PetaPixel

Your Rights as a Photographer in the US

In response to the “widespread, continuing pattern of law enforcement officers ordering people to stop taking photographs or video in public places”, the American Civil Liberties Union has published a helpful article that clearly details what your rights are as a photographer in the United States.

Here are the main points you should know:

  • When in public spaces where you are lawfully present you have the right to photograph anything that is in plain view
  • When you are on private property, the property owner may set rules about the taking of photographs
  • Police officers may not generally confiscate or demand to view your photographs or video without a warrant
  • Police may not delete your photographs or video under any circumstances
  • Police officers may legitimately order citizens to cease activities that are truly interfering with legitimate law enforcement operations
  • Note that the right to photograph does not give you a right to break any other laws

Be sure to read the entire article to make sure you know your constitutional rights.

Know Your Rights: Photographers [ACLU]


P.S. It’s a good idea to print out a copy of your rights to carry around in your camera bag. If you want a durable — and more “official looking” — version of your rights to carry around, check out the Photographers Rights Gray Card Set we carry in our store.


Image credit: Star Spangled Banner (15 Star/15 Stripe Flag) by cliff1066™


 
 
  • Poeticphotopress

    Thank you for that! Yes I was kicked off Marine Corps base camp pendleton for photographing family day …. ??

  • Dwilson

    I wish there was something like for Canada.  I can’t find anything for Canadian rights to photograph…

  • Ryan S

    For Canadian photographers (and anyone interested in the rights of photographers, for that matter), may be interested in the following discussions:

    http://www.flickr.com/groups/ottawa-canada/discuss/72157627362937598/

    http://www.flickr.com/groups/ottawa-canada/discuss/72157627120875137/

    Know that even if police refuse your right to photograph in Canada, the incident will likely not be investigated because it is “not in the public interest”.

  • Csmuncyphoto

    @Poeticphotopress That’s unfortunate- can you elaborate on what happened? Who kicked you out? (security forces/military police, public affairs, etc) Please understand though that even when military bases are opened up to the public, they can in no way be assumed to be a “public space,” and you can be escorted off for any number of reasons. Still, if there was nothing else involved other than you taking photos, something like that should not have happened, and I would talk to the base public affairs officer or family readiness officer. 

  • http://twitter.com/21TonGiant Aaron Stidwell

    Thanks for this! 

  • Ronghere

    Beware of videotaping police in Illinois.  A Robison man could face a sentence of 75 years in prison.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hnBRA3eYnAw

  • Mike R

    What is the definition of a ‘public’ place?  I’ve been told I can’t shoot at open air shopping malls, high school sports events and a plaza in an office complex.  In one place I was told I could not shoot if I had a lens which extended 1″ or more from the camera body.  Such equipment is deemed professional and requires use of a permit.

  • Mike R

    What is the definition of a ‘public’ place?  I’ve been told I can’t shoot at open air shopping malls, high school sports events and a plaza in an office complex.  In one place I was told I could not shoot if I had a lens which extended 1″ or more from the camera body.  Such equipment is deemed professional and requires use of a permit.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve always understood “public place” to mean any place that is legally accessible by the general public and is also public property (such as a city sidewalk, the park, or something in that sense).  This can exclude places like shopping malls and other private property where the owners may set their own photography rules.

  • Aiminator

    I am surprised that you weren’t allowed to photograph a high school sports event since many parents and students take photographs during games – and most that I have seen have long lenses on their cameras (i.e. not a point and shoot). I have seen people restricted from the sidelines because it may interfere with the game/officials but so long as the photographer had a valid press pass (or sports photographer pass i.e. Yearbook photographer, etc) they were allowed access to the field.