Taking photographs in public has long been an interest here at VAOJ under the guise of the Shooting Culture in Japan Project. Today the The Japan News published a general and useful essay on the subject:
With the spread of high-quality digital cameras, even on cell phones, anyone can enjoy photography. However, it is important to give sufficient consideration to the subjects of images, whether people or objects, to avoid causing discomfort.
A 35-year-old female company employee in Osaka Prefecture took a photo of a display at a variety store with her smartphone because she wanted to decorate her own room in a similar fashion.
But the store’s employee warned her not to take the shot.
“I stopped instantly after the warning and apologized to the employee. Are such photos really forbidden?” the woman asked the Yomiuri Shimbun photographer.
Norihiko Matsumoto, senior director of the Japan Professional Photographers Society, contributed to a book on photography etiquette. “When you take a photo inside a shop, you should get permission from the staff upfront. Don’t secretly photograph things,” he said.
If staff forbid photography in a store, you should heed their warnings, Matsumoto added.
When you photograph a person or an item, you could be implicated in violating portrait rights or copyright.
“Unless you’re prepared to accept the risk of legal action, it’s wise to follow the other party’s instructions,” he said.
Are there any tips for getting the go-ahead when asking for permission to take a picture?
Matsumoto advises, “It’s best to thoroughly explain your reason for taking the photo.”
You should say what motivated you to want to photograph the subject. “Because it’s a nice arrangement” in the case of a dish display, for example, or “The way the outfit is put together looks fashionable” in the case of clothing.
In doing so, you put the other party more at ease and increase the likelihood he or she will permit the photo, Matsumoto says. He also said it is necessary to thank the person after taking the picture.
Additionally, people should be more careful about posting photos online, such as on blogs and social networking sites where the photos are highly public.
Another female company employee in her 30s knows that a photo of her and her friend at an event was posted on Facebook without her permission. She has yet to lodge a complaint with Facebook about the incident, but she said, “Just the thought that many strangers are looking at my photo makes me feel uncomfortable.”
In such cases, the photographer must obtain the subject’s consent to post photographs online.
“People should make sure to tell their subjects they are being photographed and ask about uploading any shots on the Internet before they are taken,” said Fumihiro Shimakura of the Japan Network Security Association, a corporate nonprofit organization.
“Sometimes people won’t agree. When they seem unsure about allowing the photo to be posted, it’s better to avoid the action altogether,” Shimakura said.
The same can be said for group photos, in which cases it is often difficult to obtain the consent of each subject.
Additionally, you should not post photos of anime characters or celebrities. Because these photos could be copied without permission, you run the risk of getting into trouble.
As the number of digital cameras equipped with global positioning systems is increasing, the locations where photos were taken may be included in online postings.
“When you take a photo at home, turn off the GPS and don’t post your private information. These are basic guidelines everyone should follow,” he added.