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Downtown Lens: Your Right to Photograph

By Dave Bullock
Published: Sunday, August 31, 2008, at 03:11PM

As a photographer you have certain rights that permit you to take photographs in public places. Frequently, security guards and other people will tell you that you can't take a photograph. If you're standing on a sidewalk or in the street, they are wrong.

I have often been accosted by overzealous, uninformed and incorrect rent-a-cops when taking pictures of buildings, bridges, people and other various places and things. They are always ignorant of my actual rights to photograph.

As I mentioned in my previous post about street photography, you have the right to photograph people in public or anywhere they don't have a "reasonable expectation of privacy". That isn't the only right you have. You are also permitted to photograph anything that you can see from public property, like a sidewalk or a city street.

If you are stopped and hassled, keep in mind that you are likely in the right and your accuser is likely in the wrong. Many times security guards will ask to see your ID or demand that you delete the photos from your camera. They have no right to ask you to do either of these things. Feel free to say "No Thank You" and walk away.

If you want a neat printout of your rights to bring with you when you are out shooting, check out attorney Bill Krages' Photographer's Bill of Rights. I keep of copy of this in my camera bag at all times.

There are some notable buildings in Downtown (Library Tower aka the US Bank Building in particular) that have security guards who are rather aggressive in forbidding you to photograph. I have often wanted to bring a large group of people there with cameras and have everyone photograph the building. That would be a fun outing!

Remember that taking photographs is fun and enjoyable. Don't let paranoid, ill-informed people stomp on your rights as a citizen of a free country. If you have been hassled taking a photograph, post it here using our Reader's Photos feature. Most importantly, have fun and happy shooting!

This post is the fifth part in a weekly series entitled Downtown Lens in which I will discuss a photograph and the technique that relates to it.

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