Photography: When to shoot and not to shoot (part 1 of 2 parts)-A A +A
By Art Tibaldo
Monday, March 11, 2013
NOWADAYS, it’s no longer “get a camera, will photo shoot” but “It’s fun to take photos anytime and anywhere”. With the noticeable increase of camera toting people and mobile phone snapping individuals, I’d like to take a break from my usual consumer tips and delve a bit into what many of us are into…taking pictures and its limitations if there are any.
The medium used for taking pictures has become too democratized that almost all mobile phones, portable computers and gismos called tablets has a ready camera attached or integrated to it that can freeze a moment in vivid colors. It can also be viewed right away and you can delete the undesired ones. One can readily upload the images instantly to a social network if the unit is online. The question now lies whether there are set rules to follow or there are guidelines to observe so as not to put a camera clicker in any form of predicament.
Accordingly, the general rule in the United States implies that anyone may take photographs of whatever they want when they are in a public place or places where they have permission to take pictures. Property owners may rightfully ban picture taking on their premises but cannot prohibit people from photographing their property from outside the perimeters.
But, in other places such as ours, there are exceptions to such rule when facilities such as military barracks, museums and art galleries are prevented from being photographed for reasons of national security, protection from forgery and others such as sensitivity to extreme light that may be caused by the camera’s electronic flash.
A published study entitled “Your Rights and Remedies When Stopped or Confronted for Photography” by Bert P Krages II basically states that 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.
Krages’ published PDF on Photographer’s Right suggests that subjects such as; accident and fire scenes, children, celebrities, bridges and other infrastructure, residential and commercial buildings, industrial facilities and public utilities, transportation facilities like airports, criminal activities and law enforcement officers can almost always be photographed lawfully from public places.
After the twin bombing of the World Trade Center in New York, security measures were tightened in many developed nations and I remember the blog of Ric Maniquis when he was approached by a law enforcement agent when he was taking a snapshot of his daughter’s workplace in the US. Luckily, Ric was able to present a business card of his daughter which the agent verified by calling the stated number.
As a practicing photojournalist, I have learned of instances wherein cameras were forcibly opened and films exposed by security men of highly influential people caught in a very revealing situation. In rare cases, Journalists sometimes agree to certain conditions like no shooting of faces especially if the subject is on the watch list of the government or persons belonging to the underground movement. During the Cordillera People's Democratic Front Congress in Sagada years ago, we were banned from using telephoto lenses on the New People’s Army cadres who were in formation listening to NDF negotiators Antonio Zumel and Louie Jalandoni. Such was a situation that we have to abide in order not to be in trouble.
In many instances too, security agents acting in behalf of property owners, industrial plants and shopping malls may ask a camera clicking guest or shopper to hand over their films once a photo was taken. Without a court order, private parties have no right to confiscate a person’s film. The Legal Handbook for Photographers according to Krages states that taking someone’s film directly or indirectly by threatening to use force or call a law enforcement agency can constitute criminal offenses such as theft and coercion. It can likewise constitute a civil tort such as conversion. Law enforcement officers may have the authority to seize film when making an arrest but otherwise must obtain a court order.
In the article “If You Can See It You Can Shoot It” by www.lifehacker.com, your right to take photographs and video in public places in the United States is protected under the First Amendment under free speech. This includes snapping pictures of your favorite monument when you're on vacation or taking part in a little citizen journalism. It's not as cut and dried as you may think and it's good to know your rights and the caveats that come with them.
The author further states that if you're in a public place and you can see it, you can shoot it. This means that as long as you're in a public location you can legally take almost any picture. However, if you're using a telephoto lens, parabolic microphone, or hidden camera to get a shot of a private property when you're standing on public property you might have an issue if someone on that property has an expectation of privacy. Generally if a private property is open to the public like a restaurant, retail store and tourist areas, you are allowed to take photographs and video unless it is expressly posted somewhere on the premise that you can't. In most cases it's okay to assume you're allowed to take pictures and video in a shop that doesn't expressly forbid it. However, if a property owner (or store employee) tells you to stop, you have to stop. More importantly, use good judgment and assess the situation and environment before snapping pictures. To be continued.
Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on March 12, 2013.