Photography and the law

DXV_PhotoDXV_Photo Posts: 158Member
edited February 2013 in General Discussions
Today I was suppose to meet up with one of the photo groups in the area to go take pics down at Dallas Farmers Market at 8:30AM. I over slept and missed it so what follows below is based on what was posted in the groups discussion.

The group was probably less then 20 went to go shoot down there. At some point during the outing someone from Dallas PD showed up and started telling people that amateur photographers need a commercial permit or they will give out criminal trespass citations. Now the Dallas Farmers Market has this posted on there website stating that they allow photos to be taken.

To my understanding the vendors didn't have a problem with pics being taken but the security company at the place may of had an issue and is probably the ones that called the police. My question is how do you'll handle situations involving the police. I don't know if the cop was told that the website states photos are allowed but for the sake of argument let's assume that he was. If the cop is adamant that you need a commercial permit for personal photography do yo have any other choice but to pack up or face citation?
Post edited by DXV_Photo on


  • PB_PMPB_PM Posts: 4,337Member
    If you are working on privet property, without written permission on your person, you don't have a leg to stand on unfortunately.
    If I take a good photo it's not my camera's fault.
  • donaldejosedonaldejose Posts: 3,378Member
    Remember where most cops come from what their training. They generally come from lower social classes, are not generally college graduates and they are trained to "assert themselves" and "establish control" over the situation. They are not taught to debate or to feel empathy for the "perp." Some cops are bullies by nature. Remember who they usually have to deal with, especially urban cops: the "bad guys" who respect only what? Force.

    So a cop gets a complaint or hears a conflict or suspects something and goes to the source of the "problem." What does his training and nature tell him to do? Assert control. Cops are taught "use your command voice" when dealing with "a situation." So what do these dynamics mean? Don't debate "the law" with any cop. Just shut up and do what he says. Be polite, don't offer resistance or opposition. You will only invoke his "assert control" training if you resist or debate with him. He is not trained to "back down" when he meets resistance. He is trained to escalate and you don't want to invoke that response.

    It doesn't matter what the law is, just obey the cop at the time. The photo group can write a letter to the police department and debate (or better to say clarify) the issue with them at a later time. You "insist on your rights" at your peril.
  • PB_PMPB_PM Posts: 4,337Member
    I guess it depends on where you are, in Canada they wont let you be a police officer unless you have a law degree (4 year min in college/university).
    If I take a good photo it's not my camera's fault.
  • donaldejosedonaldejose Posts: 3,378Member
    edited February 2013
    Just one more way in which Canadians are superior! You should see some of the people we get on inner city police forces in the US. Be careful when you come to the US and run into a cop in a major city; you will not be dealing with the same type of person you have as police in Canada.
    Post edited by donaldejose on
  • DXV_PhotoDXV_Photo Posts: 158Member
    The group will be making calls on Monday to the Administrator of the market to discuss the issue. Hopefully this won't happen again but it shouldn't of happen this time either. Taking pictures here is nothing new but maybe the security guard was new and didn't know or didn't care. My understanding is that not everybody was asked about the pictures they took so this was probably only a issue if you have one of those "professional" cameras.
  • shawninoshawnino Posts: 453Member
    @PB_PM: I wish that were true. Mounties may require a degree but our city cops just need high school and a few months at the police academy over on Prince Edward Island.
    The vast majority in my town have no more education that that.
    A guy in my fantasy football league doesn't even have high school. How he got into the academy, I'm afraid to ask.
  • blandbland Posts: 812Member
    The Dallas Farmers Market is owned by the city of Dallas. So that would make it public property.

    That said, if a cop says you can't shoot then you can't shoot. My guess he felt it was a crowd issue.
  • MsmotoMsmoto Posts: 5,396Moderator
    As a paparazzi street photographer I run into this often. And as Donald says, you simply do what the law officer tells you. Going against them, even if they are incorrect is foolish. They can call reinforcements and create a list of bogus charges for which you have no recourse.

    My experience is most are good, but occasionally one gets the security officer who is simply going to create a scene. And, private property is a nightmare as your First Amendment rights do not apply. For public venues, a photographer may take photos. But, even then, when asked by an officer of the law to stop, one needs to stop or chance being arrested.

    Recently at the NAIAS in Detroit, I had my camera on a monopod with a fisheye lens. I walked up to the gals dancing at the VW exhibit, and the camera was about a foot away form the face of the dancer. And, I knew what was coming next. I quickly grabbed my shots then began my retreat. When security said I couldn't get that close, I immediately apologized, said I would not do ti again. Then at the end of the show, in front of security, I apologized to the dancers, and their response was "no problem." Now, the reason for demonstrating my "concern" and apologizing is to set the tone for my other activities around the models so security sees me as an advocate and not an adversary. I was then able to take additional photos although I kept my distance and looked at the security officer to get his "approval".. In shooting a lot of this type of activity in the past I have found by attempting to sincerely apologize, agree with the LEO, one gets a lot farther than if one attempts to demand one's rights.
    Msmoto, mod
  • DJBee49DJBee49 Posts: 133Member
    In England recently, the police were cracking down on photographers, even tourists, with serious looking cameras citing 'anti-terrorist' laws. There was a load of publicity and they backed off.

    The paparazzi here are not a popular species and there is a big invasion of privacy problem as they feed the gutter press with their (often) salacious snaps. As a result, ordinary folk taking photos in the street have been targeted but the law is I think clear here- if you are on public land you cannot be stopped from taking photographs, paparazzo or not. There are some caveats like 'defamation of character', national security and yet more issues around publishing, model release forms etc. but as I understand it that is the deal. You used to need a permit to use a tripod within the City of Westminster though!
  • MsmotoMsmoto Posts: 5,396Moderator
    I may need to add...all my photos are provided free of charge to the end user......None are sold for money or goods.
    Msmoto, mod
  • donaldejosedonaldejose Posts: 3,378Member
    Some people have a big, big problem with the apology part; it seems especially some guys feel emasculated if they have to apologize for anything. I tend to say OK or I Didn't Know or Thank You for Telling Me. I will follow the rules (as interpreted by law enforcement, right or wrong) but I have trouble apologizing when I didn't think I was doing anything wrong in the first place. Maybe I am too much of an insecure guy? Or maybe I just have trouble admitting I was wrong when i didn't think I was wrong? Now if I deliberately violate a known rule then I feel comfortable apologizing. But not when I think the police officer or security guard is just being a jerk. My acquiescence to their assertion of authority is more of an OK type response.
  • Benji2505Benji2505 Posts: 520Member
    edited February 2013
    There is a lawyer that specializes in Photography and its legal framework (in the US). You can download a flyer and print it out. You will see that you are probably fine. There might be local rules form the town of Dallas (or whatever town is in charge). I have a copy of that in my backpack, just in case.
    Post edited by Benji2505 on
  • TaoTeJaredTaoTeJared Posts: 1,306Member
    Benji2005 beat me to the site.

    Petapixel has a "Photographers Rights Gray Card Set" - search for that and you will find it quickly. It states the basic Laws (USA) that is nation wide and has been used for years. (Below)
    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 OF 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.
    The "criminal trespass citations" or "homeland security" are just bogus BS. Unfortunately Police who themselves misinterpret (or better put, don't know the laws) and can, and have, done major damage to your equipment, self, and cause some major problems and rarely are ever "corrected" or will get anything more than a slap on shoulder and a chuckle from superiors as their told not to do that. The ACLU has made some headway, but unfortunately it's not quick enough, or big enough to make changes that one can point too when it happens. Best thing is to walk a way and if it is bad enough, contact the venues, business, city councils, and report them for harassment if they are bad.

    D800, D300, D50(ir converted), FujiX100, Canon G11, Olympus TG2. Nikon lenses - 24mm 2.8, 35mm 1.8, (5 in all)50mm, 60mm, 85mm 1.8, 105vr, 105 f2.5, 180mm 2.8, 70-200vr1, 24-120vr f4. Tokina 12-24mm, 16-28mm, 28-70mm (angenieux design), 300mm f2.8. Sigma 15mm fisheye. Voigtlander R2 (olive) & R2a, Voigt 35mm 2.5, Zeiss 50mm f/2, Leica 90mm f/4. I know I missed something...
  • spraynprayspraynpray Posts: 6,407Moderator
    Amazing post Tao. I am surprised by No.9 and wonder if it is true in the UK as some of my club members were interrogated by a security eejit - and gave their details. I would have told him to get stuffed if I were there. [-X
    Always learning.
  • Here in France we have to be very careful regarding photographing people in public places. Ridiculous though it may seem we must get a signed authorisation to be able to use photographs with peoples faces in them - and don't get me started on children! I run an annual public photo marathon and we are obliged to give the participants pre-printed release forms just in case they take a photo of a human...if they do and they don't get the release signed, we cannot accept the image.

    Where I work we run regular workshops for kids - if ever we want to take a shot of the workshop for our archives we have to make sure we have permission from all the children's parents first...

    As posted here before, I take photos of our concerts - in theory, although I've already asked the bands, if I were to use a photograph with a member of the public watching the band playing I could be taken to court for the rights of the image. Hasn't happened yet...
  • spraynprayspraynpray Posts: 6,407Moderator
    You can always rely on French law to be outdated, ineffective, irrelevant and rigorously applied by robotic gendarmes. Don't get me started on my experiences there. 8-|
    Always learning.
  • sevencrossingsevencrossing Posts: 2,800Member
    edited February 2013
    One important thing understand, the law is different in different countries . Thre law in Scotland is different to England this plenty of stuff on the web . In the Uk make sure you know the differace between a civil and criminal offence . make sure you know the worst care senario if you break it. Eg commit a trespass
    Post edited by sevencrossing on
  • DJBee49DJBee49 Posts: 133Member
    edited February 2013
    This is a complicated issue- great post from Tao and I will also carry a copy of the rules in my bag when I am in the US. I am very careful in France having had a couple of problems in the past there.

    The issue of children and photographs here in the UK is positively toxic and there have been several cases of parents being arrested having asked labs. to print shots of their own children in the bath. I remember also the furore, especially in the US, surrounding the publication of Sally Mann's stunningly beautiful pictures of her own children in 'Immediate Family'.

    Another aspect of this is the reaction of the public. I was photographing in Barcelona once and, as usual, taking care not to offend the people who were in the shots I was taking. I was actually not particularly taking pictures of people, more city-scapes with people in them. What I was not aware of though, was that a small crowd of rather drunk men were watching me from behind and became very aggressive and violent. I had unwittingly stumbled into a 'tribal' situation and had a to make a rather humiliating run for it! I now pay attention to what is going on behind as well as in front of me!
    Post edited by DJBee49 on
  • MsmotoMsmoto Posts: 5,396Moderator
    edited February 2013
    TTJ...Thanks. I always attempt to follow these as guidelines. If I may suggest, the important aspect of survival is to avoid conflict with public or private security, LEO personnel. If one lives in the area you do most of your photography, you do not want a reputation as an undesirable adversary of Law Enforcement. If they say "no" and one does not comply, a simple charge of "impeding something " can be made, then dropped. Meanwhile you have been put through a great inconvenience.

    An example, I am planning a project of identifying in photos, drivers who are distracted, i.e., driving with their head looking down at something, or talking on the phone. My first step is notifying the Assistant Chief of Police who gave me some cautions, but had no objection. On the day of the shoot, I will have notified him of my location, approximate times, etc. and then if questioned by any LEO's, I will have the answer for them. Basically, I will be in a bush with an 800mm looking into the face of drivers, early morning sun in their face. The advocacy role, an end goal of improving public safety, and communications with the police all make this project much easier than if I just went out and did this with no knowledge of the police. For sure, I would be stopped and questioned, most likely asked to leave, etc.

    Apologies....a lot of folks have reservations of having their photograph taken. The reasons are many. If we are intent on leading our lives in a manner which is to avoid harming any other human being, the apology and acknowledgement of a potential violation of another's boundaries is essential. If our subject recognizes we are intent on doing no harm, they become much more cooperative in the process. And, if a subject has religious beliefs for not wanting their photo taken, I will delete the photos in front of them. Further, I will ask some folks if there is any outstanding arrest warrants, and tell them I do not want to record their image if they have any. Usually these folks will simply say, "don't take my picture". This question is also a way to have a good laugh if they say something like, "well, I don't", then look at the folks around them and ask them.

    Hope this soliloquy is helpful. Giggle...
    Post edited by Msmoto on
    Msmoto, mod
  • CorrelliCorrelli Posts: 135Member
    Really interesting to see how different the law is for photographers in different countries.

    In Germany you cannot publish a picture of someone without his permission (there are a few exceptions like people of "public interest" like politicians, actors etc). You can take their picture as long as you don't invade their privacy (e.g. sticking a fish-eye lens right into their face or use a tele lens to take pictures in their home), but you cannot publish it.

    Thing become different if people are part of a "current event". There was a post on petapixel some days ago about a picture of a young woman praying after a shooting in a school in Connecticut. According to German law you could take this picture and publish it (because it is part of a "current event"), but if the shooting did not happen you could most likely not. The ethics behind this issue is different though...

    Here in Germany I would most likely start arguing with a police officer if I was stopped and told not to take pictures. But I don't know of how much use it would be in the end. From what I understand the chances of being arrested here are far less than in the US.
  • DXV_PhotoDXV_Photo Posts: 158Member
    A lot of great info here and thanks to everybody for replying. Reading all these post makes me thanks back to how different photography was 20 years ago. Maybe I am starting to get old when I have to start referring to the "Good old days". :)

    For those that travel abroad is photography law research almost mandatory to know what you can and can't do? Have things gotten so bad you have to start excluding places based on the there laws?
  • shawninoshawnino Posts: 453Member
    No street work for me in Russia. Life's too short.
    That said, I know a kid with a 5D who goes out-and-about Moscow all the time.
  • mcammermcammer Posts: 10Member
    Thanks for the links. I will also print and keep in my bag. A word in favor of cops--they are as good as their training. One can be polite and insistent, in fact, that's the only way to make things change.

    MsMoto, will you delete photos of drivers who don't want to be part of your civic service?
  • sevencrossingsevencrossing Posts: 2,800Member
    edited February 2013
    . Reading all these post makes me thanks back to how different photography was 20 years ago. Maybe I am starting to get old when I have to start referring to the "Good old days". :)
    Considering the huge increase in the number of people carrying cameras. I don't things have changed much in the UK in the last 20 years

    There has been a few well publicized events but most people are not bothered by people taking photographs.
    They have have probably already been captured on CCTV 40 times that day already

    One thing people often get wrong, is what is the difference between a public and a private place. The fact a park, road, beach, station, or street is open to public, does not make it a public place

    In the UK. If you take photographs in a private place against the wishes of the owner, you are probably committing a trespass , this a civil not a criminal matter, it may involve security guards and while they have the power to ask you to stop taking photographs or to leave, they cannot confiscated to touch your camera.
    If you were to use photographs taken on private property for commercial purposes ,with out permission, you may be sued for damages

    Post edited by sevencrossing on
  • donaldejosedonaldejose Posts: 3,378Member
    Cops. I find that as soon as they realize I do not "have an attitude" or act in any way to "challenge" their authority, they back off their aggressiveness and act more polite. Your first initial response to them in words and expressions can make a big difference. Now if I pulled out my "photographer's rights card" and started to insist upon my rights, they will see that as an attitude or a challenge to their authority. So respond to them politely and you will get a better response from them.
Sign In or Register to comment.