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  #1  
Old 03-23-2009, 04:13 AM
IaKoop IaKoop is offline
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Default "May I take your photo?" - To ask, or not to ask

This post arises from a heated debate I just had with a friend. Although I've been shooting for well over a decade, I've stuck to landscape / nature / animal shots until recently. In short, I found posed pictures of people soulless, and candid ones rude. I've been adding the occasional people-shot to my repertoire in the past couple years, usually as unobtrusively as possible, at the end of a long lens or the edge of a wide one. Still, I'm battling the moral dilemma.

Today I captured what I feel is my best human work: a close-up of two children at play. I'd satisfied my own personal morality by promising myself I would never publish it, but my friend felt that taking the picture was already disrespectful. I know that here in North America such shots are legal in a public place, but this doesn't solve the moral question.

Is this an issue for anyone else? How do you address it? Do you approach each subject first and end up with posed photos, or do you shoot first and ask questions later? If you simply take your shot and walk away, how do you justify this?

Looking forward to your input!
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Old 03-23-2009, 04:30 AM
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Docarmo Docarmo is offline
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Default Re: "May I take your photo?" - To ask, or not to ask

I also have this dilemma, Kai. I like taking pictures of people, but I don't publish them, except if it is a public event, already covered by the news media, or if the person gives me the permission. Otherwise, I take the person at an angle that we couldn't identify her/him.
MCV
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Old 03-23-2009, 12:08 PM
BennyV BennyV is offline
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Default Re: "May I take your photo?" - To ask, or not to ask

As a rule I never shoot a portrait without the person giving permission, though in most of the cases this 'permission' is implied in a glance, a smile or some other kind of non-language interaction between us.

Literally asking permission is something I usually don't (have to) do. If you do this, often people will start to pose, which often ruins what you wanted to shoot in the first place.

I value interaction, and this takes time, because you have to establish some kind of contact with the person you want to take a picture of. Usually, in fact, it is the other way around: there's interaction because I think the person is interesting, and then a picture may or may not follow. I find it horribly disrespectful when amateur photographers just pop up in front of people and start shooting them.

In my experience, however, I must add, I find it a lot easier is to establish this kind of 'rapport' in Asia, where people are a lot more open to this than in the west. This probably explains why most of my western pictures are about history and architecture.

But then there are rules, and there are exceptions...

Benny
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Old 03-23-2009, 03:12 PM
KevRyan KevRyan is offline
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Default Re: "May I take your photo?" - To ask, or not to ask

When the "rudeness" of millions of hours of unwanted daily video surveillance is removed from our society then might start to consider moral concerns over candid photography - for sure street photography raises all sorts of questions for the photographer - if we want to capture life as it is we have to make peace with our own conscience that what we show and how we use it doesn't ridicule or expose people to ridicule or danger - but the truth is our faces are out there everyday of the week - people see them - they react to them - they recognise them.....if you always respect objection and are generally respectful about how you use your work and relate to people then what is there to object to on moral grounds? Often such questions of morality relate to something beyond this and that is the courage (at whatever level) that photographers need to find to place themselves in a position to photograph the social world as it is........fear of photography is very small in some areas of the world.....in the fear infected parts of the world it becomes a major issue......

It is a heated issue........and it's not......we have to decide what we feel comfortable photographing.....an acceptance that you are a photographer in a situation doing your work is always best perhaps but not always attainable......then we face our own point of moral dilemna and choices.......some of my photographs may not be seen for 30 years because of what they show.......out of sensitivity to the subjects and those related to them........

bw Kev
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Old 03-23-2009, 06:15 PM
Keitht Keitht is offline
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Default Re: "May I take your photo?" - To ask, or not to ask

I'm not comfortable being photographed so assume others feel the same way. That's not intended as a criticism of the OP. Asking first doesn't always work well as many people are unable to act naturally if they know their photo is about to be taken. If you do enjoy photographing people you need to be aware of their reaction be it stated or inferred and act accordingly.
I haven't taken 'people' photographs for many years, but 2 opposing reactions stick clearly in my mind. Both were in Greece so there weren't any cultural differences between the shots. The first was an elderly gent riding a donkey with a mountain of firewood behind him on the animal. As I raised the camera he shouted and started waving his stick, clearly he didn't want to be photographed. I lowered the camera and he actually nodded to me as he passed by way of acknowledging my action. The second was an elderly priest at a market. He was sitting on a wall beside panniers of oranges. In that instance, as I raised my camera, he grabbed some of the oranges and held them up with a beaming smile on his face. Again no doubt as to how he felt about the photo op. I don't suppose the fact that I then felt obliged to buy some of his oranges had escaped him either!
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Old 03-23-2009, 07:49 PM
Polonaise Polonaise is offline
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Default Re: "May I take your photo?" - To ask, or not to ask

Wise man once said:

'Nature' photographer is exactly like the 'people' photographer, but much more skilled and much more successful in avoiding people (all 6.378.000.000 of them!) - while shooting



That's all.

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Old 03-23-2009, 11:35 PM
michelloupis michelloupis is offline
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Default Re: "May I take your photo?" - To ask, or not to ask

Hello Kai,


I photographed a lot of people lately and it was not a big issue nor problematic. If I didn't knew the person I asked her first as a rule. I had one or two bad feedbacks. If I was on the bus or the boat or a similar place were I could shot them and get away with it I didn't ask and didn't think twice about the "moral" issue. I also photographed a lot of persons without asking, but only after having made some kind of acquaintance with them first.


Regards

Nuno
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Old 03-24-2009, 01:12 AM
michelloupis michelloupis is offline
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Default Re: "May I take your photo?" - To ask, or not to ask

"If I was on the bus or the boat..." - shooting to the outside of course

"I also photographed a lot of persons without asking, but only after having made some kind of acquaintance with them first" - when I could not get away with it of course
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Old 03-24-2009, 08:03 AM
BennyV BennyV is offline
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Default Re: "May I take your photo?" - To ask, or not to ask

Many people seem to take "asking" very literally, i.e. asking with words. What I mean, is that there are many more efficient ways of doing this: establish some eye contact, smile, make some kind of friendly hand gesture and - if you speak the language - just say hi and how are you.

In my experience, in most cases, if you approach people in an open and friendly way like that, taking their picture is not a problem, except maybe in the west where people are a bit suspicious. And if someone clearly doesn't want his/her picture being taken, then just smile, stay friendly and please DON'T take that picture.

Benny
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  #10  
Old 03-24-2009, 12:19 PM
periola periola is offline
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Default Re: "May I take your photo?" - To ask, or not to ask

it's the big question.
i miss a lot of photos because i'm not brave enough to ask, and not rude enough to take.
there's a balance, and in some societies it is easier than others. i find that japanese and spanish people, for example, are very photo friendly, but a lot of other societies are not.
and then pose vs subject ignoring the lens is another thing again.
it's an art which i have not mastered.
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