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Photography Question 
Glenn G. Gliponeo
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/25/2005
 

Rules on Photographing People on the Street


I don't want to sound too naive, but what is the rule (or law) in photographing just your everyday street people (i.e., at bus stops, parks, beaches, etc.) There's been so many times and a gazillion opportunities wherein I'd want to shoot a photo of someone sitting at a bench, kids playing or even couples just being sweet to eachother, but didn't know if I'd come off as "that creepy guy with a camera." I feel that if I were to ask their permission, they'd either say, 'No', and I'd be the topic at their dinner table, or they'd say, 'Yes', and the photo mood would change and it wouldn't have that natural look. And forget about hiding in the bushes to take photos, that's just plain 'creepy.' So can someone please tell me what the rule of thumb is or at least how I can go about it in a more professional manner instead of just looking like a tourist? Because being Asian myself and having a camera in hand, I look just like that. Thanks everyone.


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3/21/2006 4:26:48 PM

 
Craig m. Zacarelli
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/3/2005
  I know one thing street guys do is they use a moderatly long zoom lens, something like a 28-200 mm or so, to kinda stay out of peopls faces. Also, you might wanna carry a packet of small model releases.. and if you can, ask permission if possible..most folks would prolly be happy if you just e-mails them a copy of the pics!
good luck.
CRaig-


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3/21/2006 5:28:15 PM

 
Glenn G. Gliponeo
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/25/2005
  Thank you, Mr. Craig. I'll make sure to use the zoom and when needed, I'll make sure to use release forms as well. Great advice.


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3/21/2006 5:59:21 PM

 
Andrew Laverghetta
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/13/2004
  It's probably past but there was a photography magazine that's normally carried by walmart or similar stores that has something just like this in it. I am not sure who it was, it might have been Brian Petersen (spelling?). I believe some of the tips were to give a good reason and flatter the person. Maybe you could say you're a photo student? I don't know how old you are but people of all ages take photo classes. You could say that you would really love to publish a photo of them or something like that. I would definitly have a model release sheet and business cards if you have them. One of the things in the article would be to include a street address and an email address. You could hand them the sheet to sign and then ask them immediately if they would like you to mail them a copy of the photo or better yet, you could email them a high res digital file with some kinda of a release so they could get it printed as well. Hopefully this last part will take their mind off of having to sign something official and make them more at ease. Sorry I don't remember the exact magazine and month and that I'm not sure about the photographer, but it's really great info still. This guy even carries around a collapsible reflector that he will even ask the person to hold. Also he suggests finding common ground for especially hard subjects and children (make sure to get their parents to sign and that they're alright with it).


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3/22/2006 8:51:10 AM

 
Glenn G. Gliponeo
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/25/2005
  Well, I did as both of you had suggested. I saw some kids skateboarding at the side parking lot of Walgreen's and asked if I could shoot a few pictures while they boarded. With a lot (A LOT) of excitement, they asked if I was from a magazine and I sadly said, 'No, I just need it for the class I'm taking.' I told them I'd give them copies, and they just ate that up! They loved it. Well, I spent a good 15-20 minutes shooting frame after frame as they did their tricks for me and when I got to my class, I got them all prepped for printing. I'll be giving them the copies tomorrow.

Thanks guys, it isn't as hard as I thought.


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3/22/2006 9:45:05 PM

 
Rebecca A. Steed
BetterPhoto Member Since: 5/6/2005
  Hi Glenn! I work for a local weekly newspaper, so I have to photograph strangers all the time on the job. I usually first take their picture depending on what is going on and then explain I work for the paper, can I get your name etc. However, the procedure is a little different when I'm shooting at leisure and not for the paper.
1. if it involves kids - especially younger kids, less than 12 years - I would attempt to find the parent/guardian and ask permission. Explain why you want the photo - class, possible publishing, freelance, etc.
This works b/c the parent knows what's going on and won't want to beat you up for photographing their child. Also, the child may continue to do what they were doing since you didn't interrupt them. If they notice you photographing them and just want to stare at you, I always say, "pretend I'm invisible and you can't see me!" that usually works.
2. if you take a photo of someone 'in the moment' I would approach them afterward with a smile, explain why you took their photo and give a compliment, then if you have digital, show them the picture you just took and offer to email it to them. This does help ease them a little. Also, if you plan to publish it, even on a web site, get their written permission first. If they are uncomfortable and unfriendly, I usually delete the picture right in front of them and apologize.Hope this helps.


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3/22/2006 11:04:45 PM

 
Glenn G. Gliponeo
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/25/2005
  Becky, do you approach everyone after you take their shots or do you just approach the ones that see you? I know that the most honest thing to do is to go up to each and everyone of the individuals and ask for their permission, but let's just say I was to shoot a street scene of Broadway, San Diego where a homeless man and his dog was scrounging through garbage for a meal while approximately 20 businessmen/women were looking at him as they enjoyed their triple shot hazelnut mochas?
Working for a newspaper, I'm sure sure you've taken thousands upon thousands of 'crowd' photos, so how does that work? By the way, is it illegal to take a photograph of a celebrity walking down the street? I'm not interested in majoring in Paparazzi 101, it's just that I've been asked on numerous occassions.


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3/23/2006 8:08:02 AM

 
Craig m. Zacarelli
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/3/2005
  it seems to me that the line between legal and illegal is a very fuzzy one. Stars photos appear in mags all the time and Im sure the photog gets paid for them and Im also sure the stars didnt sign a release too! Taking a pic of a street scene is different than singeling out one or two people.... (i would think) I mean, If you purposfully aim at a person walking a dog in a park is one thing but to take a pic of, say a street fair and some people accidentlly wind up in the shot.. I dont think thats much of an Issue.
but then again... I could be wrong too..lol
Lets just say, if you take a shot of one person go tell them (but I dont think you have to unless you do plan on using it for $$$$ ) and if you take a shot of a crowd, dont worry about it.
Craig-


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3/23/2006 8:35:59 AM

 
Glenn G. Gliponeo
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/25/2005
  Wow, I just reread my response to Becky and it sounded as if I was upset. If anyone thinks that, I apologize. I'm sorry Becky. I'm buzzing on coffee right now (triple shot hazelnut mocha -lol) and I'm in the zone. I was browsing the internet one evening and came across www.nonphotography.com by a street photographer named Nitsa. Her photographs are works of art, very inspirational, and it's something I've always wanted to get in on. Check out her site, she's GREAT!
For the paparazzi thing, don't worry, I'm not going in that direction.
But I did want to thank all of you for the info. VERY helpful. This is what I've learned so far...
-Take along model releases.
-Ask permission before the shot, if possible
-If I shoot first, approach the subject(s) and explain (with a smile) why I photographed
-Show them the shot and if they didn't want it, delete it out of respect
-Offer to email a copy or print it out
-Be very careful, especially in this day and age, of who I photograph and where because there are 'creepies' out there
-Photography is an art and shouldn't be used to exploit celebrities (or anyone else, for that matter)

I think I covered the important stuff, right? Did I miss anything? =0)


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3/23/2006 9:01:02 AM

 
Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  Did you miss anything? Yeah, you could say that. In fact, it looks to me as though everyone who responded so far missed a few things:

The primary legal issue is right to privacy. That's a constitutional thing both state and federal laws and their interpretation apply. Generally, a public person, like a celebrity, has a bit less right to privacy than a civillian citizen. That's why paparazzi don't need to get releases, but also why publications that print paparazzi photos get sued so often by the subjects appearing in their photos. As for others if the work is for publication, whether in print or electronically, you need a release. Some states still have a news exception to the release laws, but they're being narrowly construed more lately. Even some news editors require releases for a number of photos used to illustrate news stories.

Ehen doing street work, it's useful to treat everyone with equal dignity and human value as a person. This works well from a number of perspectives. Everyone is unique, insofar as I'm concerned. And no, really successful street photographers don't use long lenses while hiding out behind trees or lamp posts. They physically and personally connect with their subjects.

So, generally, first you approach your subject and ask for permission. Second, talk to them, get to know them a bit. Tell them why you want to photograph them and why you think it's important. This is so whether your subjects appear to be well to do or homeless.

Photographing homeless people is both an art and science. If you can't empathize, then try spending a few days on their turf imagining their plight. THEN talk to them, befriend them, offer them a meal or two, and after awhile, THEN ask to photograph them. This is the way I approach this kind of documentary work. I think the the principles applied to just folks on the street are the same. You don't use long glass and start snapping away only to ask for a release after the fact. That ain't cool. And if you're not careful, someone may wrap your camera around your neck without the strap (and without your permission) .

Getting a homeless person a copy of their prints by e-mail is pretty unlikely. Find a mission in their area where you can either send prints or meet them to give them copies.

Whaddya think?
Mark


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3/23/2006 4:54:32 PM

 
Glenn G. Gliponeo
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/25/2005
  Mr. Feldstein, I was wondering when you were going to jump in. Took you long enough -lol. Actually, I was hoping you'd respond since you always know the legalities and I always learn from you. By the way, I whole-heartedly agree with you. I agree that permission should be requested prior to pressing the button. I agree that regardless of status, people should be treated with equal dignity. But what about crowds? What if I was smack-dab-in-the-middle of San Diego Mardi Gras in the Gaslamp Quarter? Now there's a million of opportunities for great photos there. What then?


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3/23/2006 7:45:23 PM

 
Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  Given the public nature of those kinds of events and how they're promoted to the public, I'd say the odds of being photographed at them are pretty high. So, you just kind of lay your money down and take your changes, unless you see someone wearing a sweat shirt that says don't take my picture.
Mark


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3/23/2006 8:07:19 PM

 
Glenn G. Gliponeo
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/25/2005
  Thank you, Mr. Feldstein.


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3/24/2006 7:26:13 AM

 
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