Why it’s Not Ok to Take Photos of your Yoga Class without Consent

Picture this (pun intended): Its time for yoga. You arrive in whatever fashion you are known to arrive. Maybe mega early, maybe dashing through the door with a minute to spare, maybe you savour a few moments of stillness before things get going.

The teacher greets you. The class begins. You find yourself in a meditation and.. ‘Click’. The distinguishable sound of a digital camera echoes behind you. A photographer, or someone’s friend who happens to have a camera, makes their presence known as you still yourself in abject horror.

This spontaneous photoshoot was not made aware to you. Your consent was not granted, thus proven by the fact you are wearing pyjama bottoms and have your hair in a messy (actually messy) bun.

The teacher notices the distraction and says something to the affect of ‘oh don’t worry about Dean, he’s just here to take a few photos’. No shit Jessica. Thanks for the update.

Why is this a problem?  

Maybe you’re reading this and thinking ‘what’s the harm? Its just a few photos’. If you feel this way and know for a fact it wouldn’t bother you, I am sincerely happy for you. This however, does not negate the issue.

Violating the safe space

A yoga class, or any exercise class for that matter, is a safe space. You are in the hands of the instructor or teacher, who is there to give direction and keep you safe within their means. There is an element of vulnerability here, while your body is in compromising positions, maybe with your arse in the air and your t-shirt around your neck. How you chose to put yourself together for this class probably didn’t include specific photoshoot considerations. This image of you, in this moment, is now captured and saved for somebody else’s benefit. If you still can’t relate to this, try to think of a moment in your day when you wouldn’t appreciate having your photo taken. Maybe when you just woke up, or while you’re cleaning the bathroom or looking for something under the sofa. Somebody taking your photo without your permission, in a private space, is a violation.

Free marketing

Seeing as this is no longer a yoga class and we are all just here to ‘look’ like a yoga class, are you getting paid for your part? The background figure that you represent, in a photo that will be used online for multiple purposes, where are your benefits? These photo’s (that you may never, ever see) are now property of your teacher or the photographer. To be used on websites, newsletters, social media etc, preserved forever somewhere on the internet.

“As a Yoga Teacher, I implore you, do not exploit your students for free marketing.” – Alex Meade Yoga

It messes with the energy of the space

It becomes a performance. Whether you feel this pressure or not, your practice is now a performance. As you balance and twist and make decisions about your movements, you are potentially being watched and considered worthy or not of a snap. Maybe you feel this and hold postures for longer than you’d like. Maybe you don’t feel this at all are able to ignore the photographer. Maybe your focus shifts to your aesthetic, what you look like rather than how your body feels. Maybe the situation has made you angry or upset or uncomfortable and now instead of having the class you had anticipated; you now have to deal with these emotions instead. Either way, consider the collected energy of the room altered.

What to do?

So what’s the solution here? As a Yoga Teacher, a small business owner or studio, how do you obtain photos of your craft to use for marketing purposes? It must be hard no? Getting images to represent your skillset. Yes. It is. But its hard to get photos of lots of things in this world, you just have to be creative.

Set up a fake class

If you want that lovely, juicy, group yoga class photo, just ask some regular students if they wouldn’t mind helping you out. Offer them a free class or juice or discount for a friend etc etc. Reward them for their generosity. You can do it right after a class has already taken place so people are already warmed up. Tell them what you’re going to do and stage the photos you actually want. Here you can even work out your angles, the postures you want to showcase, the vibe you want to convey. You have a lot more control here, and a lot more cooperation.

Notify your students ahead of time

Failing that, just tell your students in advance. Make sure the regulars know – ‘Next week, class will be different as we have a photographer in.’ Tell them at reception, tell them in person, put up a poster, do a social media post, tell them a week before the class, tell them 5 minutes before the class, just make sure they KNOW. This may leave you with a smaller class than you’d like, but you know what? Its fine. At least you can relax knowing that everyone in the room is ok with the situation. You don’t need rows and rows of students to make a good photo. You don’t even need to see anybody’s face. If you hire a proper photographer, they will know how to achieve the concept you are looking for.

Moral of the story

Its not ethical to take photos of people in a private space, without their consent. Sure, you may have lovely, cooperative students that you might even consider friends. But gaining consent is never a bad idea. You don’t know the true inner workings of this person. You don’t know all of their triggers and sensitivities. You don’t even know how their day went. Don’t make the assumption that it will just be ok, because in the worst-case scenario, it could be harmful.

I say this with Love, just get consent.

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