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What are My Rights as a Photographer?

Posted by Jacob Hawthorne on

All of us like to have artistic freedom, but as a photographer, you may not always find yourself on the right side of the law. For instance, what if you take a picture of a person in public? Or a historical landmark? Do you have the right to publish it? Can you get sued? And are you allowed to take pictures of anything at any time?

If these are some questions that are swirling around in your head, here are some answers you may find helpful.

The Photographer’s Rights

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, there are five major guidelines photographers should be aware of. These are as follows.

• A photographer can take a picture of anything in plain view when they are in a public space.

• If the photographer is on private property, they may have to adhere to the rules of the property owner.

• Police may not demand to see or confiscate your photos without a warrant.

• Police may not delete video or photos under any circumstances.

• Police may order photographers to stop taking photos if it is interfering with law enforcement operations.

However, there are exceptions to these rules. For example, you may be prohibited from taking photos at military installations and nuclear facilities.

You are also permitted to photograph any of the following:

• Children

• Accidents

• Celebrities

• Criminal activities

• Public utilities

• Transportation facilities

• Industrial facilities

• Residential and public buildings

• Bridges

If you are restricted from taking pictures of private property while on the grounds, you may still take pictures of the property from a public location.

Do I Need a Release?

Although you can take pictures of people freely, you may not be able to publish them unless you have a release. However, a release will only be necessary if the person in the picture is recognizable and if it will be used for commercial purposes.

Releases can be obtained from the ASMP and will need to be signed by someone who is 18 years or older. If the subject is a minor, their parents will have to sign the release.

You may need a release form if you’re publishing a picture of property as well. Once again, a release will only be necessary if the property is recognizable in the photo and if it’s being used for commercial purposes.

Editorial and Expressive Work

Some photos can be used and distributed without a release form. These include editorial images or images that “illustrate and reflect the issues, themes and events of our world today”.

Editorial images may be used in a newspaper, magazine, book, website or film or sold as fine art prints without a release. However, these photos can not be used for commercial purposes such as advertisements, commercials and product packaging.

Releases may be necessary for photos that illustrate controversial or sensitive subject matter. You may also need a release if you’re a photographing a person in a way that suggests they may be advocating or sponsoring a product or service.

Photographers want to enjoy artistic freedom, but breaking the law is another matter. This article provides guidelines on what you should and should not be taking photos of and lets you know when a release is necessary. Hopefully, this information keeps you safe the next time you are out shooting.

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