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By: Dean Phillips
A photograph is a powerful tool in today's media. It's one of the primary forces shaping public opinion—after all, who wouldn't be affected after seeing a clear picture of a person suffering from war or poverty? That's why the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) maintains a code of ethics. A botched photo can easily become the truth.

This article tackles a specific issue on photography ethics—namely, asking for permission. You may have the best camera that dealers like Louis Assoulin can offer, but you must also learn to move on when your subject doesn't want his or her photo to be taken.

Basically, you may or may not ask permission before taking a shot, depending on the situation. You won't be sued for doing the latter because there's no law that requires photographers to ask before shooting, although it would help when consulting a lawyer for less-than-clear instances. A request for permission is normally done out of respect for the subject. Photographers ask permission first when:

The person will be the main subject of the photo, especially children.
The photo of the person will be sold as prints or featured in a publication.
The subject, living or inanimate, is subject to approval (e.g. museum exhibits).
Local laws say so.

On the other hand, photographers don't ask for permission when:
The person is just an element in the photo (e.g. a picture of a crowd).
The subject is a public event or occasion meant to be photographed (e.g. press conference, fashion show).
The photo will be used for non-commercial purposes.
Taking candid shots (another gray area for professional photography).
Shooting inanimate objects.

Some aficionados will argue that consent isn't necessary since it violates the freedom of expression, but other pros aren't comfortable with taking pictures without the subject knowing. There are more instances that require apparent distinctions between consent and non-consent.

Dealers like Louis Assoulin have respect for both amateur and pros, so they fully understand this issue. You can check out some expert opinions on the matter at and

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