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Beginner's Guide: 6 Photography Etiquette Tips You Need To Know

May 07, 2018

Photography is all about the art of capturing an image at the right moment and light—under the best possible circumstances. This means, when it comes to etiquette, there may be some blurred lines as to how far you can shoot without violating other people’s rights to privacy. If you’ve been a photographer for some time, you probably know the ABCs of photography etiquette, but if you’re new in the field, it’s best to familiarize yourself with some of the general rules and common courtesies photographers should adhere to.

It’s hard to draw a clear line when it comes to a moral code for photography as they are largely unwritten. However, here are some guidelines on how to act accordingly when taking photographs:

Be discreet – while you want to get the best angle, you need to think of the people on your path. If for example you want to take a picture of a street artist performing, find a spot where you can get a good angle without blocking everybody’s view. Remember, no one likes an intrusive photographer. If you’re in an event, try to blend in and mingle with the people so they can feel comfortable enough when they see you taking their pictures.

Hold off the flash – not unless you’re taking portrait photographs, avoid using the flash during somber and serious moments. If you’re in a funeral, you don’t want people being disturbed by the clicking and flashing of your camera. Additionally, places like museums or zoos might have some rules against using the flash so be observant. On the other hand, when you’re in a more casual set up like a children’s party, using the flash is acceptable.  

Ask your subject’s consent – if you plan on taking photos on the street, make sure to get the consent of the people who will be included in your shots as not everyone is comfortable being photographed. While street photography is known for its candid approach, you can always ask permission from your subjects. You may not know it, but you might be violating the law or some rights. If you’re travelling, check the country’s laws on photography and citizen rights just to be sure.

Be approachable – making your subjects feel at ease in front of the lens could be quite a feat especially if they are caught off guard. Before taking photos, engage in conversation with them and get to know them at a more personal level. This will make them feel more relaxed and comfortable when you start taking their pictures.

Don’t stalk – when you’re caught in a moment of creativity, you may get carried away for the sake of art. If you find a particular subject compelling, don’t follow them around like a stalker. Instead, introduce yourself politely and ask their permission.

Say “thank you” – if you’re only starting out, you’ll want to establish yourself first. This means developing good relationships with people you meet along the way. After photographing your subjects, make sure to express how grateful you are for their time. This way, you leave a good impression on them and make them feel that you value them not only as subjects but as genuine connections.