Photographer’s Rights

Posted on: October 31st, 2014 0

Know Where and What You’re Allowed to Shoot!

Photographer’s Rights are actually a big deal, especially given today’s paranoia and the 24-hour news cycle that causes the media to over-exaggerate just about everything for attention. Any of you who have been stopped by security or the police while out shooting already know this.

It happened to me when I was shooting for the following image:


I was using a large=format 5×4 view camera, which is a huge beast requiring a hefty tripod. You can see it in the shot. I made 2 negatives; one of the train and the other of me standing on the tracks. I combined the 2 negs in the darkroom to create the composite. During the shoot, the police showed up and asked me what I was doing. The officer said that someone had called to complain about me shooting there!! I was on public property and wasn’t disturbing anyone.

At any rate, I explained to the officer that I was an artist and was shooting a creative project. He was pretty cool about it, but did say he would need to “call it in” and speak to the captain. Everything worked out fine and I was able to continue. My point however, is that MANY people have been stopped, harrassed, had their equipment confiscated, and sometimes even thrown in jail for doing exactly what I was doing!

The Facts

Hence, below is a list of your photographer’s rights, clearly explaining what and where it is legal to shoot. You can copy/paste these into your smart phone or print them out. Either way, I recommend you have a copy with you so if you DO get harassed, you can at least be armed with the facts. Please note that this doesn’t mean you WON’T get harassed, have your gear confiscated, or even arrested, but at least you’ll know what the LAW is. Many police officers and security folks don’t, as bizarre as that seems.

Photographer’s Rights

  1. You can make a photograph of anything and anyone on any public property, except where a specific law prohibits it.
    e.g. streets, sidewalks, town squares, parks, government buildings open to the public, and public libraries.
  2. You may shoot on private property if it is open to the public, but you are obligated to stop if the owner requests it.
    e.g. malls, retail stores, restaurants, banks, and office building lobbies.
  3. Private property owners can prevent photography ON their property, but not photography OFF their property from a public location.
  4. Anyone can be photographed without consent when they are in a public place unless there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.
    e.g. private homes, restrooms, dressing rooms, medical facilities, and phone booths.
  5. Despite common misconceptions, the following subjects are almost always permissible:
    • accidents, fire scenes, criminal activities
    • children, celebrities, law enforcement officers
    • bridges, infrastructure, transportation facilities
    • residential, commercial, and industrial buildings
  6. Security is rarely an acceptable reason for restricting photography. Photographing from a public place cannot infringe on trade secrets, nor is it terrorist activity.
  7. Private parties cannot detain you against your will unless a serious crime was committed in their presence. Those that do so may be subject to criminal and civil charges.
  8. It is a crime for someone to threaten injury, detention, confiscation, or arrest because you are making photographs.
  9. You are not obligated to provide your identity or reason for photographing unless questioned by a law enforcement officer and state law requires it.
  10. Private parties have no right to confiscate your equipment without a court order. Even law enforcement officers must obtain one unless making an arrest. No one can force you to delete photos you have made.

These are general guidelines regarding the right to make photos and should not be interpreted as legal advice. If you need legal help, please contact a lawyer.

Thanks to PetaPixel for posting this info originally.


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