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Photography Etiquette

How to behave while taking pictures

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Photography is all about taking pictures isn't it? Actually, photography can be just as much about how you behave as the images you take. If you are rude or cause problems at an event you can lose your opportunity to take images there ever again, if you aren't thrown out immediately. Photography is much like a choose your own adventure book. Each choice you are presented with leads to a variety of other situations. A large part of photography is knowing what choices to make in each situation. For example, using a flash might be expected at graduations but what about at a public circus performance? At a circus, flash is usually discouraged (although many people ignore the request) because it can be dangerous for performers. While most flashes are not powerful enough to be advantageous for the photograph from such a distance, they are powerful enough to cause spots in the performers' eyes. This can cause real problems for tightrope walkers, trapeze artists, and other high-risk performers.

How do you know what good etiquette is for different occasions? Ask someone who has experience in taking those types of photographs or ask someone in charge of the event. There are some good general rules to go by that you can apply in almost any situation.

  • Do not block someone else's view of the event
  • Never be rude
  • Do not put yourself or anyone else in danger by your actions
  • Do not expect special treatment (it is wonderful to get backstage access but it is not a right)
  • When in doubt if something is ok - ASK

There are also some specifics for certain events that are good to remember in addition to the general rules.

Night Photography
  • Wear bright clothing so that motorists can easily see you
  • Take a buddy with you for safety
  • Always yield to pedestrians and traffic

Sports Photography
  • Be willing to sign a waiver of liability if you want near the action
  • Pay attention to where the ball is (unless you like getting hit in the head with a ball)
  • Pay attention to where the players are (remember those news clips of photographers being run over by football players)
  • Do not get in the way of the players or officials
  • Request permission ahead of time (usually not required for high school games)

Wedding Photography
  • Ask ahead of time for permission
  • Do not get in the way of the professional photographer (the couple is paying a lot for those images - help them be good ones)

Again, when in doubt or new to a particular situation of photography please ask someone for advice. Playing by the rules will make the experience much better for everyone involved.
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