Question:

Dear rabbi,

I enjoy the art of photography in my free time and document the world around me through the lense of my camera. I do not take untznius pictures or pictures of people in difficult circumstances. I also never take photos of celestial bodies, churches, idols or any statues. I usually don’t ask people for permission, because they would start posing and the image wouldn’t capture the reality. However, If I can see they do not want me to take the picture, I don’t, but if they do not notice or don’t react I snap it and continue walking. I haven’t started yet, but I would like to do photographic essays in the future about various important topics of today.

My question is, am I allowed to take street photos? Am I allowed to post them online? Do I own rights to the picture from perspective of halacha, since the people are in public space? Is it okay if the whole person is seen in the photo? Would I be allowed to develop the film myself? Everything outside of Shabbat of course.

Thank you very much!

Answer:

 

Based on the what you are writing, that you don’t take photos of people when they object, if they ae merely pictures of things that happen in the street, and they aren’t about the person in the photo itself, then it stands to reason that the person wouldn’t mind and it is permitted. However if it is a picture that the person may mind then it would not be permitted to take them, and to post them online.

Regarding taking photos of the whole person, there is controversy regarding this. If a flat picture included in the prohibition not to make images of a person or not. The Chochmas Adom 85-6 says that it is permitted, since nowadays the goyim don’t bow to people, and many rely on this opinion. It is better if the picture is not of the whole person. It is better for a gentile to develop the film, however based on the above opinion it would be permitted even if you develop it.

Sources:

Shach Y:D 141-25, Pischei Teshuva Y:D 141-10, Tzitz Eliezer 16:27, Avnei Yushfei 1:151:4, V’ihiy B’nsoa page 241:1, Teshuvos V’hanhugos 3:263, Shulchan Aruch Hamikutzar 4:145:7, Am Hatorah 3:5:page 59, V’ein Lumo Michshal 2:page 135:11.

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