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Photography Question 

photographing strangers

I have taking photos in my downtown region, and am wondering if I would need to obtain the permission of the people inmy photographs, should I wish to either publish these photos or use them for contest purposes. Sometimes the shots are just random quick pictures, so I wouldn't have the opportunity to speak to these people - but would there be legal issues, should they walk past and see an image of themself on the cover of a magazine.

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4/29/2008 5:09:55 AM

Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  Photographic sniping can be risky business for a lot of reasons. Depends on the photograph, whether the person is recognizable at all by one means or another, how it depicts them, the type of publishing, what type of prize the contest is offering, whether they will publish entries AND your state laws on privacy issues.

I suggest you start reading a number of books on the subject including one by Bernard Krages to get you into the release requirement ball park, and Business Practices for Photographers published by

I also recommend that you talk to a lawyer specializing in privacy law (1st and 4th Amendment issues) and get advice on the law in your particular state.

Also, most reputable publishers (at least the ones I deal with regularly) have language in my assignment confirmation docs. that state "Photographer represents that he has obtained all necessary releases from subjects depicted in this work".
The same is true for the stock agencies I work with. That puts the burden on you, not the publisher.

Contest rules usually have simialr language and requirements. If not, and there's a prize of any value, you're still on the hook for getting a release from the person depicted. Essentially, you DO have the opportunity to speak to your subjects IF you make an opportunity to do so rather than point and shoot and run.

My personal advice to you is start getting signed releases and giving out a buck to everyone you photograph even AFTER you explain to them what you've done and why. And if someone finds themselves pasted on the cover of a magazine, you'd probably do well to hire a lawyer before someone lays a lawsuit on you and the publisher that may knock your socks off.

My guess is a few others will be along shortly to give you their spin on this as well. Most of us who do this professionally are pretty well versed in the laws that apply in our particular jurisdiction and specializations.

Take it light ;>)

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4/29/2008 9:45:32 AM

Carolyn  M. Fletcher
BetterPhoto Member Since: 10/6/2001
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  I was horrified to see under the tech writer's column for the Tulsa World last Sunday that she was pretty much saying if they're in public they're fair game. I guess she's never had to defend a lawsuit. Even if the law in your state is somewhat favorable to you, the defense costs have got to be prohibitive.

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4/29/2008 4:19:22 PM

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