Do You Have Permission to Snap My Pic?


Why the blur? I did not have permission to take an identifiable photo of this delightful bartender. She was busy. So I decided to take her picture in fast-action form. (As a courtesy, I showed her the image after shooting it.)

If posting a story with photos, I will contact the communications director to ask permission on behalf of the business and the bartender.

I am not a professional photographer. However, as a former magazine editor who now blogs, I follow strict rules about image use. That includes asking permission when reproducing a clear likeness of a person. I keep releases on hand.

The American Society of Media Professionals breaks down industry regulations. In addition, they provide release forms and examples of lawsuits caused by inappropriate use of images. Be cautious if you intend to sell a picture:

The Office of General Counsel at Harvard University details copyright and fair use.

Snap happily. Snap carefully. Give credit where it’s due.

Note: This post does not constitute legal advice. Consult an attorney if you have professional questions.



  1. exiledprospero

    And this is why I restrict myself to photographing flowers, and trees, and shrubs, and ferns–they do not, as a general rule, have access to a bevy of high-priced lawyers (some winged insects, naturally, but no lawyers).

  2. badfish

    Thanks for this reminder. As one who desired to publish photos (but rarely have), I wondered about copyright law online…because you see photos of anybody in everybody’s photos, and you just know they didn’t get a signed release. I think I needed this reminder. You were an editor? Cool.

  3. Catherine Hamrick

    Hi Barbara. It’s hard to protect material/people. I just read an article about the lack of protection for Instagram photos. They seem fair game. For instance, an artist adapted some photos for an art exhibit of “portraits.” They sold for $90,000. It’s a problem, especially for photographers, artists, and designers. The law follows tech.

  4. Debbie

    Thanks for reminding the bloggosphere about this important courtesy, Catherine.

    In my fervour to satisfy my new blogging habit, I have found myself doing the unthinkable – snapping away at people like a tourist, just because i wanted a photo of these fresh black cherries on the stall….. and my daughter reminds me, “mum, you are turning into one of those people you used to hate, who take pictures without asking”.

    with her reminder, i stopped this craziness, and have gone back to my favourite compositions anyhow, places without people. well, the occasional person. it is incredible though what people will do – the adaption of peoples instagrams to sell for 90,000$ seems like simply very bad taste.

    1. Catherine Hamrick

      Thanks, Debbie. It is dismaying. You have such a great site–your pics should be protected.

      When you click on the link provided by the media professionals, you will find a section that addresses photographers who shoot street scenes. Some good tips there. You are akin to a photojournalist–in a sense–as you are documenting your discoveries of a sweeping nation. (Love it–I taught ESL to a number of people from China. Delightful experience.) Did you read “Iron and Silk”? It’s an American’s memoir about his years in China.

      1. Debbie

        Thanks for your nice complements, Catherine and for the follow. I have many beautiful wondrous pictures after spending so much time here and travelling a lot. Some I love so much I wonder should I upload them.. .. then I guess.. I am discovering the joy in sharing.

        I’m a bit peeved that wordpress doesn’t allow the disabling right click function – it would be really so easy to install it.

        I’ll check out the links when I’m not so tired ! 🙂

        and yes, a sweeping nation with so much change going on, at such a fast rate. I think the combination of photos and words makes it more impact – the photos can illustrate the words and the words give depth to the photos.

        i havent read ‘iron and silk’ – there are a lot of those kind of memoirs around.

        Thanks again for following my blog. I appreciate it.

  5. Bea dM

    thank you, very useful. : it’s logical that there should be courtesy & legal issues involved in posting pics of people, though I have no idea what the latter may be. Will click for info. I live in Europe where we take privacy seriously – so for the few but weekly posts I’ve been putting up on my blog I’ve stuck to either publicly available ones or my very own from years of clicking away in many countries…. and no recognizable strangers

    1. Catherine Hamrick

      On clicking, you will find a link in one of the articles to Getty images and releases. Getty is international, so you may find additional information. Europe is different–more concerned with privacy (e.g., combating FB latest encroachments).

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