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photo op Mar 19, 2009 5:58 PM

Hi everyone, I have a question concerning where I can take pictures. Am I allowed to take pictures from the sidewalk? Do I need to ask permission first?

What about sports arenas? can I take a quick picture of them before I go inside?

Is there a website where I can find out what I can and can't take pictures of?

StevieDgpt Mar 19, 2009 11:18 PM

photo op wrote:

Hi everyone, I have a question concerning where I can take pictures. Am I allowed to take pictures from the sidewalk? Do I need to ask permission first?

What about sports arenas? can I take a quick picture of them before I go inside?

Is there a website where I can find out what I can and can't take pictures of?
Yes, no, maybe.

There are no single set of rules to cover all conduct.

For example, photographsallowed in the USA may be legally forbidden or morally unacceptable in another country.

Within the USA, there are specific rules for each type of venue adopted by that specific venue. Sporting Arena, theaters, concerts etcmay allow general photography without any limits or may prohibit specific types of photography.

Personal usage versus professional gain is the general defining point, but some venues are stupider than others.

Zoos area good example. Don't remember the specific zoo, but in order to take photographs within the Zoo property as a "professional" photographeryou had to pay for an annual membership fee(it was like 2x the single visit rate which was still a fair deal for a frequent visitor) to bring in a camera bag and had tofollow their rules... such as tripods could not block the flow of people and any photography of children was prohibited without parental consent unless the photograph did not feature the child or the child could not be readily recognized (such as standing with their back to the camera) from the photograph.

Another Zoo had a specific tripod fee and permit card which had to hang from your tripod. Big bucks, like 10 times the regular visitor fees, to bring in a tripod.

And I do remember a zoo which had a permit process plus an annual feeto acquire permission to photograph the animals for publication, but all other photographs were allowed with a couple minor exceptions (no flash in the monkey building or cages with glass barriers)

That said,I never paid to take my camera into any ofthese zoos and never had any problems. My gear was a simple 35mm slrplus usually 2 lensesand an hobby flash unit in a camera bag the size of a big loaf of bread. Not extactly the normal "pro" gear. I followed the "pro" rules published at the gate and shot all the photos of Lions and Tigers that I wanted.

Photography from a public access point (such as a public sidewalk) is always allowed, but there are rules and limitations. Public figures (good guess as too whom a public figure might be) are fair game... from public access. Other people are allowed, unless they object. You will get aget a lot shots byasking first. And there are good ways and bad ways of asking. Achieving eye contact and simple hand motions can be an effective way to ask permission. Snapping pictures of people without permission is a good way to get a beating in a dark alley.

From a public access point any building or inanimate object is fair game... from anypublicpoint. Key issue= Public point.However,once you are inside private property, the ownerdetermines what is allowed and what is not. And some business canget anal.

Military Bases. There are public access days, when photos are allowed of just about anything. And then there are days (364 days out of the year) when photography of any kind might get you 90 days in a dark and dingy place with your gear siezed and photographs erased. Yet, if you ask, you can be pleasantly surprised.

Hospitals. Due to privacy issues, make sure you ASK. About 99% of the time you will be told no. However, there are exceptions.Some new born nursersies will have a special viewing window to allow photos of asingle baby. Or photography might be allowed in a patients room. Or might not be allowed.

Schools. Almost as bad as Hospitals. Usually it is a mommy worried you are a perv taking pictures of her children (wearing a parka, ski maskandmittens no less)which will get the fire breathing photography restrictions ramped up.

Coax Mar 19, 2009 11:19 PM

This subject can go down many dark trails but the general answer is yes, if you are on public property (i.e. public side walks,parks,streets etc.) you can snap away at trees, mountains,dogs and such but n these post 9-11 days, taking pictures of private property bldgs,anywhere near military installations,and some city and gov. sites can get you some unwanted attention. that you don't need. I was taking a picture of a local bridge in my town and it didn't take 20 mins. before I had a policeman asking why I was there. I didn't have any problems from him, but they are watching, so is the General careful where you aim that thing......:mad:

Greg Chappell Mar 19, 2009 11:30 PM

photo op wrote:

Hi everyone, I have a question concerning where I can take pictures. Am I allowed to take pictures from the sidewalk? Do I need to ask permission first?

What about sports arenas? can I take a quick picture of them before I go inside?

Is there a website where I can find out what I can and can't take pictures of?
There is no tried and true answer to your question that can be applied to all sidewalks/stadiums/anywhere.

When it comes to going to events in arenas and stadiums, you have to check. I can take my entire bag into the local major league baseball stadium, but the NFL team won't let anyone in with a DSLR unless they are authorized photogs for the media, and I can take my DSLR into the local NHL stadium, but not with a large zoom. I can use my kit tele zoom, but the big f2.8 zoom would get turned away.

When it comes to shooting downtown, some buildings won't let you shoot on their propertywhile others don't care. I was able to shoot without flash to my hearts' content at the Louvre and/or practically anywhere elsein Paris other than the Sacre Coeur, but the dinky littlemuseum of arthere in Dallas won't even let you carry a camera with a cap'd have to check it with security or you can't go in.

If you are going somewhere and you wonder whether or not photography is going to be allowed, you need to be proactive and ask. There's nowhere you can go online that's going to give you all the answers.

peripatetic Mar 20, 2009 3:41 AM

There are quite a few websites with legal advice...

VTphotog Mar 20, 2009 3:48 AM

Rules in the U.S. arealmost certainly different from those in Commonwealth countries, and other parts of the world can be radically different. In the U.S. and Canada, the trend has always been libertarian. There are stories of confiscated equipment, and general harassment, but they seem to be relatively few, and most of these could have been easily resolved with a little forethought.

If you ask first, you may find that the person you ask really doesn't know either, but a lot of people will deny permission just on the principle that saying 'no' is easier to justify. So, don't ask. If some authoritarian type security person or cop then begins to harass you, you can then honestly say that you didn't know the rules. Offer to delete the offending pictures, or failing that, offer to give him the memory card from your camera. (this may require practicing a bit of sleight of hand, and a small capacity, cheap card- :evil:) Be positive, don't give them a hard time. My wife once walked through an airport security check with a commando knife in her purse. When it showed up on Xray, she went into her "baffle them with BS" routine, and left the security guard on duty watching her purse for her while she saw off the relative who was leaving.


Photo 5 Mar 20, 2009 10:13 AM

Schools -- always ask the main office if you need to take pictures inside a school. Usually if your press with a real press badge and have a story to cover no big deal, but otheriwse its as bad as a hospital and the military base combined. The exception is sporting events where you should be allowed to take pictures with your camera

Fires-Rescues -- Never ask anyone in charge if you because they will tell you no. no matter what. But, if your there stay back out of the way behind the yellow tape or parked fire trucks and take whatever you like and you usually can get away with it depending on what is going on. Sometimes if their is a dead person,body lied out etc they will ask you to leave, but most of the time they will give you a funny look and move on. Never!!!! get in the way. As soon as you get in the way or cross the yellow tape you will be escoted away by police. Keep your distance is the best policy and then zoom in (use a 200 - 300mm range lens on the long end).

Airports: Some airports allow you to take pictures inside and we have all seen pictures of the neon colored walkway at Chicago's airport etc. and some will not. In Atlanta I have been able to photograph out the window looking at the runway, taxiway etc without any issues while waiting for a dealyed flight. But at Dullues TSA was asking people left and right to pack up their camera (even little point and shoot things).


billy Mar 20, 2009 10:59 AM

I'm not sure about Canada, but in the US you sure can.

"The general rule in the United States is that anyone may take photographs of whatever they want then they are in a public place or places where they have permission to take photographs. Absent a specific legal prohibition such as a statute or ordinance, you are legally entitled to take photographs. Examples of places that are traditionally considered public are streets, sidewalks, and public parks"

The above was taken from a downloadable guide form this website:

There is a .pdf you can download to print it out.

I personally have this printed out and carry it in my camera bag while out taking our sample photos. I've never been approached though.

photo op Mar 20, 2009 11:11 AM

Stevie, believe it or not I am still wearing mittens and a parka, I hope it warms up soon.

photo op Mar 20, 2009 11:16 AM

Thanks for the replies everyone. I just have a Nikon Coolpix L18 camera. I got it for Christmas and I really enjoy using it.

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