“She posted my photo on Facebook without my permission”

A little while ago, I had a client who told me that while they were eating dinner at a restaurant, a friend took her picture, along with several others at the table. She was smiling with the others, a typical shot, with nice light and part of the other tables behind. She didn’t mind her picture being taken, until she saw it posted on Facebook the next day. There was nothing embarrassing about the photo, nothing revealing or sensitive or private in any way. But she said “it was just the idea that she didn’t even think to ask me if it was OK to post it”.

Some people do not like their faces or photos in the public view.

I don’t know if my client ever told her friend how she honestly felt. It wasn’t a legal issue, since there was no issue of propriety or privacy in the situation (a public setting), and no issue of libel or slander. She felt it was an issue of courtesy, considering the possibility that what you don’t know about a subject may hurt them by posting a photograph without their consent.

As she told me this, the questions came flooding into my mind: If someone is out in public, do they give implied consent that its OK  have themselves photographed? Is there any difference to being seen versus photographed —  any line that is crossed?

And, presumably, is that line further crossed if that photograph is posted or published?

From a more practical view, do you really have time to ask everyone you photograph if it’s OK to photograph them?

Assuming there is no obvious slander or public embarrassment involved (nudity, etc.), from a moral standpoint (forgetting legal considerations mentioned above) should you ask every subject — especially in a public setting — if it’s OK to post the photos online, offline, or somewhere you may not even know yet?



12 Replies to ““She posted my photo on Facebook without my permission””

  1. If she didn’t like her photograph, why couldn’t she talk to her friend? It’s not that big a deal and I think her friend would probably take it off FB.

  2. I was going to reply to a few of the posts that made similar comments, but I’ll just address them all here as in one comment.

    Long before this Facebook post, I was shooting some public chess games at a park in Portland, OR. After about 15 minutes, one of the spectators got upset and told me to stop shooting because he didn’t want to be in the picture. I reacted impulsively and blurted out “Well then you shouldn’t go out in public”.

    People chuckled, including the chess players, and I kept shooting. I avoided showing the spectator, though I didn’t tell him that. i think he left a few minutes later.

    I regretted what I said though. The man voiced his feelings, however “unjustified” they were in my opinion. After that incident, I decided that I would try to respond a little softer next time and mention that I wouldn’t show anyone’s face if they didn’t want to. (At that time, there was no internet, so the issue was limited to being photographed, not posting. But the implication is always there that the photo might show up somewhere).

    It takes a certain personality and nerve to confront a photographer or anyone in public and tell them how you feel. You don’t know how they will react, and most people don’t want to start a scene. So I assume that whoever might approach me (or another photographer) to ask them not to take their photo is feeling uncomfortable enough to overcome the fear of confrontation. In most cases, it will be a non-incident, and the photographer will respect their request.

    The only time(s) when I would continue shooting would be when the subject is obviously doing something that hurts another, or there is some news situation where I feel the public good is better served with the photo(s). I admit these are sometimes difficult, intangible situations, but they do get a bit easier to deal with after a few years in the field. More often than not, it’s not what you say back to them but how you say it, and how you might voice your reasons for doing so. It never hurts to acknowledge someone’s feelings.

  3. The questions Mr. Levy asked in the post had to do with balancing the feelings of the subject against the feelings of the people seeing the photo. I don’t see how you can balance those two things, or make a standard rule that applies all the time. It depends on how important the photograph is or what the person is doing in the photo. If there is nothing embarrassing in the photo, then I think the subject can’t expect to have control over anyone taking their picture in public, or posting it later.

  4. It’s not practical to ask everyone all the time if you can take their picture. Same thing with whether you can post it later. With strangers, it’s a good idea to ask, to be nice, especially if you’re close to them. But I don’t think the majority of people care if they’re out in public and someone is photographing them.

  5. Freedom of the press means we can say what we want or photograph who we want in public. This country gets a little too stuck up about themselves.

  6. I agree with the lady who didn’t want her picture taken or put on facebook. It makes me not want to go outside sometimes because anyone can take a moment in time from my life that maybe I don’t look so good, and make it forever for the world to see. People should just take 2 seconds to ask if it’s OK. It doesn’t hurt anyone to ask.

    1. what’s your problem? You don’t have to look perfect all the time, and it makes it more real when people don’t always have to smile and look their best.

  7. We don’t ask actors and actresses, or politicians or other famous people if we can take their photographs and post them. So what’s the difference with us regular folks?

    There are plenty of actors who want their best face in the photos, but it just doesn’t happen all the time. And those are the photos that people like to see on the tabloids. I’m not saying that it’s fair, but that’s what people pay to see on the tabloids. So we’ve been supporting that obsession for a long time, and it’s part of the implied “permission” that anyone gives for going out in public.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.