Is Your Photography A Crime?

Since 9/11, security issues have affected everyone’s life. While photographers should be respectful and understanding of those concerns, we also can help to protect our rights by knowing them. But sometimes, even knowing your rights won’t stop you from being hassled.

This happened to one photographer who had parked near an oil refinery to take shots of the smokestacks. He was told by the security guards that he was breaking the law. He knew better, but wisely drove away upon request of a deputy sheriff. I was interviewed for this revealing article on this unfortunate incident.

When taking photos, the first step to determine whether your photography is illegal is to ask whether what you’re doing would be illegal if a camera was not in your hand. Are you trespassing? Are you invading someone’s privacy? Is your behavior causing annoyance, alarm, or inconvenience, especially to another person? Are you blocking access or loitering? If not, then next there are a few other circumstances of concern. Are you taking photos of a copyrighted work? Are you photographing a military institution or in a courtroom? Many government items may not be photographed, such as federal seals, insignia, currency, or stamps. You aren’t allowed to photograph government top secret, confidential or restricted information, either, but few of us have access to it. If you aren’t committing any of these crimes, your photography likely is legal.

Although it is difficult to address every scenario specifically, Bert Krages has written a fantastic book on this subject, called the “Legal Handbook for Photographers.” Get it, read it, and study it. Unfortunately, being hassled for exercising your rights is all a part of being a photographer today.

Take my advice; get professional help.

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