QUESTION: I’m a freelance photojournalist – I take photos of people out and about and on the town. Some of this I report to 24hrs news, the rest I put on my blog. Almost all of the photos I take are posted publicly. From time to time, people ask me to take photos down – mostly because they don’t like the look of the photo or they’re at some event they later don’t want to be associated with. At the time of taking the photo, consent is given – this is illustrated by the fact that the people in my photos are posing. Now, that said, I typically ignore or refuse to remove the photos simply because I don’t believe as a journalist, we have the right to selectively remove content when a member of the public doesn’t like what they see.
I haven’t been sued yet but I expect that this will eventually happen.
As a photographer, I know my rights relating to the use of images and I’m up to speed on caselaw in this area, but what are best practices in this situation?
You have mentioned your are well versed in case law regarding these situations, which is good, other than that I am not aware of any other rules or guidelines in these situations. I have never been asked to remove photos from anywhere but over the years I have had requests from people to not photograph them, even in public areas. My rule has always been I make a decision based on the request. If what they ask is reasonable and does not affect the photos I want or need then no problem, if it does then I warn them to stay clear of my camera and leave the onus on them not to be in my pictures. In your case when dealing with photos already taken and posted I can only advise you do the same. If the photo is a “must have” on your blog then I suggest some sort of negotiation or polite refusal and reasons. If on he other hand the photo is not that important then I see no harm in removing and replacing it with something else without compromising any journalistic integrity. Tell them this is between you and me, sometimes goodwill goes a long way. I see no point in digging in your heals and quoting journalistic rights over everything, save that for the judge if ever you do get sued.
Andy Clark is a senior photographer for Reuters News Agency, based in Vancouver. In the 1980s, he was official photographer for Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. He has worked for Reuters in Brussels, London and Toronto and has been on assignment extensively throughout the world.
(Image by Steffe. Used under Creative Commons license.)