Archive for July, 2008
Organizations in DC and the UK are trying to clarify the rights of photographers (pro and amateur) in public places.
An appropriate license plate.
This guy used his iPhone to take a photo of a sheriff’s deputy on the side of the road at a traffic stop, and the cop arrested him for “unlawful photography.”
A good post at [EV +/-] Exposure Compensation on When photography becomes a business … The upshot is that when you start trying to make a living doing what you love, you compromise your art and start to lose your passion for photography.
A couple of quibbles.
Miguel says that when most photographers start trying to make a living at photography, “the initial driver is a personal passion for art, an internal need to express themselves with their photography.” Well, maybe. More likely they have a desire to make a living at something they love to do. Isn’t that what the What Color is your Parachute types tell us? Figure out what you like to do and figure out how to make money doing it.
What’s difficult about earning a living as a photographer is being allowed to grow. It’s frustrating to produce, as Miguel puts it, “a commodity.” Your job as a photographer is to try and make it more than that. If you learn new stuff, constantly try to make your work fun, there will be people who will want to pay you for that fun part.
There’ll be those that don’t, as well. But photography is like any other job: there’s the cool parts and the boring parts. You can be a photographer and have fun some of the time, or you can be a truck driver. Of course, you can be a truck driver who carries a camera, which sounds like a photography assignment to me…
The problem with working a job and keeping photography as your hobby is that your job is supporting your passion. As bad as it is to have to make boring photos (handshake photos, anyone? copywork?), it might be worse to do something else all day and then need to pick up a camera in your free time. At least as a working photographer, you have a camera and an opportunity all the time, you’re not sitting behind a desk unless you want to be. Somehow, doing cool photos in the afternoon (or even a cool personal bit of art shot between setups of a commercial shoot) makes up for the boring ones you had to do earlier that day. And you always have an opportunity to offer something extra special and personal to the client. If they bite, there’s validation for your personal vision.
There’s an interesting and useful post at Photojojo that pretty much synopsizes the rules regarding photography in public places. One thing it doesn’t mention is that while you have the right to photograph, you may not have the right to use the photo. It all depends on the use. Art? OK. Editorial? Probably OK. Commercial? You need a release to publish.
But the most important thing to remember is the Hassle Factor. You are within your rights, but some security guy comes out and starts giving you a bunch of guff. (This has happened to me, I was on an assignment photographing a hospital exterior in the evening, I was across the street from the hospital on a sidewalk, with the camera on a tripod, and security people came across the street to harass me.) Now, you can argue you have the right to photograph there (in my situation, the hospital was aware of the assignment!), but when they threaten to call the cops, you have to ask yourself: do I want to spend the evening down at the station? Even if I get the photo, even if I’m within my rights, do I want to tick off everyone in the world and spend an hour or two discussing my rights with the police?
The blunt fact is: it doesn’t matter. If you have the time and inclination to support your rights, you can, but it doesn’t matter how much you complain, no one is going to get reprimanded for taking a call from a concerned citizen and escorting you downtown. The authorities unfortunately have every right to hinder you in your job, as long as they don’t threaten to arrest you or take your gear. They can question you until you call your lawyer.
Since 9/11 there’s been all kinds of paranoia about photography in public places, and you can drive by power plants with big signs that say “no photography.” Who enforces that? I mean, terrorists can’t get what they need from Google Earth? Do these people really have a clue who they need to be afraid of?
Something from a few months back: