Everyone should be familiar with this picture. His name is Zeddie Little, and he became an overnight meme sensation after this ridiculously photogenic shot was taken during a 10k race in South Carolina. The shot was passed around more than a beach ball at a Nickelback concert and he gained fame for looking good while he was running. Turns out not only is Zeddie the best looking computer programmer in all of America, he is a great segway to talk about something that keeps crossing my mind as I wait for my camera to arrive.

When is it appropriate to take pictures of people?

Now, I completely understand sporting events, races, concerts, etc. People are performing, and people are watching. Usually when that happens, I think it’s an understood rule that pictures will probably be taken. I played sports and I’ve played in bands, and whether athletes and musicians admit to it or not, they’re aware of the cameras. They want to look good. Sometimes at concerts I’d show a little extra love to that camera on stage right. If it was being videotaped, hell yes I wanted to have a direct line between my face and my hawt moves and the dude or lady filming. It was an opportunity for pictures to show up on Facebook from people I didn’t know. It was like I had people that thought I was interesting enough for them to share with their friends.

Upon browsing countless blogs and Flickr pages, I’ve come to realize that there are a lot of photographers that will take pictures where people are their primary subject. Many of those times, it doesn’t seem like they’re familiar with these people— sometimes just a passerby on a busy street, I’ve seen photography shots a homeless person, even pictures taken alarmingly close to folks in the wake of tragedy.

Let’s get this out there: I do not condone nor will I practice photography at the expense of further damage to a human beings emotions. I would go as far as to say if I caught someone doing this with no regard, they’d be digging a size 13 shoe out of their asshole sideways. I read something just yesterday that was captioned “I was able to capture raw human emotion” on a picture of a seemingly not too far away mother and two children crying outside of their house that had just burned down. I’m not going to link to the person that thought this was some sick form of art, but in the moment I probably would have tested the bouncability of their expensive camera on pavement.

Okay, here’s what I’m talking about. Local readers know the devastation of what happened here in Joplin in May of 2011. They also know that although it is a long and undoubtably an extensive recovery, it’s getting there. Regional and international readers might not grasp what happened, so let’s just say “our sizeable town got freaking leveled”. The rebuilding process has been a thing of beauty, and there have been dozens and dozens of times when I thought to myself “damn, I wish I had a nice camera, because that’s an excellent photo opportunity”.

So today after work I was driving home and there was a little boy walking through a part of town that has not quite began the rebuilding process. He had a backpack on, and was kicking rocks along his way. He was walking towards the sun in the direction of the old high school. This is land has been leveled, but not developed. The sun was just over the treeline on the west side of town, and had cast an eerily artistic orange glow across the pavement and small mounds of dirt. I’m no photographer, but I’m pretty sure it would have made a damn fine picture.

Having that out of the way, the question I am posing to those of you that actually know what the hell you’re doing is when is it appropriate to take pictures of people?

I’m not about to go to the nearest park on Saturday and hop out of my vehicle and start taking pictures of your kids. I’m trying to take good pictures, not go to jail. I suppose it’s completely possible that I am misreading the content of the photos I am seeing, or perhaps the photographers are so good that they drop their friends in public and tell them to act like it’s their natural element, unless everyone that owns a camera has several friends in acting classes, in which case I’m screwed off the bat (camera for sale!), but I doubt it.

Do recreational photographers carry around permission slips in a Jansport fanny pack? Is there a proper, universally used set of magic words along the lines of “hey brah, lemme snap you dogg.”? Or do people just take pictures without asking permission? And, are there any legal ramifications if you use a picture a photograph that has someone without their permission? Help a brother out.