Photographers’ Have Rights Ya Know
Posted on 20 January 2010
I have no idea how I stumbled across this little gem, but several years ago I found a PDF document created by a Portland, Oregon attorney which he calls “A Photographer’s Right.” The attorney’s name is Bert P. Krages II, and this is the link to his site where you can download his PDF.
As many of you know, photographers, especially photographers who own and carry a tripod, strongly resemble a terrorist threat. Actually, I have no real idea why so many people think it’s a good idea to hassle photographers, but I know it happens all the time. I know that well-meaning law enforcement officials, security guards, and others, frequently interrupt photo shoots which they have no legal right to interrupt. Now, I don’t intend to open that can of worms here with long-winded discussions of what’s actually the law and who has what rights, but I do have a bit of advice on how I approach the subject (even though I’m not an attorney).
A little ‘off track,’ but worth 6 minutes
I love a good, sarcastic jab at deserving folks and Stephen Colbert had me laughing out loud when he reported on a guy who was harrassed because he was photographing trains. You’ve got to take 6 minutes and watch this right now! Then come back and read the rest of this post.
Three Things Will Help In Most Situations
1) When possible, obtain a shooting permit in advance. As you’ll find, most of the time a permit isn’t necessary. Shooting photos of buildings from a public sidewalk, in most circumstances, is perfectly legal (though there are exceptions like military installations, etc.), but it’s still a good idea to do what you can to see if you can get written permission from the city, building owners, etc.
2) Study the PDF provided by Mr. Krages and, if possible, consult your own attorney. The more you know, the better off you’ll be.
3) Be nice. When you’re confronted (notice I didn’t say “if”) just be as nice as possible to the security guy or the law enforcement official on the scene. Yelling about your rights & becoming beligerant is pointless – even if you ARE right – because it will very likely ruin your day when you’re taken to the pokey. And when everything shakes out and everybody discovers you were right after all, you’ve already got a cell mate/pen pal you just spent hours with in the county facilities for half a day. And think about what might happen to all your precious gear while you’re cooling your heels behind bars while the local lieutenant does a bit of legal research to discover just how right you were after all.
I printed a copy of Mr Krages’ PDF and laminated it and I carry it in my camera bag. It may turn out to be unneeded most of the time, and worthless in some circumstances, but you might just find it helpful if you find yourself having a pleasant, calm discussion with a deputy who was called to ask you to leave.