Consent to take photographs By Dean Thorpe


First of all I would like to say that I love cosplaying, steampunking, conventioning, festival going etc. as well as photographing those events, so I do understand this from both sides, but wanted to say how I feel on the subject.

I have seen a few recent rants about people taking photographs of people doing cosplay or other public event things without their consent, some just taking normal, candid, natural photos of people taking part in events, but some others trying to get upskirt, cleavage close ups and other shots like that. 

Anybody trying to get pervy photographs of people at a public event without their consent or knowledge are totally out of order and should get an instant ban from the event!

Can somebody legally take your photo?

The legal situation in the UK is that as long as you are somewhere private i.e. in the bath, sitting on the toilet, at home inside etc. then you have the legal right to privacy. If you are out at a public event with hundreds or even thousands of people there, lots of people taking photos of each other, even just walking down the street then you have no legal right to privacy at all, somebody can take your photo without asking you and do virtually anything they want with that photo, even sell them and there is nothing you can legally do about it.

There are quite rightly some restrictions on photographing children, but adults are completely fair game! The really strange part of the law is that as that photographer holds the copyrights to that photo, if you take it from their Facebook page and post it to your wall they can technically take you to court for using their copyrighted photo of yourself!

My situation

With all my photos they are always free for anybody to use for any non profit purposes, with the exception of the people in the photo and the organisers of the event, they may use them for any purpose at all. I never get paid for providing freelance photography for events, which is why I only photograph the events that I want to support. It’s nice if organisers let my carer and myself (I’m disabled) in for free, any other perks such as a free t-shirt is amazing, just never money.

Do I always ask for consent?

No! I don’t!!! There are a number of reason why, which I will explain below:

(A) I don’t like posed shots, point a camera at someone and they will often do some cheesy pose with a stupid grin on their faces, I much prefer to catch people acting normally. I do take some posed shots and do ask some to pose for me, but it’s just not the sort of candid photographs I really love taking.

(B) I suffer really badly with social anxiety, some days I can’t leave the flat, sometimes over a week goes by without me stepping outside due to how extreme my anxiety issues can be. Being like that there is no way I can spend all day going around talking to complete strangers, I would probably end up being sectioned by the end of the day!

(C) The opportunity to get shots! When I suddenly see somebody doing something really cool and spontaneous I take a photo. There is no time to stop the person doing what they are doing, get them to verbally agree or better still sign a consent form. You get the chance, you take the shot, it’s the only way!

(D) Finally pure numbers and disappointing people. At a big one day event I often take over 1000 photographs, out of those about 900 will get deleted and I keep roughly my favourite 100 pictures. So that’s a lot of people to ask for consent from and everybody that does consent will automatically expect their photo will be published and I have had people ask me why I didn’t post the photo of them, some get quite shirty if you tell them it didn’t look good enough!

What if the person in the photo doesn’t like it?

As explained above if a person is in a place where privacy is not expected and they are no signs restricting photography then technically it is my photo to do whatever I want with! Despite that if I ever do take a photo of you and post it on my Death Prone Images site, Facebook or Instagram then feel free to contact me, ask me nicely and the chances are that I will remove it. Contacting me and rudely demanding me to remove it will almost certainly not work! Please bare in mind that every photo I post has taken time and effort to take, sort, edit, upload etc. I put a lot of work into my photography and do that out of the kindness of my heart, never, ever for profit! So removing photos I have put a lot of effort into is definitely not in my best interest, but as I said, ask me nicely, tell me why and I probably will remove it for you!

I will add that I have had some amazing photos of me taken by others, the best have been the candid ones, but I have also had some really dreadful candid photos taken of me too! When that happens I don't complain, I just put it down to experience and try to make sure I look better the next time! :)

I hope I have not annoyed people with my views, it is not my intention to offend anybody, I just wanted to explain my views on what can be a delicate and important subject to some people. Constructive feedback on this is welcome, but telling me to never do candid, natural, unposed photos of people at events is like telling me to never eat again! It’s just what I do and really enjoy doing it! :) Virtually all the feedback I get on my photos is always positive, I have only ever had a handful of people complain in all the years I have been taking photos.