Photography: When to shoot and not to shoot (last of 2 parts)

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By Art Tibaldo

Consumer Atbp.

Monday, March 18, 2013

I BELIEVE that picture taking whether for personal or for professional use must be done in good taste. It must somehow at least answer the basic question for what, for whom, why and whether it is allowed.

In the field of journalism, to be at the right place and at the right moment is what many rookie and seasoned photojournalists want to encounter each day in their active professional career. But, such is not what God planned for many front page hungry and Pulitzer award seeking camera clickers.

US President Dwight Eisenhower believes that the camera reporter makes a major contribution toward greater understanding among the people of all nations. He also said that pictorial reportage is the most universal of all languages, an indispensable tool of freedom in these days when so many people are oppressed and personal freedom is restricted in many parts of the world.


With my three decades in private and public service as member of the so-called fourth estate, there were many times when I had to backtrack a bit and assess the situation whether such act of taking pictures is allowed or not. I was once asked by my editor to produce a photo to be used in a banner story about prostitution in Baguio. I was young and eager for challenging tasks so I went to a dimly lit bar somewhere along Magsaysay Avenue with a signboard that says “Ago-go-dancer nightly.”

Aware of the consequences that I can be in big trouble once I bring out my single-lens-reflex camera and shoot the models using a flash, I instead used small silent rangefinder camera that I hid between a beer that I ordered and my cap laid on the table. I pre-positioned the fixed lens camera and came up with several blind shots that I pushed in the darkroom. Our paper hit the streets with a photo spread about Baguio’s night life and it certainly shocked some readers. To aspiring photojournalists who read this, please don’t try and attempt to do what I have done as things may be different now with tracking devices such as remote surveillance systems and closed circuit television or CCTV.

Anyone can be a citizen journalist and this can be observed in many social network sites. You may have already developed the instinct to record an accident or a crime being committed but, this also exposes you to great risks once you are seen recording the scene by the perpetrators.

Be very careful not to compromise the work of investigators by tampering potential evidences. You can actually record a public servant’s misconduct if you are in a public place. However, there are public places such as museums, hospitals and judicial courts that prohibits taking of pictures for reasons that are clearly explained in their premises such as scientific and legal reasons.

My web source claims that with most laws, there are exceptions to some rules. The taking of photos on a clearly marked private property is considered trespassing. Never climb barriers and fences to take photos of what is inside it. Even if the facility is government owned, you cannot just take photos without permission and this is true to military installations. One might spend hours and even days if you are caught with the suspicion of spying on the operation of a military barracks.

My source, the said that just because some places are public doesn't make them legal for photography. For instance, a bathroom is a public place, but people have an expectation of privacy in the bathroom, so photos are typically not a good idea. This is also the case with anywhere else people might expect privacy, including inside places like alcoholic’s meetings, principal’s or doctor's offices.

While we have the right to take pictures of almost anything, publishing or uploading it in a popular media such as social networks might get you in trouble in civil courts. Do not publish and sell photos that are not yours.  You also cannot publish a photo that puts a person in bad light. Adding caption must also be done with accuracy and responsibility careful of details that might imperil a subject in the photo.

My source says that the last concern that photo shooters must consider is the subject’s rights when photos of them are published. Some popular web services like Instagram require the owner to grant usage permission to Instagram when they upload pictures.

The mantra, "If you can see it you can shoot it" will keep photo shooters safe from legal prosecution in many places but not all countries and states are the same so it is always best to check out local laws before shooting.

When Neil Young wrote the song "Out of the Blue", the Canadian singer added a line “there’s more to a picture than meets the eye” which was interpreted by many to mean that there are things underneath that are more important than the things one gets to see. The statement somehow agrees with the popular idiom “a picture is worth more than a thousand words.” Though I truly appreciate and salute the photojournalists and correspondents who covered wars, I say that no photo is worth dying for.

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on March 19, 2013.


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