When we think of people photography, an image of a formal studio often comes to mind. But there are various approaches. Outdoors using natural lighting, possibly placing a person in the surroundings of their home or hobby, in order to convey a story. Indoors using natural light streaming through a window for example. Indoors with artificial lighting in a natural situation, or in studio-type surroundings with a special backdrop. A good people picture captures natural expressions and gestures that convey the subject’s character without any form of self-consciousness. This means that the photographer has to build up a rapport with the subject to put him or her at ease. It also usually means taking numerous shots to try and capture that all important instant. Another way of obtaining natural expressions is to take candid shots – photographing people who are unaware of the camera – so-called street photography.
When taking head shots, use a medium-long lens of about 100mm. A standard lens of 50mm will distort the face by enlarging those elements closest to the camera, such as the nose. A wide-angle lens increases this distortion even more. A wealth of literature on people photography is available for those interested in honing skills.
Photography and the law
Here is a brief guide, but as laws vary from country to country, this guide must not be regarded as authoritative and is by no means complete.
In general there is no requirement to obtain a person’s permission to take his or her photograph. However, certain situations can infringe social interests, security, child protection, privacy etc. and these situations are strictly controlled. In addition, even though a photographer may be within the law, some photographs should not be taken for ethical reasons. Also, a picture taken legally should not be used in a way that causes the person concerned to take legal action.
Although people as such are not protected by intellectual property rights, what he or she is wearing may be protected by copyright or trademark rights; for example a company logo. Under normal circumstances it is permitted to photograph someone in a public place, but to surreptitiously photograph someone within their private domain is a violation of privacy and is illegal. It is also illegal to use a photograph of a person for commercial purposes without consent. This particularly applies to celebrities, who are very aware that their identity has a commercial value.
In all cases, whether a celebrity or a member of the general public, a signed photographic release should be obtained from the person(s) portrayed. Photo release forms are found on Internet. If a photograph is used for which permission has not been obtained, it is advisable to add a disclaimer, stating that the photograph may not be modified in any way, copied or distributed without the written consent of the photographer. This may limit your liability in the case of legal proceedings. Images used in consumer or trade magazines, newspapers or educational books are generally exempt as these are considered educational, however caution is advised. A photograph of a person may not be used in any way that reflects unfavourably on that person or exposes him or her in any way to contempt.
Great care should be taken when publishing photographs, videos and even written content on social networking media. Before joining such a media, make sure that you are in agreement with the General Terms and Conditions of Use. You may find that you are agreeing to pass on – free of charge – a non-exclusive, transferable and sub-licensable world licence for the use of all contents falling under intellectual property that you have placed on the specific social networking website.