Photography Etiquette – Don’t Take My Photo

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As my photography business has taken off, I’ve encountered situations that need to be handled gently. I’ve decided to start a series of posts in order to address some of these issues. That’s not to say I have an answer for any of them. I would just like to start a conversation. I’ll give a scenario and my response to it. Feel free to tell me your story, or give suggestions based on your own experience.

So, to begin…

My husband and I shot a steampunk convention. When you sign in on the first day, whether you’re a vendor or just a regular schmo, you have to sign a waiver. The waiver says a bunch of lawyer stuff about not getting trampled by the very large dinosaur in attendance, not being rude or judgmental, and if you choose to participate in the weapons training events and you hurt yourself, well, that’s on you. Buried deep down in all the, seemingly, commonsense precautions, is something that says, by signing this waiver you hereby authorize {Said Entity} and all other affiliated persons, to take and display photos of you or your likeness….and so on. We happily signed the waiver and skipped off to take some super-awesome-amazing photos.

There are many different kinds of events at cons. Some of them are held in great big rooms with lots of people, while others are in teeny tiny little rooms with just a few in attendance. In both cases, we try to be as inconspicuous as possible. Most of the rooms are very poorly lit, but it’s rude to use flash in certain situations, so we don’t, unless absolutely necessary. We will also stop people in the halls and ask if we can take their picture. Most people love to pose for photos because…well…they look awesome!!!

My husband and I like to split up the events and shoot separately. Too many photographers in one room can be a little bit annoying. So, on the second day, he went to shoot a costuming panel, and I went to a leather workshop. It was a small room with lots of tables. The participants sat around the outside of the tables, while the instructors walked around the inside area giving help to those who needed it. I used my flash a couple of times, but it was drawing attention, so I changed my settings and shot in black and white. (I don’t get as much noise or blur in low lighting when I shoot in black and white.) I crept around, making sure to stay out of the way. After about 10 minutes, I had gotten a ton of good shots and decided to move on. I waited at the back of the room for one of the instructors to have a free second so I could give them a stack of business cards, in case anyone wanted to see their photos after the con. There were 2 instructors. A petite older lady and a (very hot) young man (with his shirt off!!!!). The woman was the closest to me, so when she had a moment, I leaned over to her, handed her some cards and whispered that she could view the photos I took of the class on our website in a few days. As I turned to go, she said in a very loud voice:

Her: Wait! I didn’t give anyone permission to take my photo and I don’t want it posted anywhere.

Me: Oh. Ummm… I’m with the the con. I’m shooting for them.

Her: I’m with the con as well and I said I don’t want my photo taken or posted anywhere.

Me: Urrr….ummmm….Ok. Do you mean just you, or the whole class?

Her: Me. I don’t want you posting my picture anywhere.

Me: Ok. I won’t do anything with your photos.

I turned around and walked out of the room. I was completely embarrassed and unsure of how to handle the situation. While I tried to stop shaking (was it just embarrassment, or anger as well?) I went and found my husband. After telling him about what happened, he shrugged his shoulders and said, “Don’t worry about it. You have permission to take photos of everyone. She doesn’t know what she’s talking about.” But I insisted on making certain. I went to one of the higher-ups and asked if I needed special permission to take someone’s photo. She told me about the waiver we had signed, and that everyone was required to sign it. She said that I had nothing to worry about, some people were just stressed out and grumpy.

But I was worried. I gave that woman my word that I wouldn’t post her photo on my website. Although I had permission from the con, and a legal right to do so, I still felt bad about it. In fact, it happened days ago, and I’m still worried about it.

My first instinct was to be an asshole. I wanted to crudely obscure her face out of all the photos from that event and post them anyway. But that’s just my embarrassment talking. My husband suggested that I just remove all of the photos that have her in it and post the rest. I think that’s what I’ll probably end up doing. There really aren’t that many of her anyway. I was way more focused on the guy without a shirt.

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2 thoughts on “Photography Etiquette – Don’t Take My Photo

  1. For what it’s worth, I was in that class and unless that happened in the last few minutes (I had to step out for coffee) it made less of a scene than you thought. A lot of people were so wrapped up in the leatherworking that we were oblivious to anything much else.
    I have a dear friend who has a huge phobia of having her photo taken, especially when shared online. Due to events in her history, I completely understand it and try to accommodate. Similarly, she does her best to accommodate photographers in this sort of situation and say “Oh, are you taking pictures? I can’t have my picture taken; hang on one second while I step out of frame.” It makes a scene sometimes, but she’s comfortable with it so it’s rarely a big deal unless the photographer escalates it.
    So, while I’m sympathetic to some one not wanting their photo randomly posted on the internetz – like most issues like this – it’s my feeling that one has to take personal responsibility. She did so when she asked you not to post them, I’ll grant her that, but if it were me I think I would have made myself a badge to pin on that says “Please don’t post my photo on the internet” or worn a mask, or preemptively approached photographers.
    From a practical standpoint… Can you use a subtle blur on photos she is only in the background of? Or perhaps just crop her out? Ironically, the way I found your post is because I was searching the internet in hopes of finding photos with me in them. I was the pink-haired girl just out of frame on the right of your second photo.

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    • Hi Betsi! Thanks for your response. It’s really awesome that you found this. Sometimes I feel like I’m all alone out here in this great big Internet. Also, I tried not to use specific search terms for this post, because I really wasn’t trying to call anyone out. I might have to consider removing this. I don’t want to start any drama.

      I have encountered people in the past who have asked me right away not to photograph them. I completely understand that and I do try to be respectful of their concerns. But I was caught off guard in this situation. I tried to be conciliatory to diffuse her anger, but afterward I questioned whether I handled it properly.

      I could blur out her face, but my biggest concern is that I told her I wouldn’t post her photos on my website. (I don’t count this as part of my website. I don’t have many followers at this point, and the two are not affiliated. I have a separate blog on my professional website.) The best decision, I believe, is to stand by what I said to her, even though I don’t have to. But then, people like you are missing out. GAHHH!!! Can you see my dilemma?

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