Photographs of people are considered to be personal data and can come under the Data Protection Act (DPA, 1998). ‘Personal data’ covers any data that can be used to identify a living individual. ‘Sensitive personal data’ concerns the subject’s race, ethnicity, politics, religion, trade union status, health, sex life or criminal record. Some of these may be relevant when viewing an image of an individual. So it is important to keep a written record of consents taken when commissioning images.
When using images of people, where any individuals feature prominently and are clearly identifiable, a consent form must be signed by those individuals giving their permission for any images in which they appear. Images of children require the consent of a parent or guardian and special care should be taken to ensure that the consent form is fully understood.
The consent form must state clearly what the use of the image(s) will be. In some instances it may be advisable to give options for the individual to select from.
Possible options might be:
- only within the University
- the University’s marketing and promotional materials to external bodies.
Generally it is best to have as wide a use available as possible.
When is a consent form necessary?
- When an individual’s face is clearly recognisable.
Download an interactive pdf of the Model Consent Form by clicking this link. Print it out to for signing by the models.
When is a consent form not necessary?
When there is a large group of individuals, eg at a conference or an event, it is usually sufficient to notify them either verbally or with a notice clearly visible, and those who do not wish to be in the photograph can opt out.
Where there is a large group of people with no one standing out in a place where photography is expected, eg spectators at a football match.
Where there is a large group of people who could not be clearly identified.
Animals – domestic pets do not need a release, only those animals specifically related to a TV programme or film would require a release.
Other things to note
Where only parts of the body appear in the image, eg leg or hand, no consent is required unless there are well-known identifying marks such as a tattoo or a famous ring.
Usually no release is necessary for a silhouette unless the shape or posture is particular, eg Charlie Chaplin.
If you are inside a building or private grounds you must obtain written permission of the owner of the property before taking photographs. Within the University this might be a departmental administrator or college bursar.