April 10, 2009

Guide to shooting photos in public

Shutterbugs have wide latitude to photograph strangers — but consider propriety as well as the law

Target audience: Cause organizations, nonprofits, NGOs, journalists, general public. This is part of our ongoing series designed to help nonprofits and other organizations learn how to use and create media.

JD LasicaWhen is it all right to take photos of strangers in public?

Society has wrestled with the question of street photography ever since the invention of the camera. In the United States, the general rule is that anything in plain view from a public area can be legally photographed, including buildings and facilities, people, signs, artwork and images.

In a recent case, photographer Philip-Lorca diCorcia set up strobe rigs on a New York City street corner and photographed people walking down the street. He won a lawsuit brought by an Orthodox Jew who objected to deCorcia’s publishing and selling in an art exhibition a photograph taken of him without his permission. (See Wikipedia for a more thorough discussion.)

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