Content makers have a responsibility to act ethically and lawfully in their practice – this extends to when they are taking photos of people
There are lawful ways of taking photos of people | Picserver
The question of privacy in a digital age
Before the age of the internet and social media, information did not have to be protected as much as it does now. Once a photograph makes its way on to the internet it is virtually impossible to track what happens to it, who uses it and for what reason. This is why it is important to respect the privacy of others and know the factors surrounding public photography for the sake of your story.
The three questions you need to consider when taking photos of people are:
1. “Where am I taking the photo” – is it in a public space or a private space?
2.“Who am I taking a photo of?” – is it a person who is important to the story or is it a crowd of people to show that an event was packed out?
3.“Why am I taking a photo of them?” – am I identifying the person? If so am I in contempt?
Photography in public places
Under the Australian law you are allowed to take a photo of someone in a public space and use it in your story without seeking their permission. If you are not capturing their image for commercial gain then you do not need to seek their permission. This goes for both an individual and a crowd of people.
If the person approaches you after the photo has been taken and demands you discard the image of them, legally you are not obliged to, however ethically you can decide to respect that person’s privacy and delete the photograph.
Photography on private property
First and foremost it is illegal to enter private property without the consent of the owner. This is called trespassing and content makers are not exempt from this law. Read about what happens when journalists trespass to get the story… it’s not pretty.
Always get written consent if taking photos on private property | Pixabay
If you have permission to enter somebody’s property, this does not mean that you automatically have the right to publish photos you take on their property. The best practice once you have been given permission by someone to enter their property is to at least ask “do you mind if I take photos of you/your family?”- at best, get them to sign a release form. You can download this release form to use for your own project. As a rule of thumb you should always get written consent when taking someones photo.
There are some spaces however that blur the lines between public and private, for example outdoor markets or shopping centres, which might leave you scratching your head. The same rules apply to these types of areas. If you take photos without permission from the owner and are not asked to stop taking photos then you are legally allowed to use them in your story. If however, the owner of a market stall asks you to stop photographing them or customers at their stall you must stop.
Photographing people under the age of 18
It might come as news that taking photos of children in public spaces is legal. There are considerations however that you need to be aware of and you will of course need to use your ethical compass. The photography of children is often a heavily debated topic and comes down mainly to a debate about ethics. Bill Henson is a photographer who threw this debate into the public domain in 2008 when his photographs of children were seized from an art gallery by police.
A lot of venues that host children will ban the use of photography like swimming pools, dance halls, sporting carnivals and schools. They are allowed to do this as they are private spaces and are totally allowed to tell people what they can and can’t do on their property. Just use your wits about you and put yourself in the shoes of the parent/guardian: would you want someone to take a photo of your child without asking you first?
To blur or not to blur
You will often see the faces of people blurred out in news to protect their identity. If you are deciding whether or not you need to blur the face of an individual in your story consider the following:
1. Is the person under the age of 18?
If they are the subject of the story and are under 18 you should hide their identity, especially if they are in a vulnerable position.
2. Does the persons identity need to be protected?
You have to be careful in case you are in contempt of court by publishing an image of the person. Their identity will also need to be protected if they have an AVO out against someone.
Derryn Hinch is a famous media personality who has had multiple run-ins with the law for being in contempt of court. Video by NEWS via Youtube
3. Is the person vulnerable?
Do they have a disability that impedes on them fully understanding why their image is being used / are they a victim of abuse?
4. Is putting their photo up likely to cause them/others danger?
If they won a huge sum of money and you publish their image they can be identified, stalked or followed.
As a rule of thumb always ask the person you are using the image of to fill out a consent form!