Photographing strangers out in public

I’m working on an art project that would involve me taking paparazzi style photos of random people in the street. Now to my knowledge, it is indeed legal to photograph individuals in a public space without their consent. My concern however is that I plan to use these photos in an exhibit and I’m worried I may face potential lawsuits if any of the people I photograph were to discover I had taken their photo? Would they have a case against me?

Depends on the law of the place where you intend to do this, obviously. But if, under that law, it’s legal to take the photographs in the first place (and you say it is), in countries which have adhered to the standard copyright conventions you will own the copyright in the photographs. Given all that, absent special fact (e.g. the photograph suggests that the subject is doing something illegal or discreditable) I can’t see that exhibiting the photographs is likely to breach any laws - unless, perhaps, a particuarly strong privacy law.

Are you making money off the exhibit?

Lawsuit? More likely you might getflipped off or even punched in the face if you get too close.

I know someone who works in textbook publishing in the U.S. They won’t print a picture of a person without a “model release,” which means the person has agreed to appear in the picture. This is obviously scrupulous ass-covering, but if you’re taking the photo to use in a for-profit enterprise, it would probably behoove you to have the same kind of thing.

If you’re doing it in Quebec, you could be liable for invasion of privacy.

It’s gonna be part of an online exhibit and I’m not actually selling those particular shots.

Also I’m aware of the actual physical risks I may face, that doesn’t concern me I actually plan to wear an umpires mask if it comes down to it.

In the U.S. you’re probably safe, as long as the people you shoot don’t have a reasonable expectation of privacy, but I’d avoidphotographing children, just to be on the safe side.

One of my favorite photo subject matters is “people taking pictures of each other while on vacation”. I don’t go out looking for those types of pictures deliberately, but the scene presents itself time after time when I’m on road trips. There’s a certain warm, almost nostalgic feeling inherent in these vacation tableaus – folks out for an adventure, generally happy, and in the moment.

Even if legal it’s kinda rude without asking. If I found out someone did that to me I’d be really pissed off. Please ask even if you don’t “have” to.

lol that would totally defeat the purpose of what i’m trying to do.

I am trying to simulate the paparazzi experience but instead with the average person. I expect some reactions to be negative (especially with the more close in shots I will be getting) but that is part of the project.

I was thinking on the inverse about me potentially suing some of the subjects if they do indeed decide to get physical with me?

I think the issue is that many people don’t realize the laws regarding public spaces and photographs? I just don’t want to find myself on the end of a frivolous cease and desist and would like to avoid that hassle if possible.

Then ask after. I’d prefer to be asked first but understand why you wouldn’t in this particular case.

I will consider doing such. I don’t want that aspect to limit what I can use however. I think i would put myself in greater threat of legal action if I do ask a subject for their permission and not get it and then go ahead and use the photo.

I’m not sure if I would actually be violating some sort of verbal contract at that point?

I don’t know. The legal question sounds like it’s been mostly answered. I was going with the polite thing to do angle. Like I said before, legal doesn’t make it a decent thing to do.

yes, this is ll true. But the OP asked if they would “face potential lawsuits”. The answer to that is also Yes.

remember that people can sue for any reason they feel like, or even no reason at all. And no matter hor silly their reason, or how lacking in legal support, you will still have to spend money & time on a lawyer & court proceedings. That could get real expensive. And no matter how baseless the lawsuit, American judges seem very reluctant to order them to pay your legal costs. (I suppose it’s a sort of job-protection impulse on the part of judges – anything that seriously decreased the number of pointless lawsuits would eventually reduce the job opportunities for judges.)

Well if I had some sort of unusual look to me, so much so that a photographer took my picture and then made copies and sold pictures of me, yeah I’d sue if I didnt get a cut.

So it would all be in context.

This is why I tell parents of kids in wheelchairs, dont allow charity groups to take your kids picture and put it into an advertisement without you getting some compensation.

Photography is protected speech under the 1st Amendment. That doesn’t mean you can’t get sued. You might look at the Nussenzweig case for the closest example of what you’re talking about.

So simulate the paparazzi experience on the average person who never willingly injected his or herself into the public eye, never hired a publicist, and never sought to cash in on their public persona?

It depends a lot on your intent and the local laws.

If you are engaged in journalism with a public interest in mind, anything that happens in public can be fair game. People doing things in public, by definition, have no expectation of privacy.

However, trying to use their photo for profit outside of a journalistic context, putting their face on merchandise, harassing someone, or posting an offensive / embarrassing picture specifically so as to cause malicious humiliation can all subject you to criminal and civil liabilities. Take a look at the lawsuits surrounding humiliating internet memes… the people used in these memes can often sue because distributing the photo was deliberately malicious and did not serve any journalistic purpose or public interest.

Also, concealed surveillance may be illegal depending on the law of your jurisdiction.

Moderator Action

Since this is asking for legal advice, let’s move it to IMHO.

Moving thread from General Questions to in My Humble Opinion.