Know Your Rights Photographers

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Taking photographs of things that are plainly visible from public spaces is a constitutional right – and that includes federal buildings, transportation facilities, and police and other government officials carrying out their duties. Unfortunately, there is a widespread, continuing pattern of law enforcement officers ordering people to stop taking photographs from public places, and harassing, detaining and arresting those who fail to comply. Learn your rights here >>

via @pollerphoto

There Are 5 Comments On This Article.

  1. Related to ACLU and rights and photography: Antonio Musumeci, a software engineer, was arrested for taking photographs outside the federal courthouse in Manhattan in 2009. He won his lawsuit against a division of Homeland Security last year (DHS paid all legal costs plus $3350 to Antonio) and as a result of the case the judge also signed a settlement to issue a bulletin: un-classifying previous directives concerning the rights of photographers to photograph federal infrastructure. That can now be found on the NY Times site here:

    in part : “officers should not seize the camera or its contents, and must be cautious not to give such ‘orders’ to a photographer to erase the contents of a camera.”

  2. thank you for this very important news- it is stunning to me how people are forgetting the freedom of speech and documenting our world in these times. passing it along –

  3. I don’t come across this much in portraits, but I was at a Federal Building a month-ish ago shooting some wedding portraits (it’s in Tacoma, WA… the building has some amazing Chihuly glass) and the guard who checked my ID at one point came over and said, “those guys over there don’t really like getting their picture taken” pointing toward a court office. And I think he was surprised when I said, “so?” I definitely didn’t want those old paunches in the wedding pictures, but still… I don’t need to WORRY about them…their feelings? Idk. They were all pretty uptight in there.

  4. I was at the farmers market shooting some tourists and others. After about a half hour I was approach by a security officer and asked what I was shooting. I am a nice guy and don’t get to rattled by this because I know these guys don’t really have a clue to the laws governing the rights to photograph.

    I answered a couple of questions and noted that if I didn’t leave anyway I would be late getting to an APA event and departed. I really didn’t have the time to argue with the individual. The one thing he stated is that ” ‘He’ wasn’t comfortable with me taking photographs of people. ” It doesn’t matter what he feels. IF he stops me he has to stop every other person with a camera. I wasn’t violating any rules for the facility. If I also remember correctly I was on a public area even though it is on private property. It is used by vehicles and people to access stores etc. If it was a sidewalk only then it would be a different matter and I would have to comply with the instructions. Then again I could be wrong too.

    It is important to know your rights and to date I have never been stopped by law enforcement. Even when I have been in the middle of a street.

  5. Early in my career I was once touring a new courthouse in Jefferson County, Colorado. I’m an architectural photographer and this structure had been designed by an architect I wanted to work with. I thought if I got a good shot or two I might be able to get past his gatekeepers and “show my stuff.” It was a Saturday and I was wandering around the grounds here and there looking for cool angles and views. A security guard came out to ask what I was doing, armed of course. I told him and he ran me off the property.

    The next week I contacted the city manager and explained what had happened. He apologized profusely and took the private security firm to task. He also went on to offer me specially authorized access to the structure to get my pictures.

    You have to remember that the security guards on the site are the ground-pounders. They have no authority beyond telling you to leave, on private property they have no authority beyond calling the police unless you’re being a jerk, then they can legally “detain” you.

    The most effective way to get what you want – photographs – without causing problems for yourself is to be polite and professional. If asked to leave, unless you can’t come back it’s best to leave and take the matter up with the decision-making authorities. The “ground-pounders” are only authorized to say “no.” Knowing your rights and standing up for them is critical and a responsibility of each member of our society, but arguing your rights with them is a sure way to discover just how much trouble they can cause for you when no one is watching.

    Unless it’s a critical situation don’t fight them. Smile, wave and walk away, then call the real authorities, one of which is the ACLU.