Photographic images protocol

1 General principles

As most of the council's literature is destined for public consumption, we aim to address the public as our main audience. Research indicates that the use of appropriate photographs or images does benefit the written word - aiding understanding and often giving a piece of writing some degree of context - and therefore should be encouraged. There are alternatives to using photographs, (eg. cartoon illustrations), but as preference, we aim to use photographs and images that include real people in real situations in order to relate the article to the reader. However, increasingly so, caution is advised on the use of photographs in our printed material and equally on our website. Generally speaking, if a photograph is used that specifically identifies someone who has not given consent to be in the photograph, the danger of litigation exists. Therefore we endeavour to use 'safe' photographs.

2. General shots

By 'general shots' we mean photographs taken of scenes as opposed to specific people e.g. High Wycombe Town Centre, the Rye, London Road etc. These photographs will, sometimes unavoidably, include members of the public that have strolled into shot. The context of how these photographs are used is important and they should not be used in a context that implies any of the subjects' views, preferences or activities. In general, these photographs should aim to be of a group of people rather than an individual. There is then usually no need for a specific permission from those depicted.

The context is also important as the photograph must not infer a falsehood. E.g. to use a photograph that identifies specific children playing in a street with a story about teenage crime, may be considered defamatory to the children depicted.

Caution must also be exercised if repeatedly using a general shot that identifies someone behaving unusually. For example, a general shot of a procession may identify a crowd member and repeated use of the photograph may cause that person distress.

3. Photographs taken for specific purposes

Ideally, anyone identifiable in every photograph taken for publicity purposes has signed (or had signed on their behalf if a minor) a photo/filming consent form.

If the subjects of a photograph have been called together (e.g. for a cheque presentation) for a photograph to be sent to the Press, the fact that they are willingly participating with the shot indicates their approval to appear in the photograph. Therefore a photo/filming consent form may not be necessary in this case.

If the photograph is to be used elsewhere from time to time, best practise is to write to the subjects to inform them. This may not always be realistic eg. if responding to breaking news when a prompt response is essential.

For this reason, the photo/filming consent form will include a statement that, "These photographs/films may be used for publication purposes (print and online) by Wycombe District Council."

Generally speaking, it is essential that those taking part in a photograph know that the photograph is being taken for publication and have the opportunity to opt out if they wish. It is helpful to keep a note of this on file. In no circumstances should an individual be pressured into taking part in a photograph if they do not want to do so.

4. Archived photographs

When using archived photographs, care should be taken to ensure that the photograph is still relevant and that the subjects in the photograph are still current i.e. still in their current job/still alive etc. Photographs that for these reasons are out of date should be removed from the archive file or marked as such to avoid them being used inadvertently. (In some cases, with events particularly, Wycombe Museum may be interested in holding archived photographs that have ceased to be used by the council).

Similarly if a photograph has caused offence or its use has resulted in a complaint, then that photograph should be removed from the library or archive.

5. Photographs of children

Special care should be taken in this respect. The main legal issue when taking images of children is that of consent.

Halsbury states: "At common law, a child lacks the legal capacity to give a valid consent and that capacity is generally vested in the parent or guardian of the child."

It is increasingly important that photography involving children and subsequent publication is carried out so that children are properly protected in line with our Child Protection Policy.

Where children are the main subject of a photograph a photo/filming consent form should be obtained from the subjects parent or guardian. Photographs of children should not normally be made available to third parties without first ensuring that they are to be used by legitimate publications such as newspapers or trade magazines.