7 Tips for Well-Mannered Photo Posting

Mister Manners answers your questions about when--and whether--to post photos online.

1. Can you offer some common-sense advice for online photo etiquette?
Before you post a photo of a friend online, ask yourself: Would I be upset if someone uploaded and tagged a similar photo of me? Is the image unflattering (whether physically or situationally)? Could this shot cause hurt or embarrassment? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, your course of action is simple: do not post.

2. Some examples of inappropriate posting are obvious. What are some more nuanced examples?
There are some people out there--and they know who they are--who seem to have oodles of time on their hands for scanning and uploading photos from an era that pre-dates digital. The inevitable album titles: "Our Crazy Frat Days" and "What Were We Thinking?" say it all. Indiscriminately uploading vintage shots is a sure-fire way of mortifying your old chums--a crowd that has likely long since graduated from meat markets to commodities markets. Unless you have express permission from everyone in the photo, do the gang a favor and snail mail them a print of the image you've scanned, and keep it off the web.

3. What are the dangers of inappropriate photo posting?
Anytime you upload and tag images of yourself or others, you invite the world to witness and share in moments that may have been intended to be private. No matter how stringent your privacy settings, you should presume that just about anything you put up on Facebook has the chance of being seen by unwanted eyes. Underage students have lost scholarships over photos of them drinking. Jobs have been lost (or never landed at all) thanks to scrupulous social media searches conducted by human resources departments. Relationships have been wrecked by incriminating images that pop up online. Friendships have been crushed when someone stumbles on pictures of parties to which they were not invited.

4. What does proper photo "etiquette" mean to you?
For starters, don't appoint yourself a paparazzo. Deliberately catching your friends on camera in the midst of doing something embarrassing is rude and uncalled for. Second, if someone asks to see a photo right after you've taken it, agree to do so without hesitation--no matter how vain you think the request is. And if they ask you to delete the shot, honor the entreaty and offer to take a new one. If it's an image you think you are likely to post online, ask them right then and there if it would be okay to upload it and tag it. And of course, if they really like it, offer to e-mail them a copy, too.

5. Do you have examples of photo posting that cross the line, either real or apocryphal?
A photo is worth a thousand words, but it also tells only part of the story. Something that looks wild and crazy might merely have been a fun pose. On the other hand, an out-of-control looking freeze frame might have been just the tip of the iceberg. I recently met a woman who was going to a bachelorette party where all of the ladies attending agreed that the only photos permitted from the night would be taken at the beginning of the evening, when everyone was still presentable and sober. Once the glam shots were out of the way, the cameras were to be put away, too.

6. Advice to parents to pass on to their kids?
Tweens and teens live their lives online, holding back very little. It's important for parents to stress to their kids that once a photo is on the Internet, it is nearly impossible to pull it back. This may not seem like a big deal now, but when the time comes for college applications, scholarships and job searches, those goofy or incriminating photos can and will come back to haunt.

7. What are the most common mistakes people make/may make while posting photos?
Shooting, posting and asking questions later. By the time the subject of the photo sees the image you've uploaded, damage to reputation may already be the result. I also think that people who are overly clicky (as opposed to cliquey) miss out on some of the real fun, because they're spending so much time viewing the action through a viewfinder or phone LCD that they never get to enjoy the party with their own eyes and ears.