BCM240, SemC

Photography ethics ‘Can I post this picture’?

Let’s think about some questions: Would it matter to you if someone published your photo online without your permission? How about if it was an unflattering photo? And what about if it was a photo of a close friend, your child, or a relative? It’s so easy nowadays to take pictures and upload it onto any social media platform, because there’s an increase usage of smartphone and the online technologies are keep on being updated. As we all know ‘Instagram is there mainly for online photo sharing, users are able to apply filters and share photos to their followers to see’ (Sanvenero, 2013). Obviously, there are some other social media sites as well where there is photo uploading option such as Facebook and Twitter.

On our week 6 tutorial, we were given the chance to take a journey through a shopping mall and connected MTR of our choice and take pictures of people using their mobile devices in public.

The photographs that I had to take was to be done ethically, Hong Kong photography and law was taken into consideration. Photography on private property that is generally open to the public for example ‘shopping mall’ is usually permitted unless explicitly prohibited by posted signs. And if there no sign posted but the property owner or agent wants to person to stop taking photographs and if the person refuses than the owner or agent can ask the person to leave, and if the person refuses to leave than he/she can be arrested for criminal trespass.

So I believe according to the Hong Kong Law, it’s perfectly legal to take photos of people in the public, even without their permission. Isn’t it in general that it’s possible to take pictures in a public place without permission, this usually extends to taking pictures of sites, buildings and people. There is no publicity right in Hong Kong, and there is no right to privacy that protects a person’s image.

As long as the photographs doesn’t violate the following:

  1. If the photographs of person were obtained as the result of the photographer trespassing on private property
  2. If the photographs were taken public property owned by government such as law courts, government buildings, libraries, civic centres and some of the museums in Hong Kong.
  3. If the recording and photographs were taken in a place of public entertainment such as cinemas and indoor theatres

So this photo was taken in Bershka (a shop in Telford plaza) on 14/6/2018 at around lunch time 12:30pm. The girl is in the checkout and is using her phone while the lady at the checkout is finishing her thing. I am in legal rights to take the photo and share it on my blog. But is it ethical?

Screen Shot 2018-07-02 at 10.44.40 AM

When I took the photo of these girls in the store, I didn’t ask for their permission, nor did I tell them the purpose of my photography. Most of all I didn’t even tell them that this picture will be uploaded onto my blog, where it might be sitting in forever. So was I being ethical?

If there no wrong usage or harm to the individual in the image, is it really unethical to upload the photo? Some sources argue that it is only the lying or deception issues that comes into the context of question with public photography (Long, 1991).

Do the ladies get to decide what should be done when it comes into question with their image? If I have not done any harm or damage to their reputation through the image about them, is it still ethical to upload their image without their agreement?

For me this question will always remain open 🙂

Let’s move on to the next point, how does a group of researchers decide what to present in their work? How to they come to an understanding of ethical issues? In what ways does public space ethnography resolves this confusing problem?

Ethnography is the answer. As ethnography has an inherent nature of cohesiveness and a mindful approach to all moments of research. So when it’s the time to execute ethnography each researchers comes together with their partner to have discussion on the ethical approach they will apply into their research (Schwartz,1989).

This approach of public space ethnography becomes understandable , easier, and quicker. It safeguards the work of every researchers and makes the research more effective.

Source: thehopkinsonreport.com

So in the case of that unknown lady in the store (Telford Plaza), public space ethnography would have been a better approach in terms of being ethical, as it would have been permissible by the lady, or at least she would have the knowledge before the photo was taken. All it takes is one question “Would you mind if I take your photo?” or “Can I take your photo?”


Signing off,

Khan Sultana Nazish


Long, J.(1999). Ethics in the age of digital photography: Csimmonds.pbworks.com

Sanvenero, R 2013, ‘Social media and our misconceptions of the realities’,  Information & Communications Technology Law, vol. 22, no. 2, pp. 89-108.

Schwartz, D. (1989). Visual ethnography: Using photography in qualitative research. Qual Sociol, 12(2), pp.119-154.






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