Do I need to get permission from the people in my photos?


We can have many answers on that specific and sensitive question:

  • Some photographers may feel uncomfortable with taking pictures in the streets, because it somehow feels like stealing (in their opinion)… They feel better if they first ask for permission.
  • Some photographers definitely not. Especially in the context of Street Photography where you want to show street life and unposed portraits because through a candid portrait, you are able to dive much deeper into who that person really is, rather than what they are trying to show themselves as.

The General Rule: As long as you’re in a public location (the road or sidewalk), you can legally take almost any picture. On private property (e.g. in shopping malls, stores, theaters, hotels and sports arenas) you need the permission of the property owner to take photographs. While the act of photography itself in such areas isn’t illegal, if asked to stop taking pictures and leave you must do so.

Istanbul Boy

Nobody has the right to require you to delete images you have taken and only the police can require that you show them the pictures in your camera – and even that requires a search warrant unless you give them permission.


You may face some exceptions to the above generalisation…

An expectation of privacy: For example, if you’re shooting from a public street into someone’s bedroom, you may be crossing an ethical and even legal line. Shooting under public bathroom stalls or up the skirts of passersby is also likely to get you into trouble.

Your equipments: In public streets and sidewalks — may be subject to restrictions especially tripods, supplemental lighting, reflectors, etc… If your setup is likely to disrupt the general flow of traffic, or cause an obstacle for pedestrians.


Now since you had the right to photograph a subject or scene, generally speaking, you also have the authority to display the photograph on your blog, website, social media platforms, in print, in news media. You can even sell prints or digital copies of your street photography.

If you are using your shots for a commercial purpose, such as for an advertising campaign, you should obtain a model release form signed by the subjects you are photographing to ensure you have authorisation to use their image to sell a product.

What is a model release?

Having a signed release gives you permission to publish or use the photograph in some form. In signing, the model is agreeing to have their image promote a commercial purpose and that protects you from liability based on future usage of the photo.

Releases can also inform the model that the photo is your property and allow you to be the recipient of profits from the image through allowing you to sell more freely.

Keep in mind

“Security” is often given as the reason somebody doesn’t want you to take photos, it’s rarely valid. Taking a photo of a publicly visible subject does not constitute terrorism.

If you are challenged, you do not have to explain why you are taking pictures, nor to you have to disclose your identity (except in some cases when questioned by a law enforcement officer.)

If someone tries to confiscate your camera, you don’t have to give it to them. If they take it by force or threaten you, they can be liable for things like theft. Even law enforcement officers need a court order.

Now if you ask me if i ask permission from people in my photos, may answer is absolutely NO.




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s