Few questions seem as complicated as “May I take your photo?” If you look at travel forums all over the internet, you’ll see dozens of professional and amateur photographers asking how to approach someone on the street. How should photographers ask this question in any given culture, and what rules should they follow?
The answers vary from place to place. If you’re in the United States you can photograph anyone, provided you’re on public property. However, France and Hungary regulate photography that involves recognizable individuals, and Japan frowns upon “secret photography” (kakushidori). So, do your research before you start shooting. If you’re working in a location with these expectations and take a picture without the subject’s knowledge, obtain the person’s permission immediately. And when it comes to street photography, there’s one big general stipulation that crosses borders—if you’re planning to use a photo of an identifiable person for commercial purposes, you need to get a model release from them.
We know asking people for permission can be intimidating, so we asked eight spectacular portrait and street photographers to share what it’s like to approach a subject. Here they share their expertise on finding new models and their best tips on getting people to sign model releases quickly and conveniently. You can learn more about model releases here.
Top Image by Javier Sánchez (javi_indy).