NORTHUMBERLAND CAMERA CLUB: Arts for art's sake still fine for photographers

A question people often ask me on photography courses is whether it is okay to take pictures of people in public.

Sunday, 15th April 2018, 10:09 pm
Updated Sunday, 15th April 2018, 10:11 pm
Ivor Rackham.
Ivor Rackham.

The answer is a qualified yes. If you are not harassing the subject nor using their image to defame them and you are on public land with no relevant by-laws and you are taking the images for art’s sake, it’s fine.

Someone did object to me photographing them on the street a while ago. I applied common sense. I explained how great they looked and how I really wanted to capture an image. I showed them the picture, gave them my card and offered to send a copy of the photo to them. I also asked them to sign a contract in return.

It’s normal practice in these circumstances for models and photographers to come to a simple contractual arrangement where the photographer uses the person’s image in return for the model receiving digital copies or prints.

They were happy. If they weren’t I would have offered to delete it, despite being under no legal compulsion to do so.

The new General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) come in to effect at the end of May and I’ve checked with the Information Commissioner’s Office how that affects my photography business. I’ve helped a few other businesses get up to speed and blogged about it too (

We have a freedom of expression under current Human Rights laws. If you include someone in a picture and you can prove that it is art, then the photo is exempt from GDPR in the UK.

What if the purpose of an image I take changes from art to, say, advertising? In that case, I must not use a person’s image without their permission.

However, the regulations also change for wedding and event photography; an important part of my business. Ensuring that I identify and exclude those who don’t want to appear in photos is a challenge, especially for documentary-type images at events with dozens or hundreds of people present.

The various laws are far more complex than I can cover in this column. There is a lot of information out there regarding GDPR for businesses, but little specifically aimed at photographers. Do beware, as much of the information is incorrect.

If you take photos for just pleasure, then you probably don’t have to worry about the new regulations.

This month’s challenge is to explore complementary colours, and the challenge words are ‘Lucky’ and ‘Distance’.

Everyone is welcome to join Northumberland Camera Club.

Post images to and tag them #PicNorthumberland

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