Campus Photography Guidelines

In general, permissions or releases are not required to take a photograph or videotape of individuals in public spaces because there is a minimal expectation of privacy in such spaces. Examples of public spaces at UNCG are sporting events, Commencement, and non-sensitive invited events. The interior of a dorm room would generally not be considered a public space.

Even in newsworthy photographs, care should be used in describing those depicted to avoid creating a misleading impression. For example, the caption of a photograph of a crowd at a demonstration should probably not describe those depicted as “participants” in the demonstration.

Permission and Releases

There are a number of scenarios where it may be appropriate  to obtain permission and/or releases to take and use photographs and videography. There are many forms and methods for obtaining agreement from an individual to take and use a photograph or video.

  • Announce to a group verbally that photos or videos will be taken and how they will be used.
  • Post a sign indicating the same.
  • Obtain a written signature on an approved consent form.
  • Simply ask a subject and get his or her verbal “OK.”

The best approach will usually depend on circumstances, context, practicability and risk.

Commercial Use. Because liability risks tend to be higher with commercial use, it is advisable to obtain written consent when photos or videos may be used to promote a product or service – and sometimes UNCG. If there is a potential commercial use of photos or videos of public figures, there is even greater exposure to liability. The issue of what constitutes “commercial use” is often not clear. The following distinctions may be helpful.

  • Using the image of an individual to market or sell a product, such as a coffee table book, would likely qualify as a “commercial use”.
  • Compare a departmental website showing photos of activities undertaken by people in that department, which would likely qualify as an informative, non-commercial use.

Current UNCG Students: It is the responsibility of the student to inform the photographer(s) or videographer(s) if they do not want their picture/video taken.

Children and Other Special Circumstances. It is always important to use professional judgment in taking and using photographs and videos. If the image captured is of a child, it is very important to obtain a written release of a parent, particularly if the photo is of only a few children (as compared to a very large crowd), and particularly if the photo will be displayed or published broadly. Use judgment and obtain releases with other vulnerable populations. Further, obtain releases in highly sensitive contexts, such as for example events where political, identity, or health concerns are central.

Sensitive Topic Large Gatherings. In most cases, attendance at large gatherings is not controversial and privacy interests are low. In such cases, permission may not be needed at all.

However, if the event is about a topic that may raise privacy issues (for example relating to substance abuse, mental health, identity issues) it is recommended to post a sign or otherwise announce that photos or video will be taken and provide participants an area where they may be without being photographed or video recorded.

Teaching, Classrooms and Students

Class recordings may raise concerns about freedom of expression, academic freedom, copyright and privacy and FERPA. All recordings of classes must be in compliance with School and University policies. If it is permissible to tape such lectures, the following guidance applies:

  • Class Recordings with Limited (Class) Availability. In cases where the videos are made accessible only to the students and instructors in the class and academic administrators, students should be informed of the video recording in advance.
  • Public Posting of Class Recordings. If photos or videos will be posted publicly, or otherwise made available beyond the individuals in the class and academic administrators, Schools must inform students of that fact and should make available areas of the classroom where students who do not wish to appear will not be photographed or video recorded. Pursuant to FERPA (federal law protecting student privacy), in this situation, Schools may not condition enrollment in the class on the student’s agreement that photos or video recordings of them may be publicly distributed.

Students in other Environments. As described above, even outside of the classroom, if a student or students are identifiable in a photograph or video, FERPA may apply and require that permission be obtained before the photo or video is shared publicly.

Employment Uses, Faculty and Staff

Communications officials often take photographs of faculty and staff in their work settings. While there is greater latitude to photograph UNCG personnel than students in many contexts, it is still important to be respectful of privacy concerns. Inform faculty and staff that photos or videos are being taken and ensure there are no significant, unaddressed privacy concerns. Further, get permission before using images of identifiable employees for explicit marketing or expressly commercial purposes.

Social Media

In keeping with the Standards for the Use of Social Media at UNCG, it is important to recognize that when conducting UNCG business – online and off – one must comply with UNCG policies. Because of the powerful ability of social media to broadcast information worldwide, make sure to protect all confidential personal information – only posting what you have permission to post by law, policy, or explicitly by the person(s) in the photo.

Copyright and Digital Photo Management Systems

In addition to privacy issues relating to the individuals depicted in photos and videos, communications professionals need to be mindful of potential copyright issues related to the images. Typically, UNCG owns the copyright in photos and videos taken by UNCG employees as part of their employment duties. Absent a written agreement, however, UNCG may not own the copyright to images taken by independent photographers who have been hired to shoot events or campus scenes. Payment to the photographer is not sufficient in itself to convey all rights to UNCG. Without a written contract. UNCG’s use rights may be limited to those purposes UNCG can prove were specifically communicated at the time the photographer was hired. For this reason, it is important to have a written agreement with the contractor that states what ownership or use rights UNCG will have with respect to the photos or videos produced by the contractor and what rights, if any, the contractor will retain.

Because digital photos and videos may readily be used repeatedly and for different purposes, it is important at the time the material is acquired to understand and document UNCG’s right in the photos and videos themselves and the nature and scope of releases or permissions from those depicted. It is a best practice to have a digital photo management system that records at a minimum:

  1. Basic information about the photo
  2. Any restrictions on publication
  3. Any consents or permissions obtained.