Photographs and the Right to Privacy

When you snap a picture of another person, two fundamental rights often come into play: the right of the photographer to free expression and the right of the subject to privacy (the right to be left alone).
– Lien Verbauwhede, 2006 –

On my blogs, the right of personal privacy always outweighs my right as a photographer. It is my personal preference and has nothing to do with the law of the land. This does pose a dilemma (which I always thought was spelled dilemna) for me, because sometimes the story I am telling is best illustrated with a photo of people.

I use two solutions – sometimes I crop the photo to remove faces, in addition to using filters to alter the photo. This was an effective way to treat this photo, because the topic was hands, and the photo was called ‘Card Sharks’.

The second solution is to simply experiment with filters until I find one that disguises the faces. This photo of the ‘Card Sharks’ was not as effective as the first photo, though it did a good job of ensuring privacy.

Sometimes, the photo is so old that identification isn’t an issue. This was a photo of my 5th birthday party. I’ve aged about *&#@ years since then and my mom passed away many years ago – but  I thought the cross-hatch effect improved the photo!

If you take photographs of people and publish them on your blog, do you get their permission to do so?

15 thoughts on “Photographs and the Right to Privacy

  1. I’ve always found the issue of photography (both on personal sites and public ones, including TV news channels and documentaries) troublesome. In many cases, it would seem people are unaware they are being photographed and that, to me, is a clear case of invasion of privacy. I’ve heard stories of people being surprised to see themselves (or someone they know) pop up in a news feed or on some other show. And with the proliferation of cell phones, etc., you could be photographed or videoed at any time without your knowledge or consent (while a teacher, my husband was videoed by a student while speaking with another student, without his knowledge; he was told by a third student that it had happened). And even though many people are aware that CCTV is ubiquitous these days, its a bit creepy to think you’re always at risk of being “photographed” without realizing it. Certainly if you use a photo of someone on a blog or other social media site, you should get their permission, but I know that doesn’t often happen (how many people have been tagged in Facebook photos in embarrassing situations and not even realized it?) Shade sof Orwell’s “1984”?!?!?!?

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    1. Yes, I’m sure there are photos and movies of us everywhere!
      I’ve asked my family not to tag me in Facebook photos and I don’t post photos of them there!

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  2. I’m with you on the privacy issue. Like you, I didn’t need a law to know to respect a person’s privacy in photos. I miss the use of manners and common courtesy that’s vanishing from our society.
    I love the photo of your 5th birthday party. It’s charming and the filter you used on it compliments it perfectly. It’s a precious treasure to be sure.

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  3. Geez, those look worthy of framing!
    I’m with you on the privacy issue. It just doesn’t feel right to use a photo without either permission or hiding identity – ideally both.

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    1. I actually do frame nearly all my blog photos – digitally. I bought one of those digital photo frames. It sits on the kitchen counter. My husband has one on his desk and he has filled it with photos of the family.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This is interesting both what you’ve written and how you re-did these photos. Did you do this using GIMP for layers that we both chatted about recently? I had some business cards printed up with my blog name on them because I wanted to legitimatize myself in case I was taking a picture so people did not think I was a creep stalking them or their car, should they part of what I was trying to photograph.

    About five years ago I was walking along Emmons Boulevard, a street full of stately old houses and a canopy of trees crosses over the street. The neighborhood is very nice and they have very tasteful Christmas decor, often large wreaths which are found in every upstairs room and a matching, larger one on the front door. I was taking photos of the wreaths for a post for Christmas Day which I would call “Wreathed in Smiles” as everyone, even strangers, stop to wish you Merry Christmas. I do not include the address and this is tricky. So I walked along, snapping pics to make a collage. A man/woman caught up with me, pulled to the curb and wanted to know if I was a realtor and old me their house. Without a card with my blog name, I tried to explain my very long blog name title, and it was a post about houses with wreaths. She persisted and I said “OK, I won’t use your house, which was the finest on the block.” After that, I got cards printed up. I was taking pictures at a livery stable at pony rides for kids for a future post, and asked if I could take two youngsters seated side-by-side. The adult said yes. While taking pictures, a man with a young girl came along and she sat on a pony. I was not taking her photo, but he perceived I was – I was taking a pony’s pic – he came over and said “you will not take pictures of her – I forbid it.” I didn’t pull out a card and assured him I’m no pro and just taking pics of the animals. He settled down, but yikes! I follow a photographer from Michigan who loves street photographer – I don’t think she gets permission or waivers. She just shoots.

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    1. I’ve used a couple of programs to create those effects – mostly ones I don’t have on my new computer, unfortunately. The most recent one I use is Topaz Studio – the free Legacy version at the bottom of this page: https://help.topazlabs.com/hc/en-us/articles/115001521092-Previous-Versions

      That is a good idea to have business cards. I have read that the laws for taking people pictures vary from place to place, so to be on the safe side it is probably best to check the laws in the area where you are taking the photos. As you pointed out, a bit of PR is sometimes needed too.

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      1. Thank you Margy – I will check this out tomorrow. I do intend to expand my horizons a little over the Winter, after I do a few, much-needed things around the house first. From the sound of the weather predictions, it will be a long Winter and so a time to be productive. The blog is consuming more and more time, but there will be less walks and photographs to sift through once Old Man Winter is here. The card I got through Vistaprint when they had a sale and I also hand them out when I’ve been chatting it up with people I meet when I walk at other parks. I take no chances with copyright issues, nor photographing something/someone I should not be photographing.

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  5. Thought-provoking post. I’d say photos aren’t artistic in their own right and need the work you do on them to be integrated with text. Not well-expressed, I’m afraid, but something like that …

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    1. I think I understand what you are saying – there really is so much more potential for a photo beyond what it says as a snapshot in time. When I look at a photo as an artistic expression, all sorts of other elements come into play!

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