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Candid photography

As I’ve been looking into HDR photography, I’ve also discovered ‘candid photography’. This is where you photograph people on the street doing ordinary things in ordinary ways, but capturing those moments is an extraordinary thing.

As I’ve looked into it, I’ve also looked into the law for doing this, because it’s become apparent that a lot of people think candid photography is illegal. They believe people have a right to privacy, and therefore photographing them in public is an invasion of privacy and subsequently illegal.

This is absolutely not the case.

The law states that you cannot take photos of people in locations that they would expect reasonable privacy. However, out on the street, in a park, or on a beach are not locations where one can expect reasonable privacy.  They are public places, and public places have no privacy, no expectation of privacy, and no laws forbidding photographs.

The problem we have, however, is public ignorance of the laws. This has been exacerbated by the anti-terrorism hysteria of the past few years, not to mention the media hype of pedophiles and cameras. As a result, we have the majority of people thinking that it’s against the law to take photos of people in public.

It hasn’t been made any easier by the ignorance of the police themselves. There was a recent occurrence this past week where someone was taking photos of police arresting someone. The police didn’t like this, and decided that he was committing a crime. They entered his home without his approval or a warrant, intimidated him, took his camera without his permission, and promptly deleted the photos he took of them, all the while threatening him with arrest if he continued to complain about their actions.

This kind of ignorant and illegal actions by the very police themselves only serves to instil in the public mind that this kind of behaviour is ok.  If the police, who are there to uphold the law, are there to uphold the law, then it must mean taking photos of people in public is against the law.

Another incident I was reading about was a photographer taking photos of people on a beach. Someone called the police, who came and arrested the photographer for violating people’s privacy. However, he wasn’t. As a result, he was set free with an apology, but to the media and the rest of the people involved, all they know is that a man was arrested for taking photos in a public place and violating people’s privacy.

So unfortunately, we have this stupid situation where ignorance of the laws by the police and the media has instilled in the average person that it’s illegal to take photos of people in public without their knowledge or approval.

So I’ve printout out a 2-page summary of the laws in relation to photography, and will be taking it with me.

I’ve also looked into ways of engaging in candid photography without making it obvious, so that people don’t get so offended. Putting the camera in your lap while looking at the foldout display screen (if you have one) is a good method, because then you’re not making it obvious, and you’re not making eye contact with any subjects. Taking photographs of buildings, plants and statues, and the occasional photograph of people is another method.

The idea is to not give the impression you’re stalking people. You can be subtle about it, you can even make it obvious as long as it’s obvious you’re just there to take photographs.

In this day and age, people’s ignorance needs to be taken into account when you’re doing things, and you need to be upfront and honest when questioned. And if people object, then you apologise and move on.

I’m also considering having a business card made up with my name and contact details, as well as a link to my Picasa photos, so they can see what I do.

Oh, it’s also not illegal to display photos of people on websites without their  approval, and it’s not illegal to even sell photos of people without their approval. It’s only illegal to use photos of them to try and promote the sales of another product, if they haven’t given their permission.

So… expect some photos of people. It’s an area I really haven’t delved into in the past, but I’m starting to now. I might even combine some of them with HDR photography.

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