Photographing People: Right or Wrong?

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  1. Ian Ord says:

    I would have to empathize with many of your feelings of discomfort here. I often feel hesitant taking a photo, and tend to use my telephoto lens to capture people from a distance – but does that make it any less invasive? not really – it only satisfies my own comfort to a small degree – but were the tables turned, I don’t know how i’d feel about people secretly taking photos of me from a distance! ha. Thanks for writing this! Great thoughts!

    • Alana says:

      Taking pictures from a distance is better than shoving your camera in someone’s face or blatantly snapping away while they’re going about their business, but I know what you mean, ultimately you’re still taking someone’s photo. I don’t know what the right answer to this is except just realizing it comes down to reading the situation and using your best judgement.

  2. Jan says:

    As a blond toddler in Hawaii, you were the focus of attention for many Japanese honeymooners:) Quite odd to find your child being photographed like that! We usually turn the other way when cameras are being waved around in tourist areas, and try not to focus on individuals while taking our own photos – but the monk with the pink parasol was a must!

  3. This is one that I struggled with when I was visiting rural parts of Peru. The women’s dresses were just so beautiful and colourful that I felt like going trigger happy, but I had to refrain myself knowing that that would make me the annoying tourist. in the end i took a few discreet shots from a distance. there were also people dressed in traditional clothes who you could photograph in exchange for a few dollars. that seems fair to me since they are posing for you, often with a cute llama…

  4. This is always a tricky subject. Getting in another person’s face, without their consent, in order to take a photo is just downright rude and disrespectful. I think I’d actually scold a stranger for doing it if I saw it happening.

    I’m not sure where you draw the line on this – it’s vague and fuzzy, and some people obviously have more stringent guidelines than others. If I were to take a photo of a stranger, but they looked visibly uncomfortable or a bit alarmed afterwards, I’d delete it. Now as for adorable kids…honestly it depends. If a child is playing or looks happy, fine. I’m always very uncomfortable with photos of kids from 3rd world countries where they look sad, unless it’s from a news publication.

    • Alana says:

      Weird about the formatting…your comment actually came through in all caps for some reason…

      I still don’t know what I think about photographing children – unless their parents are there and say it’s okay it seems a little invasive. I mean, I would never photograph children at home, it would be seen as inappropriate, so why is it okay here? Tricky, tricky…

  5. Sarah Shaw says:

    Great post, alana. I also wrote a similar post about this subject back in October, here: http://www.mappingwords.com/2012/10/19/when-is-travel-photography-inappropriate/

    I agree with you in many ways. We must use good judgement when deciding whether the photo is ethical or not. I’m always pretty cautious when photographing people, because I don’t want to be invasive, but sometimes I’ve gone ahead and taken photos anyway, especially if I’m in an area with lots of people snapping away. Other times I’ve asked for permission, but I’m usually really shy about doing that…

    • Alana says:

      I normally just end up being shy and not asking and not taking the photo, but then I’m sometimes disappointed that I didn’t ‘capture’ something.

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