• 09-12-2004, 01:58 PM
    DuchanC
    photos of strangers - what's the ethical side?
    Hi all,

    photos by the Frenchmen Robert Doisneau and Willy Ronis inspire me very much, though I doubt I will ever reach their level. I'd like to start to take photos of people in public places, of strangers in whatever situations may arise. Who among you is involved in this type of photography? I'd welcome tips, I'd also appreciate some ethical guidelines.

    Greetings from Duchan
    Darmstadt, Germany
  • 09-12-2004, 02:50 PM
    Sebastian
    Local law might differ, but as long as you don't use an image of someone to make money, make it seem like they are advertising for you, or to spread lies about them, you are within the limits of ethics and law.

    Use common sense and you'll be fine. If someone sees the image an objects, promptly remove it from wherever it was displayed. Be polite and if concentrating on someone in a public place, talk to them and let them know you are taking pictures out of curtousy. If it was me, I'd show them the pictures on my digital and offer to send them a print. Though I would not ask for their contact info, I would give them mine, as another example that I am not interested in them on any sort of personal level. If they are interested, they will contact me on their own initiative.

    Might be going a bit overboard, but those are the ways I handle it, I try to make people feel as comfortable as possible, we have to deal with a lot of stupid paranoia these days. But if we are ncie about it and polite, then people are very receptive.
  • 09-12-2004, 03:01 PM
    Franglais
    Some ideas
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by DuchanC
    Hi all,

    photos by the Frenchmen Robert Doisneau and Willy Ronis inspire me very much, though I doubt I will ever reach their level. I'd like to start to take photos of people in public places, of strangers in whatever situations may arise. Who among you is involved in this type of photography? I'd welcome tips, I'd also appreciate some ethical guidelines.

    Greetings from Duchan
    Darmstadt, Germany

    First the legal situation - which varies from country to country, but here's the general idea.

    A person in a "public" place is exposed to the view of others and generally you can take their photo (as long as you don't cause a disturbance or use a long telephoto). However you shouldn't publish the image or bring it to the knowledge of others (including Internet) without the consent of the subject, if the subject is identifiable. The person may feel they're being slandered.

    The rules in a "private" place are fixed by the owner of the place. "Private" places include public transport, shopping malls, museums, restaurants, zoos, parks, concerts, etc. etc. Generally "private" places are like a sanctuary and you may actually be breaking the law by taking someone's picture.

    My personal approach, as a humble amateur who just wants to capture some of what I see around me:

    1. Don't publish without getting a model release
    2. Work openly, but quickly and quietly
    3. Never be a nuisance to other people. If someone doesn't want to be photographed then stop immediately
    4. Always have a good reason for doing an image and be ready to explain what you're doing
    5. Get in close. My favourite lens is a 35mm

    Doisneau and Ronis were professionals. Quite often they set up their photos with models and friends, which makes things simpler.

    Charles
  • 09-12-2004, 03:34 PM
    Charles Hess
    Charles and Sebastian provide some accurate and valuable pointers for you. My only addition would be to say that you should think before you shoot, stay safe, and use compassion. Let's see some images when you get some you like.
  • 09-12-2004, 05:10 PM
    Asylum Steve
    In the US, "editorial" use now has very broad rights...
    Seb,

    I agree with your comments, especially the common sense part that decent folks should use as a matter of courtesy when photographing people on the street.

    Still, in the US now (mainly due to recent court cases), publications using photos of subjects in public places for EDITORIAL use (including stock images bought commercially), now have tremendous leeway in how they portray those subjects.

    To quote part of a recent article in Photo Distrct News, "The photograph subjects don't have to be the actual subjects discussed (in an article), but there has to be some connection between photograph subjects and the story"...

    IOW, a mag can use a stock shot of a woman on the street, and use it to illustrate an editorial piece on prostitution, or promiscuity, or birth control, or homeless runaways; any of a number of timely yet sensitive subjects as long as they don't actually name the subject in the story. Obviously, that's only one example, but you get the idea...

    As potential subjects in a public place, we now (in the US) have VERY limited rights and control of our likeness as long as it isn't used for commercial purposes and accompanied stories don't refer to us by our real name.

    Kind of scary, unless of course, you're the shooter or mag editor...
  • 09-12-2004, 05:14 PM
    DuchanC
    Great advice!
    Thanks for the great advice, you've certainly been helpful.

    So, whenever I intend to take photos in, say, a pub, should I approach the owner of the pub and ask permission to take photos? Afterwards, after having selected a subject, as I understand, I should approach the subject and tell the subject about my intention of taking pictures.

    Charles, why do you choose a 35mm lens?

    Yes, the idea of offering the subject point of contact info is very sound. And when photographing women, I'd hate to be thought of as the type of guy who's trying to pick up women by taking their photo without first asking them. No, although I'm new at this, I want to appear as professional as possible, and your advice is great.

    I had not thought of enlisting help from friends and acquaintances to compose a scene, the possibilities of doing such is excellent to have learned from you.

    Great feedback from all of you, I'm going to stick with this website! More postings to follow soon. Thanks all,

    Duchan
  • 09-12-2004, 09:15 PM
    opus
    Steve, in your illustration you used the example of a stock photo. I was under the impression that if you sell your photo to a stock photo company, they want a model release or else they won't buy it.

    The story was told to me that, several years ago, someone took a shot of a woman in Mexico, and sold it for stock, which was then picked up and used on the cover of a publication. A few years later, a lawyer was vacationing in Mexico and just happened to recognize the woman on the street, from her photo. He offered his services to legally represent her and they sued the stock company.

    Ever since then, stock companies will not take photos without model releases.
  • 09-13-2004, 01:11 PM
    Franglais
    To be perfectly honest with you..
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by DuchanC

    So, whenever I intend to take photos in, say, a pub, should I approach the owner of the pub and ask permission to take photos? Afterwards, after having selected a subject, as I understand, I should approach the subject and tell the subject about my intention of taking pictures.

    Charles, why do you choose a 35mm lens?

    As a humble amateur with no obligation to publish and nobody to please except myself I don't usually ask anyone's permission. I'm open about what I do, careful about not offending anybody, and ready to talk my way out of it afterwards. In fact that's part of the challenge. If you're going to take pictures of people you find interesting then you have to be prepared to meet them too.

    I prefer the 35mm because it allows me to work close to the subject without eliminating the surroundings. I like the edgy feeling of being only six feet from the subject with lots of things going on around, rather that the more relaxed isolation of using a telephoto.

    I must say that I do a lot of my photos in situations where it is socially acceptable to do pictures of other people, like parades. Usually what I find interesting is the person, rather than the situation. I see lots of interesting sorts of people around me every day. It's tough to go out in the street and do photos of them cold. I try to figure out what sorts of events they're going to go to and then I go out and - hunt them down.

    Charles
  • 09-13-2004, 03:20 PM
    Clicker
    hunting, shooting........

    sounds violent.
  • 09-14-2004, 11:55 AM
    bumpkin
    Discretion, speed, friendliness
    On the question of photographing strangers, I mostly agree with the several opinions expressed here but to elaborate about my own "technique" I would say:

    1) Be discrete. If you can get the picture you want without explaining, so much time saved. This was easier with my Canon Elph/Ixus. Now with a full sized digital SLR and a big f/2.8 17-35mm or 70-200 zoom lens sticking in their face discretion is more difficult. Sometimes a trick or two is in order. For example a couple having a violent verbal argument on the Bridge of the Concord in Paris provided wonderful human subject matter. Wary that the woman's wrath might be directed toward me, however, I put the person to whom I was showing Paris between me and them and pretended to photograph my friend. Only after a dozen or so shots did the couple twig. Other times I will use the wide angle zoom, framing the shot with the subject on the edge so it does not look too in-your-face, then quickly move the camera to frame the expression I want. In that context it's not for nothing I am buying the new 12-24mm Nikon zoom lens which has benefits for landscape photography which I also enjoy doing. Sometimes I shoot from the hip without framing but I really consider that cheating and only resort to it in extremis, like when photography is "interdit". That said, it did produce a couple of nice photos from the 16th International Festival of Photojournalism that I attended in Perpignan last week.

    2) Be quick. This is what film rangefinder cameras are all about - capturing the "decisive moment". Look at the work of photographers like Cartier-Bresson which still inspires me. But early generations of digital like the Ixus, with its inevitable shutter delay, virtually assured I would miss the fleeting expression. Now with my Finepix S2 and relatively fast auto-focus Nikon lenses I can frame the picture while capturing the expression that drew me to the situation in the first place. Very satisfying.

    3) Be friendly. I do not "steal" all my photos, far from it. Getting "caught in the act" often will lead me to strike up a conversation, explain what I am doing, show the person the photo I've just taken and tell them I'll put it on my photo sharing site www.fotki.com/bill_graham if they don't mind, where they can download and print it if they wish. This outgoing approach has inspired people to visit the Bed & Breakfast we own in France where, incidentally, I photograph guests as they leave, a custom that gives them something to remember us by, and something to email to friends and family. It also gives us something to be able to visualize them before their next visit. With 300 or 400 guests a year it's hard to remember everyone's face!

    Although I didn't tackle the "ethical" side of the original question, since I don't sell my people pictures, I hope my experience is helpful otherwise.

    Bill
  • 09-14-2004, 01:50 PM
    Franglais
    It takes a certain amount of nerve
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Clicker
    hunting, shooting........

    sounds violent.

    It's no more violent than wildlife photography. But you have to be really motivated to go ou and do pictures of people in public places. Plus you can always come across someone who doesn't like it and gets agressive. I've had a few close shaves in the past (gangs are tough to deal with).

    I try to be relaxed about it. Often I let an opportunity go past if it doesn't feel right. There will always be others.

    Charles
  • 09-14-2004, 02:04 PM
    Franglais
    Funny coincidence
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by bumpkin
    ....

    ...This outgoing approach has inspired people to visit the Bed & Breakfast we own in France where, incidentally, I photograph guests as they leave, a custom that gives them something to remember us by, and something to email to friends and family. It also gives us something to be able to visualize them before their next visit. With 300 or 400 guests a year it's hard to remember everyone's face!
    ..

    Bill

    By some strange coincidence - I must have gone past your place today on the train. I spent the day in Reims sorting out a client's network. The champagne vinyards looked really good this evening on the way back.

    Welcome to the site!

    Charles