Is Street Photography Legal? Try faceless!

Do I need to ask permission in street photography? Model releases, do I need them for each person I photograph? Does street photography always show people’s faces? Is street photography legal and is it OK to photograph strangers in the street?

These are only a fraction of questions I get asked and I see it as a moral issue rather than a legal one, more about respect and ethics in street photography.

There is such a fear around the subject that I once had a write-up nearly rejected by a pretty major photography magazine on the basis that they were too scared to publish a post on street photography for which I (obviously) didn’t have model releases. 

Did the past masters of street photography ask for permission, did Henry Cartier-Bresson carry a pack of model releases?

Of course not, it’s only our modern society which has made everyone worry about these things among others.

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Without going into it too deep, I believe it's more the way in which you portrait people that matters. If you don't upset people by making them look in some way diminished or silly, if you do not mock then chances are that all will be fine. Be respectful whenever possible, don't be a d***. for some it comes naturally, others... well...

But alright, if you still feel uncomfortable about showing photos of people who you haven’t asked for permission, here’s a simple solution, one I often opt for:

Try not to show people’s faces and you can still produce excellent street photography which you can publish anywhere you like without cause for worry.

Looking back at my portfolio I actually hadn’t realised how many photos I have which keep identities hidden and yet make for perfectly fine street photography.

Here is a selection of my very best anonymous street photos:

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Well hopefully this article can inspire some of you to go out and shoot without fearing consequences!

Nico