I’ll never forget the day I was at a public festival photographing my good friend and jewelry designer interacting with a new client. After a few snaps, a random patron starts yelling behind my business partner and me, “You can’t photograph her face! You have to pay her to photograph her face!” She was referring to the new client who, in that instance, smiled and stated that she didn’t mind. The patron continued on while my friend, my business partner, and I tried to inform her of the correct instances in which she would be right.

In case you ever find yourself in a similar situation, here’s some guidelines to help you insure you are in the green compiled by Bert P. Krages II, Attorney at Law .

*The general rule in the United States is that anyone may take photographs of whatever they want when they are in a public place or places (streets, sidewalks, and public parks) where they have permission to take photographs.

*Members of the public have a very limited scope of privacy rights when they are in public places. Basically, anyone can be photographed without their consent except when they have secluded themselves in places where they have a reasonable expectation of privacy such as dressing rooms, restrooms, medical facilities, and inside their homes.

*Property owners may legally prohibit photography on their premises but have no right to prohibit others from photographing their property from other locations. When a property owner tells you not to take photographs while on the premises, you are legally obligated to honor the request.

*Despite popular belief, the following subjects can almost always be photographed lawfully from public places: accident and fire scenes, children, celebrities, bridges and other infrastructure, criminal activities, and law enforcement officers.

*Military installations can prohibit photographs of specific areas when they deem it necessary to protect national security.

*Security is rarely a legitimate reason for restricting photography on private property. Taking a photograph is not a terrorist act nor can a business legitimately assert that taking a photograph of a subject in public view infringes on its trade secrets.

*You are under no obligation to explain the purpose of your photography nor do you have to disclose your identity except in states that require it upon request by a law enforcement officer. The specific elements vary among the states but in general it is unlawful for anyone to instill a fear that they may injure you, damage or take your property, or falsely accuse you of a crime just because you are taking photographs.

*Absent a court order, private parties have no right to confiscate your camera or memory card/film. Taking your equipment directly or indirectly by threatening to use force or call a law enforcement agency can constitute criminal offenses such as theft and coercion.

*Most confrontations can be defused by being courteous and respectful. If the party becomes pushy, combative, or unreasonably hostile, consider calling the police. Above all, use good judgment and don’t allow an event to escalate into violence.

From the article The Photographer’s Rights: Your Rights and Remedies When Stopped or Confronted for Photography”
Disclaimer: This is a general education blog about the right to photograph in public. This is not intended to be legal advice.

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