Street Photography: Legal or Not?

Denty Piawai Nastitie
2 min readMar 28, 2020
Denty Piawai Nastitie | Amsterdam, 2019

Street photography means take candid pictures in public space mostly about human daily activities without direction. It can be done legally since generally it is difficult to expect privacy on city streets or on a busy park. Assuming that everyone has already paid taxes, photographers are considered free to create in the public sphere. However, to do so it is important for photographers to understand about street photography laws, ethics and rights. Every nation has a different idea of what is allowed and what isn’t.

As a general rule, if photographers take pictures from a public space, including park, road, or pedestrian area, they usually have the right to do so without the consent of the photography subject. In Indonesia, for example, there is relatively safe to take candid photos of people in public place, including children. Usually, photographers do not need to obtain parental consent to photograph children. Parents somehow feel glad when their children are being photographed.

Yet, this does not commonly apply in all countries. In European countries, as well as United Kingdom, where children’s privacy is upheld and protected, photographers cannot easily photograph children even though it was done in public spaces. If the photographer keeps insisting, he or she can be accused of intending to do something harmful to the children. It shows that taking pictures in public space is very related to local culture and ethics.

Besides privacy, it is also essential to pay attention to whether taking pictures will disturb the public interest. Chinese New Year celebration in magnificent temples or Waisak celebration in exotic temples are indeed very interesting to cover. However, the photographer must pay attention to whether the tripod, flash, or photographers’ position disturbs those who are doing the worship. Sometimes for creating of good photos, photographers have violated the ethics of politeness and respect for others.

Last but not least is understanding that everyone has privacy that must be considered. The photographer must also be understanding purposes behind the photo that will be published for. It the photos are published to humiliate others, naturally as human being there is nobody want to be humiliated. Yet, series photo that embarrassed others violate their right to live with dignity.

As conclusion, street photographyis a legal action as long as it is done according with the applicable regulations, laws, ethics, and does not violate the basic rights of others.

— Denty Piawai Nastitie —

A Journalist based in Jakarta, Indonesia

Student of Diploma in Visual Journalism — The Asian Center for Journalism at the Ateneo de Manila University.

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