What’s the Legal Position About Sharing Photos Online That Include Passers-By?
Nowadays, when everyone has a high-performing camera in their pockets, it’s almost impossible to take photos without a passerby or two wandering around in the background.
This is especially true in crowded areas, where people flock together in big groups.
However, many photographers (professional or amateur) receive claims and threats from passersby who want the pictures taken down or compensation requests. So, what’s the legal position about these photos?
Is it safe, from a legal standpoint, to share photos that include passersby online, especially when it’s clear the person in the background was captured accidentally?
Let’s have a look at what the law in the US says.
The Main Legal Concerns
One major underpinning issue is that everyone has a reasonable expectation of privacy. This means that even in public places where it is legal to take photos even when people are around, individuals retain certain privacy rights.
Let’s talk about taking photos in a public park as an example. If there are people around, chances are there will be random passersby who happen upon your shoot by accident. Even though you are not in the wrong for taking those photos, the passersby still have certain privacy rights.
In conclusion, unknowingly capturing someone’s image doesn’t absolve you from respecting their privacy rights. Even though these individuals might be in a public location at the time you took your picture, that doesn’t necessarily grant you carte blanche permission to share their images online.
Keep in mind that these are broad legal concepts that underlie photography and online sharing of photos. However, laws may differ based on specific circumstances and jurisdictions. Therefore, understanding these can help you, as a photographer, to navigate this tricky landscape more effectively while ensuring respect for the people you capture in your frames.
Tips to Avoid Any Legal Issues and Concerns
Laws regarding data privacy and privacy in general are not easy to understand by regular people. Even more, there are times when legal specialists struggle to understand them. Therefore, it’s best to stay out of trouble.
Here are a few tips to help you enjoy taking photos in public spaces and avoid accidentally exposing any passersby.
Blur the Background
If the photo composition allows it, a blurred background is the easiest and fastest method to get rid of any possible legal issues. Moreover, nowadays, there are specialized tools that can professionally blur the background of an image in seconds. So it doesn’t take much.
Another option is to just blur the faces, but this only works when there are few people in the background. No one has the patience to blur the faces of an entire crowd.
Take Pictures without People in the Background
This one seems to be common sense, but it’s not always possible. Depending on your area of expertise, it may be almost impossible.
For instance, travel photos are notorious for capturing crowds of people instead of the tourist attraction everyone is there to see. If your main field is travel photos or Instagram, you may have a tough time getting people out of your frame. But don’t despair, there are ways to get those gorgeous photos.
One way is to make sure you’re the first to get there or the last one to leave. Also, learn to find unusual angles that let you capture the beauty of the place without any of the bystanders.
Use the Passersby
Taking travel photos with locals in the frame can add a layer of authenticity to your shots. But you also want to make sure you’re not invading anyone’s privacy. So, think outside the box and find ways to take photos without showing people’s faces.
One simple way to do this is to photograph people from behind while they walk around, enjoying their day.
As a general rule, you are allowed to capture people in your frame when on public property. However, some exceptions and stipulations could ruin your love for taking pictures. This is why it’s best to act with caution and make sure the passersby can’t be easily recognized.