Let’s face it. Photos do the talking for most of us today. Everyone is snapping, chatting, posting, and engrossed in choosing the perfect photo filter. But what if, while steeped in capturing our lives in images, we were being rude, insensitive, or even breaking the law?
With so many posts, there’s bound to be some unhappy people. For instance, Miami Heat owner Ranaan Katz sued Google over a photo posted of him, and Beyonce’s publicist demanded Getty Images remove those famously unflattering Superbowl performance photos. In fact, in some states, posting “distressing” or embarrassing images of others without a “legitimate purpose,” is punishable by law.
Most people care about putting their best photos forward online. A 2014 study released by The Renfrew Center Foundation reveals that most people edit their pictures before putting them on social media in an attempt to present their ‘best selves’ over their ‘real selves.’ So it stands to reason that perhaps in all our posting, we’re not always landing on the right side of polite.
While a lawsuit likely isn’t in your future, there are some written and unwritten rules to posting that will help keep you and your family out of hot water in digital social circles. Some of these rules here are the law, others, well just plain polite.
10 Questions to Ask Before Snapping that Photo
- Does this facility allow A) personal photography B) use of a selfie stick? Be sure to look for a sign or posting regarding selfie sticks, photo opportunities, image copyrights, and safety tips when taking photos in high-traffic areas such as national parks, museums, sporting events, academic events.
- Am I creating a danger to myself or someone else by taking a photo here? Questionable locations might include zoos, theme parks, boats, crowded public areas such as malls, subways, streets, airports, or while driving a car. (Unfortunately, people die each year unnecessarily while taking risky photos.)
- Am I blocking someone’s view or impeding traffic flow by stopping to take this picture? We’ve all been there be it a theme park, concert, public event, ceremony, or celebration. We wait. And wait. Until they get the shot. And, sometimes it not only inconveniences others, but it can also cause an accident if getting the perfect photo trumps safety.
- Do I run the risk of offending someone’s religious views by taking a photo here? Often, cathedrals, religious landmarks, sacred burial spaces, and religious communities such as the Amish, forbid or frown on photos.
- Even though I can’t see a threat, is there a potential danger in taking a photo here? Think about snapping a photo in potential danger zones such as zoos, national parks, severe weather conditions, ships, subway, or moving bus.
- Did I get the permission to post from the people in my photo? How many times have you taken for granted that your friend or family member wants his or her photo posted? It never hurts — and may even save a relationship — to ask before posting.
- Is it in poor taste to take a photo here? Some states forbid taking and posting distressing photos or photos in bad taste such as an accident scene, a funeral, or individuals caught in compromising situations.
- Is this photo embarrassing to another person in any way? At one time posting unflattering photos of shoppers in Wal-Mart helped fuel the internet’s hunger for memes. At the end of the day, it’s all cyberbullying. Think before posting photos of parties, people in public restrooms, beaches, and in ways that make them look ridiculous. Unfortunately, recent reports of kids sabotaging and rating our their peers with inappropriate photos are becoming a thing.
- Is this photo of me too intimate? Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Consider your clothing, facial expression, inference, and caption before posting a provocative photo.
- Am I overdoing it on the photos? How many are too many selfies to post in a week? If you are uncertain about your posting habits, ask a good friend to be honest with you.
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