Five ways for photographers to ensure they don't breach privacy provisions of Editors' Code

The PCC dealt with a case last week that hinged on the ‘consent’ obtained by a photographer before taking someone’s photograph.

The judgement provides useful guidance for photographers:

  1. A photographer must get consent before taking someone’s photo, if the person is in a place where they have a reasonable expectation of privacy.
  2. Small cafes or restaurants do count as ‘private places’.
  3. When getting a subject’s consent, the photographer must: Identify himself and the publication (s)he works for. Ask for permission to take the photo. Explain that it is being taken to publish in print and / or online – and name the publication / website. Stick to any conditions made by the subject – e.g. – ‘It’s OK to publish the photo provided it doesn’t identify me.’ Make sure any conditions are communicated clearly to the news desk / picture so, and followed through.
  4. It is OK to includes images of ‘bystanders’ in the background, provided they are unlikely to object. If consent is not given, then do not take the photo, unless the photographer is already aware of a clear public interest issue.
  5. Remember – the subject has only consented to the photo being taken and published on this occasion and in this context. If the photos are archived, make sure they contain the date they were taken, the name of the subject, the occasion they were taken, and any conditions made by the subject. Do not re-use the photos in a different context, unless the subject has given fresh consent.

Cleland Thom is a consultant and trainer in media law

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