Can photography get you in trouble?
I get a lot of questions about what you are allowed to do and not do with your photographs. I’ll try and answer the ones I hear most often.
If I post a photo to Flickr, can other people use/steal my photos?
No. By default your photos uploaded to Flickr have their privacy set to “All Rights Reserved” meaning exactly that, that the rights to the picture are reserved for you to decide. They can link to the page that your photo is on, but if they do take your photo and post it online somewhere, they are violating those rights. Flickr does have great privacy settings, and you can hide photos from the public view, or you can license them using Creative Commons on Flickr. Different versions of the Creative Commons license enable you to control the use of your photos and you can decide if any of these are right for you to use. If you post a photo online, it is possible that people can copy it. There are a few ways to combat this, you can add a digital watermark to your images, you can upload them in low-resolution form, or you can set your privacy so that only people you allow can see your photos. I don’t personally use any of these as even the largest sizes Flickr offers to viewers is not that high of resolution and I can’t be bothered to watermark them. I also enjoy the social media aspect of having my pictures freely available for viewing to the internet.
I just took an awesome photo of someone I don’t know, can I post it online?
Yes – as long as it was taken in a public place. It is commonly accepted now that if you are in a public place, consent is implied that you can be photographed. This is one of the trickier and murky legal issues out there right now. Use your common sense when posting photos of people online, even though photos of children do not have any additional legal difficulties than any other photo of someone, parents can be very defensive and confrontational. Keep in mind that many locations are not considered “public”, like the library, train stations, inside restaurants, etc. The World Intellectual Property Organization has a great page on the legal pitfalls of taking photographs. There is also an excellent document on how Wikipedia Commons handles photos of identifiable people.
I want to put a photo online that has people I don’t know in it, do I need a model release form?
No! Model release forms are only required if that model is going to be advertising, endorsing or promoting something. Heck, you can sell images (as art) that have people photographed in a public place and not have to worry about it. This is one of the most common questions I hear about publishing or selling photos. Even photos used for editorial purposes do not need model release forms, as noted by the excellent photographer blog Black Star.
How do I make money from my photos?
I don’t know. I am committed to photography being a hobby and not a money-making endeavor, but some photographers are very successful at selling their work. You could license it as stock photography one some of the best stock photo websites, try and sell prints, or create merchandise from your photos.
Hopefully this helps clarify some of the questions you may have about what you can and can’t do with photos you take on your trip (or back at home). Photography is becoming more and more of a passion of mine and it’s an excellent, if expensive, hobby.