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I have a question about taking photographs of customers in a restaurant situation - where I've asked them and they've given permission.

I've been asked to shoot a restaurant in London, and will be taking location shots, food shots, and also some shots while its busy with customers.

The images will be for their website, gallery and some for social.

We’ll put notices up on the day, and its agreed that I’ll politely ask everyone beforehand and get verbal consent to take a picture. No one will be photographed without being asked, and being ok with it.

Of course anyone who doesn’t want to, won’t be photographed.

What we want to avoid is asking all the patrons to sign release forms. We feel that as its for gallery / social use (not a big advertising campaign), that asking politely is respectful, but going up to them with forms will be a bit intrusive on their experience.

My question is this:

I know that release forms are good practice. Is it reasonable to expect that in the worst case scenario, if someone subsequently objects to being in an online gallery, all we do is take the image down when requested? We will have asked them on the day, and put signs up.

Although I want to avoid walking round with release forms for everyone, but will do if needed.

Does anyone have experience of shooting restaurants, bars or similar type places such as this?

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    Why not just put a clause in your contract with your customer (the restaurant owner) that says they will indemnify you of any liability if a diner later changes their mind? If necessary, grant the restaurant the copyright to the images under a work for hire agreement. Then let them worry about it. Check with your lawyer to be sure, though.
    – Michael C
    Apr 22 at 21:49
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I am not a lawyer. I recommend hiring one. It is a cost of doing business. Client fees should cover both overhead and profits.

In terms of interior photographs of a restaurant, the simple solution is to hire people to pose as patrons using ordinary casting methods and standard model releases as recommended by your lawyer.

Doing so will avoid misunderstandings between the people in the photographs, the business owners, and the photographer. Free legal advice is often worth less than you paid for it.

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I am not a lawyer.

In general, you can take pictures of the public in a public place in the UK. The 'right to privacy' is vague, but being out in public & having your photo taken is pretty much how the paparazzi make their living.

If you post signs & don't photograph objectors, then you've also got round the 'harassment' law which could otherwise come into play.

I've often worked on 'open' street movie shoots where signage is placed at the boudaries of the shoot location, informing on a very similar basis. the 'get out clause' there is in effect 'if you don't like it, walk round another way' which a restaurant patron would not have the option of, unless they decided to vote with their feet.

There's a decent précis of the UK rules here - British Life Photography Awards: Photographer's Rights

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    Not really relevant for the OP, but... Restaurants are not "public places". In fact, even some places which you might think are "public" (such as Canary Wharf, and along some South Bank pedestrian walkways) are private property. You need permission from the property owner to photograph there, and if they tell you to get lost (which they very well might do, if you start setting up with a tripod, etc), then you should oblige.
    – osullic
    Apr 22 at 20:56
  • Also, I believe paparazzi can photograph you if you are on private property, as long as they are on public property, and you are reasonably in view.
    – osullic
    Apr 22 at 20:58
  • With respect to the above two comments... I am not a lawyer!
    – osullic
    Apr 22 at 20:58
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    Agreed. There’s a ‘reasonable right to privacy’ which doesn’t come into play here… plus, I’m assuming it’s the owner of the restaurant that is hiring, so the private property issue doesn’t apply.
    – Tetsujin
    Apr 23 at 5:06
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Unfortunately, consent to having their picture taken is not the same as consent for how the image(s) will be used. And social media/website use could easily be considered marketing/advertising. Luckily for you, the only minor concern in this instance is the tort of "passing off," which would be the misrepresentation of endorsement. But for that to be of concern the individual(s) in question would have to have significant reputation/goodwill.

Getting a release when none is required has no legal merit. And in all other instances mentioned here (for the UK specifically) there is no legal requirement for notification nor release/waiver. Releases for this kind of thing are much more common in countries like the US which has recognized "portrait rights" (by state), and in countries where the use of ones likeness is considered a personal right (like Brazil); but neither is applicable to the UK.

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  • Thanks for your input Steven, its much appreciated.
    – Richard C
    Apr 26 at 12:11
  • Of course I'm planning to be respectful and follow the wishes of people when taking shots. If someone politely declines, I'll leave them be - end of story. And will only take a photo of people who are genuinely happy with it. If that person agrees, and then subsquently doesn't want the shots to be on the web gallery, is it really just a case of takign it down? Which is the respectful thing to do.
    – Richard C
    Apr 26 at 12:14
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    Yes, it really is just a case of taking it down... in actuality; you don't need to get permission, nor take them down if asked to (unless the use could be considered "passing off"). But, it is the polite thing to do and it keeps everyone happy... and if it is a condition imposed by your client you have to comply anyway. Apr 26 at 12:38
  • Thanks Steven. So in effect, its ok to take pictures, and deliver to a client for use in a gallery / website (as long as not 'passing off' etc) in cases where I've politely and clearly asked for permission at the time and not harrassed anyone. Even if website / social use could be considered advertising or commercial. And if I agreed with the restaurant before hand that if a subject would subsquently like a shot removed, its their responsibility from that point to take them down.
    – Richard C
    Apr 26 at 13:08
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    It's OK to take the pictures and deliver to the client for use on website/gallery; period. And it's OK for commercial use/advertising as long as it's not passing off. The rest is just niceness; which is usually in a business owner's best interest; so yeah, it's their responsibility to take them down if asked and they want to comply. Because it is private property and indoors there is a minimal chance someone could claim a violation of the their right to respect for private and family life in certain conditions (private room) but giving notice/asking negates that(it would likely loose anyway) Apr 27 at 12:15

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