rules regarding photographing people and then either publish the photo or entering it for a competition? If I photograph a person in a public place, am I supposed to approach the stranger and ask the person to sign a release? What are the indications for signing a release? When am I supposed to pay a person money for a photograph?

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4/5/2005 7:20:06 PM

Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  Well ,Bennie, this has been discussed a lot around here, among other places. First, I offer you the standard disclaimer. Most of us here are photographers of one level or another, not lawyers. Your question is asking for legal advice and for that I would suggest you find a lawyer in your area who specializes in intellectual property law and ask them the questions you posed here.
On the other hand, you're talking about a person's rights to privacy and their right to control how their image or likeness is used. The short answer is for personal, private use, you don't need a release. For commercial use, yes. For editorial use, it depends on a number of factors. If you're doing street photography for publication the safe rule is yes, you need to approach the stranger and ask them to sign a release. Besides, that gets you closer to your subject and you might even end up with a new best friend. :>)
Adequate consideration for signing a model release also may depend on a given situation. Usually a buck is given, but if the shot ends up on a billboard advertising GAP clothing through a stock agency and you get sued for inadequate consideration (contracts issue) then ... get the picture.
Two books I'll recommend you get familiar with if you want to learn more about this subject: "Legal Handbook for Photographers" by Bert Krages, Esq. Amherst Media press, and "The Law (In Plain English) For Photographers" by Leonard Duboff, Allworth Press. Both books explain the rights and liabilities associated with photographers making images under various circumstances.
Take it light

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4/5/2005 7:43:36 PM

Kerry Drager
BetterPhoto Member
Kerry's Photo Courses:
4-Week Short Course: Creative Close-ups
  Hi Bennie,
Good question, and excellent advice from Mark! Also, check out the following excellent articles by BetterPhoto instructors:

"Model Releases for Stock Photography: Why You Need Them" ... by Charlie Borland

"Model Releases: When You Need Them, When You Don't" ... by Brenda Tharp

Hope this helps, Bennie!

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4/7/2005 10:31:33 AM

Kevin Burns   There are alot of factors in this area.
it depends on what part of the world you live in. When one goes outside in public than that person is public.(.)
As long as you don't tresspass or hinder a person/car from movement, and your not some geek pointing into some ones house window then go for it.
I myself ask most people, but to ask 2000 people walking down town Chicago is imposible. If I notice a person in a croud shying away threw the view finder. Then I either waite or ask said person to step out of view.
Police are fun to capture, they don't like it. "Too bad buddy" they are in the publics eye and my cameras eye.
I live in America!! proud of it and the laws about picture taking.

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4/7/2005 11:08:45 AM

Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  Well Kevin, that's painting with an awfully broad brush. Sure, there's a protocol to photographing people in public places, but it's how the image ends up being used that matters and not coincidentally, how much you've paid the person to use their image, in what form, and for what purpose.

As to photographing cops in downtown Chicago, you should have been around for the 1968 Democratic convention when Grant Park and the Hilton Towers were ground zero for the cops rioting against the demonstrators. They REALLY hated being photographed and especially hated the news photographers (like me, for the Chicago Sun Times) who were doing the photographing.

Speaking of being proud of the laws about picture taking, perhaps you haven't noticed but cops, even transit cops, in major cities are using the patriot act and photography as a pretext to stopping and identifying innocent photographers, pros and tourists just taking street scenes or the usual photos of things like airport scenes, rail stations, bridges, etc.

So remember, if you look through the viewfinder and see a swinging nightstick headed in your direction, try f5.6 at 1/250th then don't forget to duck while you go about enforcing your rights to photograph in America. ;>)

My point is that, civil liberties, including those of photographers (as a group, not necessarily a protected class) are being severely eroded and we need to act both singly and collectively to stop it.

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4/7/2005 11:57:05 AM

Kerry L. Walker   Kevin, Mark is right on the money. You do have the right to photograph anyone in a public place without any consideration. However, once you have that photograph published, things change dramatically.

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4/7/2005 2:07:27 PM

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