Ask permission before taking someone’s photo.


I know a photographer who took a photo of a woman and her daughter
walking under an umbrella in the rain. I’m told the images were nicely backlit.
Because it was raining he shot through an open window in his car and when
mom saw him he introduced himself and explained what he was doing.
 She went ballistic. She yelled and screamed and called the police.


Legally the mom had no basis to be upset, because she and her daughter
were in a public place. The photographer was doing nothing wrong and once
he realized how upset she was he apologized and told her he would delete the
images. He also explained to her that he wasn’t doing anything wrong. He could have
driven off and published the photos had he wanted to.


I have heard photographers smugly point out under similar circumstances
that they have every right to make photographs in public places, but there are
a number of times I wouldn’t do it. Number one is when a child is involved
(especially a child who seems to be alone), and number two is when a child is involved
and the photographer is shooting from a car, especially a male photographer. For some
people the image of “Mr. Stranger Danger” sitting in the car with a camera
wearing no pants comes to mind.


So let’s say mom calls the cops on her cell phone. She tells the police what
she thinks she saw which is not true. The police will respond and they will probably
find the photographer and stop his car. They will check him out. Because of the
nature of the complaint they will check his background and even if he has a press
credential at the ready they can make his life miserable, especially if he has
some unpaid parking tickets or worse.


The cops are just doing their jobs. The mom is just protecting her daughter and
the photographer is doing nothing illegal. Let’s say that instead of reaching into her
purse and pulling out her cell phone, the mom pulls out a gun. If you don’t think people
are carrying guns think again.


A number of years ago a news photographer took  photos in a park of a woman
pushing a toddler on a swing. They seemed to be having a great time so as not to
spoil the moment he shot with a long lens. About the time he decided to approach
them and get permission the child’s father and some of his friends who saw him
taking photos decided they didn’t like what was going on and delivered a severe
beating that left the photographer with a career ending brain injury.


The photographer was doing nothing wrong.
Maybe it’s better to ask before shooting.