As a Mom AND a Photographer, I wanted to share some insight into the legalities of children, photography, public places & events. From time to time I volunteer my photography services to the town where I live. This means I photograph public events and activities for them. Today I photographed a public event where there were A LOT of children in attendance. Having been in this profession for years, I knew going in that at some point during the event a parent was going to ask me about what I was doing with my big camera taking photos of their children...and I was right - a concerned Mom asked me to not photograph her children.
In today's digital world, there are cameras to be found everywhere and as parents we want to protect our children from unknown lenses...but there are a few things that you should know regarding the legal rights of picture-takers.
MISCONCEPTION: Many parents believe that a photographer (or someone with a camera) must request consent before capturing or publishing a photograph containing the likeness of their child or children.
This is NOT TRUE.
TRUTH: Photographing a person in a public place, including children, DOES NOT require a model release or expressed consent. When it comes to PUBLIC places or being in PUBLIC VIEW (even if you are standing on private property), consent or a model release is NOT required unless the photograph will be used in advertising (think billboard for Verizon or some other company) AND the person is recognizable.
Think about it - if photographers were required to gather model releases from everyone they photographed our news and tourism industries would quickly die.
MISCONCEPTION: Parents believe that they can demand that a photographer or person stop taking photographs of their children and/or delete any that have been taken.
This too is FALSE.
TRUTH: Private citizens (and even Police Officials) DO NOT have the authority to require that the photographer stop taking or delete their photographs.
MISCONCEPTION: If someone takes a photo of MY child, that photo belongs to ME!
No, this is FALSE.
TRUTH: When a photographer takes a photo, no matter who their subject is, copyright belongs to THE PHOTOGRAPHER. It's called "intellectual copyright" and believe it or not, it is perfectly within their legal rights to not only take the photos, but they have the right to display them, and even sell them as long as they aren't doing so commercially (as indicated above).
SO WHAT CAN PARENTS DO?
I know this may seem scary - but there is something you can do.
Approach & Inquire
If you are concerned about someone photographing your child in public, the first thing is to remain calm and respectfully approach the photographer. Simply ask them what they are taking photos of and for what purpose. You will probably find that it is a student, tourist or media photographer who means no harm. You might find that your child may make a newspaper or blog article...and I can tell you from experience, that may be a very fun and rewarding experience for your child!
Voice Your Concern and Kindly Request They Stop
You are always within your right to kindly ask that they do not include your children in their photographs. Please do not be rude and approach them in anger...they are probably just doing their JOB. When you ask kindly, MOST photographers will completely understand and agree to your request without confrontation.
What If They Refuse to Stop?
If the photographer refuses, and they are not breaking any rules dictated by the public domain (some locations do not allow for reflectors, tripods, etc), it is up to YOU to take your children and leave the area. You cannot demand the photographer to stop taking photos and you cannot force them to leave. So instead of getting angry and frustrated, do the one thing you CAN do - move elsewhere.
IF YOU ARE A PHOTOGRAPHER
If confronted by a concerned person or parent, be calm, respectful, and prepared to explain yourself. We live in a somewhat fearful society and it is important to recognize that. Understand that most people who question you are most likely coming from an honest place of fear or concern. Parents just want to protect their children! Confidently explain to those who ask, who you are, what you are doing and why you are doing it.
I personally respect requests from parents whenever possible. If they ask that their child not be photographed I will take photos from angles that exclude their children. It's not that difficult and it will be appreciated.
Another thing I tend to do when photographing children in public places is try to capture them in a way where their faces are not completely visible. I realize that this isn't always possible or practical since media relies on facial expressions to depict mood and emotion, but it is always nice to get faceless imagery when it makes sense to do so.
Oh, and if you were wondering about that request today - of course I excluded her children from my photos - I even went back and deleted any I had taken before the request right in the camera. No hard feelings...I'm a Mom too and I get it!