…can be a world of trouble if you aren’t careful.
Recently, I’ve been going over old pictures from my various trips and talking to students about all the places I’ve been lucky enough to travel to. This paired with both national (I’m an American) and global changes has me thinking about the issues of crossing boarders with a camera – especially since most of us carry at least one of them in our pockets at all times: a cellphone.
For most of my life, I’ve barely wanted to be in a picture let alone take travel pictures with people in it, however, in the past year, I’ve traveled a lot by myself, so capturing pictures of other people experiencing the places I’ve visited is growing on me. But with this new passion comes some pretty big complications with everything from laws to ethics to consider.
So let’s start with the law:
My disclaimer here is that I’m talking about photography for personal use, not commercial. For-profit/commercial photography has a whole other set of guidelines which also changes from country to country and deals with everything from copyright to private verses public land and so on.
Anyway, laws can shift from country to country with some surprising results. I’m loving this post by Dave from The Longest Way Home which discusses differences from country to country, however, this was written almost 5 years ago so be aware that some of these may have changed!
More recently – but still 2 years ago – Hungary appeared across media outlets as an example of how laws are changing. Read the article for more information, but the basics come down to people with cameras are suspect and will have issues with the authorities, especially if people in your pictures are identifiable with stricter enforcement if you are a professional (paid) photographer.
In most places (like the US), in public locals, no one has the explicit right nor expectation of privacy. In other words – with exceptions such as toilets and similar places – if you are in public, people have the right to photograph you and it does not matter the age, station, or situation (within limits) of the subject of the photograph.
Yes, this means that a stranger – or you – may legally take photographs of children while you are out traveling. I mention this explicitly because this is one area that gets the most push back.
And again, this is for non-commercial photography and can change from country to country. If the Hungarian law still stands, for example, you must get expressed permission from anyone who can be identified in your photos, even if you’re only posting them on your own sites for no financial gains.
This leads me to ethics:
Your best bet when judging what pictures you should or shouldn’t be taking is to go with your gut and common sense. If you feel a bit ‘ick’ about taking a photo, especially posting it: don’t do it!
For example, if you are taking pictures and someone either clearly does not want you taking their picture or asks you outright not to photograph something or someone, really consider it (this is different in political, protest, or human rights situations).
Also, think of your location and it’s significance. My biggest pet peeve is watching tourists take pictures in places, like churches, where there are postings explicitly asking for people not to take pictures. We are unfortunately in a era where people don’t think these kinds of signs apply to them or they are so digitally plugged in that they don’t think phones count as cameras – mostly, we’re in an era where people of all ages have little to no impulse control.
My guidelines follow pretty dang closely with most others: if you are shooting young kids, avoid them being truly recognizable from blocked faces or set in locals which hinder recognition. If you feel like you have to sneak a picture, don’t do it. If you wouldn’t post a picture of a person – especially a child – you know personally in this location, don’t post someone else’s. Basic.
Finally, when it comes to taking pictures while traveling, I have two last points: always research what rules and regulations fit for where you are headed, just in case – not everyone let’s the old ‘I’m sorry, I didn’t know’ fly; and get your head up every once in a while. While documenting a trip is great, you’ll make a lot of great memories if you look more with your eyes and less with your lenses.
This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.
PS. click photos for captions!