Your Rights As a Photographer.

The Minneapolis Skyline at night- Those Police Officers down there probably wouldn't appreciate being photographed, but is it your right to be able to?
The Minneapolis Skyline at night- Those Police Officers down there probably wouldn't appreciate being photographed, but is it your right to be able to? | Source

Your Rights as a Photographer.

We've all seen it, and most of us have been there. As a Photographer, what exactly do you have for rights? What can you shoot, what can you not shoot, and where should your ethics come into play?

Certainly, everyone has their own standards of what should be published, and what shouldn't be published- and a lot of that has to do with circumstance. There are, though, quite a few circumstances that overrule morality, and cross straight into legality. We'll run through a few scenarios, and talk about each one. Although, first, I'll run through a quick mental checklist that I keep re: Photographs of people.

  1. Have I asked the subject if it's OK to photograph them, let alone publish a photo of them?
    This is a pretty large deal, and while it doesn't necessarily reflect on the legality of publishing a photo of the subject, it lends credibility to yourself, and other photographers. No one likes a photo of them being taken when they don't want a photo of them being taken. Most people, upon being asked, are suddenly OK with having their picture taken, and will flash a smile your way. Common courtesy and asking permission goes a long way.
  2. Does this photograph cast the subject in a positive light?
    Even if the person was impossible to ask permission of, most people don't mind a photo of them being used, even for something like facebook, as long as they are being cast in a positive light. I have a golden rule when it comes to photographing people, especially people in questionable circumstances-- Do unto others as they want you to, not as you would have them do unto you. Everyone has different feelings on how they want to be represented, and perhaps how you want to be represented is not how your subject would like to be represented. You, the photographer, might not mind being photographed with underwear on your head, but the person in question might not. Remember, you're a photographer, not a drunk 16 y/o girl with a camera that thinks it's funny to capture people at their worst.

This man was at Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis, MN. I asked him for his permission to photograph him. Perhaps he would have been not so welcoming of a photo had I not asked, or made him feel as though it were demeaning.
This man was at Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis, MN. I asked him for his permission to photograph him. Perhaps he would have been not so welcoming of a photo had I not asked, or made him feel as though it were demeaning. | Source

The Legal Stuff.

Alright, we're gonna get down to the nitty-gritty legal stuffs. I'm not a lawyer, nor did I play one on TV or stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night. However, I've studied up on the legal aspects of Photography to be able to save my own butt, and get the most out of my passion. So, onward!-

Basically, if you can see it from a public space, you can shoot it. What does this mean? This means that if you're say, on a sidewalk and see a fountain in someone's yard, a sign on someone's fence, or a cute dog in a yard, you can take a picture of it.
This ALSO means that in malls, parks, etc- perhaps a place that is technically PRIVATE property, but open to the public, you may take photos unless specifically prohibited by signage or personnel.
If you ARE on Private property, and you are asked to not take pictures, you must oblige the request. This isn't to say that you must delete all photos on your camera that you shot before being told not to, but to use those photos would perhaps not be in your best judgement.

People. People are perhaps the biggest area of contention when it comes to photographing in public. Where is the line drawn? Well, if someone is in a public space, and hasn't secluded themselves to expect a reasonable amount of privacy, then they are fair game. Children eating ice cream, holding balloons at the fair?- Totally fair game. However, a couple that have wandered off to some sand dunes at the beach to cuddle and watch the sunset, or a person entering their PIN at an ATM?- Perhaps you should ask permission before shooting, or not shoot at all.

These people, while at a private park and private music/art festival, were in a place where they were able to be photographed freely, and there weren't any signs nor anyone objecting, making this picture completely legit.
These people, while at a private park and private music/art festival, were in a place where they were able to be photographed freely, and there weren't any signs nor anyone objecting, making this picture completely legit. | Source
Almost all musicians not only CAN be shot, but WANT to be shot. If you have an doubts, ask them before or after the concert, and try not to use a flash, as that can distract and annoy them.
Almost all musicians not only CAN be shot, but WANT to be shot. If you have an doubts, ask them before or after the concert, and try not to use a flash, as that can distract and annoy them. | Source

Contrary to many myths surrounding Photography, especially street photography, These things are ALWAYS open to being shot, as long as the above rules have been observed.

Law Enforcement Officers, Public Utilities, Residential and Commercial Buildings, Transportation Facilities (Bus stations, bus stops, Subway Stations, Airports, etc.), Bridges and other infrastructure, Criminal Activities, Accident and Fire Scenes, Children, and anything else one might see.

Special care must be taken when shooting Law Enforcement Officers, as they may (will) try and intimidate you, and tell you what you are doing is wrong. They may even try to take you to jail or force you to stop shooting by saying that you are Interfering with their job. However, if you are a reasonable distance away, they should not mind being photographed unless they have anything to hide.
If you ARE challenged by Security or Law Enforcement, you do NOT need to explain why you are taking photos, what you are taking photos of, and unless it is a Police Officer, you do not need to disclose your identity.

REMEMBER!!!! --- If someone tries to confiscate your camera or film/memory cards, DO NOT give it to them!!! If they try to force or threaten you into giving it to them, they will be liable for theft or coercion! Even Law Enforcement Officers need a court order to confiscate ANYTHING.

Handy Links-

-A Downloadable Flyer Explaining Your Rights When Stopped or Confronted for Photography-
http://www.krages.com/phoright.htm

- In the UK, things are done a bit differently, but the majority of the rules are the same. To check out the UK rules, Visit this site.-
http://www.sirimo.co.uk/2009/05/14/uk-photographers-rights-v2/

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Comments 10 comments

Simone Smith profile image

Simone Smith 5 years ago from San Francisco

I'm so glad you put this together. Too few people know what their rights are- and even though I've been reminded of them again and again, I forget! Great Hub.


Arlene V. Poma 5 years ago

Interesting. I will only shoot photographs in public places. I take candid shots showing what people are doing. I don't bother taking photographs if it means getting signed consent. If I have to ask or get potential subjects to sign anything (which I refuse to do, anyway)there's a very good chance that these subjects will freeze up or be so aware of the camera that they will pose. As for law enforcement, firemen, EMTs, doctors, etc. I leave these professionals alone and let them do their jobs. Personally, I am not intimidated by people in uniform, but refuse distract them from doing their work because I'm after some money shot.


Adam Brown Photo profile image

Adam Brown Photo 5 years ago from Brainerd, MN Author

You are very welcome, Naomi. :) Thanks for reading, and glad you enjoyed!!


Naomi's Banner profile image

Naomi's Banner 5 years ago from United States

This is great information to have. Thanks for the great Hub!


lilnassau profile image

lilnassau 5 years ago from Nassau Bahamas

Adam Brown

Ive always had the concern that hyphenbird stated for that matter i find myself photographing people on the street either from behind or in a way where i can convey what they were doing rather that who they are. For example someone with an unusual hairstyle ill try to get a shot about 3/4 from behind. It shows the hair style but very little of their face, or a person wearing something interesting like the other day a lady was walking down the street in neon rain boots up to her thigh. I took a photo of her from waist down but the background of the down town area was in full view and it was sunny.


lilnassau profile image

lilnassau 5 years ago from Nassau Bahamas

Hyphenbird

I know how you feel, Ive had a few situations where I attended parties or events and sooner or later find my face plastered on someone else s facebook wall. People who I dont even know. I rarely post photos of myself on my page so its a bit intrusive to have other people posting your images on the open internet


5 years ago

Interesting; it ought not to be necessary to hire a lawyer every time you want to use a camera.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 5 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

This is an informative Hub. As more people get interested in photography, these issues become important. Recently I had a stranger walk up and say "Hey I know that boy" while pointing at my 8 year old son. I determined we did not know this person and asked how she knew my child. She said her niece was in the same club at school and the mother had taken a photo and posted it on Facebook even listing names. That concerns me.

Taking a picture in a public place often means capturing folks who prefer to remain private. It, as you stated, is a matter of manner in most cases. As a camera addict myself, I realize it is hard to decide sometimes. One must think about the emotional impact on another. Remember that photo that was on every magazine when Oklahoma was bombed and the fireman was holding the baby? Certainly it was touching and even beautiful because he loved enough to do that. But the baby was dead and the mother had to see her dead baby everywhere she looked. I feel that was wrong.

The opportunities and challenges are immense indeed.


Adam Brown Photo profile image

Adam Brown Photo 5 years ago from Brainerd, MN Author

lilnassau-

Great questions. After taking photos of people in a public place, you cannot monetarily profit from your work without signed releases. Other uses for street photography would be to expand your own portfolio, use in an article related to the topic (such as the man with the sign above), or things of that nature. Selling it as stock would be illegal unless a release was signed.


lilnassau profile image

lilnassau 5 years ago from Nassau Bahamas

Interesting, I'm usually nervous when in public places and want to take pics of people. What can I use those photos for? If its a great photo do I have to ask them to sign a model release form in case I want to print the photo for sale? What other uses are there for street photography pictures?

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