6. Photography is not just for pros! – Ethics in street photography

Dear Coilers, after a longer series of travel articles from my trip to Morocco, I’ve come to an idea to write this article in my photography series...

When I planned my trip I had in mind that I’ll return with many pics of the street life in that wonderful country. I knew that taking photos of people is not that easy there as it is in Europe (or other western countries) but I haven’t had a clue that it would be such a big problem.

For example, see the reaction of this fish seller with white cap in Essaouira fish market. The thing I’ve noticed when editing a video from there but I’ve noticed similar reactions many times when shooting with DSLR.


Being photographed is not something the community likes, particularly women. It's best to ask before you film or take photo to avoid having your camera damaged, or offending the locals.

Taking street photos is fun but one behind the camera has to be aware that some people don’t like being photographed. That problem have both photo journalists and random tourists who want to bring shots from the streets of the country they visit.

Here we come to the question is it legal and is it moral. Taking pics in public places is legal and you are free to take a shot of whatever you want unless it is forbidden and there is a sign of “no photo” which is mostly put in front of some government, secret services or army facilities. But is it moral?!

Yes, it is legal to take a shot of any sight you find interesting, buildings or people but the moral issue is always present. The question each photographer should ask himself is “would I be OK with someone taking that pic of me?” If the answer is yes then feel free to take it. If you are not sure, ask, if the answer is no just dont take it, unless you are a Balkan guy like me. Or just show the sigh to person you want to take the photo of, thumb up... one will show you thumb up back or wave hand saying NO! If NO, respect it. Wave back that you’ve noticed reluctance and search for another frame.

I myself dont like being photographed much. I look like an idiot in most of the non set pics. Not that i look better in those which are set. So I mostly avoid shots and if I am taken pic of, I ALWAYS ask for the authorisation. So if someone lets you take a portrait, show the photo/s. People like to see how they look in the pic. Ask them for email to send them a photo and that way you’ll get some points on that moral side. This way you’ll buy the ticket to paradise once your time comes.

BUT, if you ask for permit and person says yes, you won’t have non set photo as when one knows is taken photo of, tries to look as good as possible and you lose that non set feeling. Photos taken without permission are more genuine, at least I think they are, but even set street photos can be of great, or at least some, artistic value.

So what to conclude here?! Id say it this way, be prepared to be confronted by your subject, be prepared to take a punch and be forced to delete the photo you’ve taken but DO the work you want to. In the end, as a street photographer you are a journalist and being one can be dangerous sometimes.

The most important thing is that you enjoy what you do and don’t let anyone spoil your joy

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