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Author Topic: How to not get beat up when photographing public places?  (Read 28562 times)

Midphase

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How to not get beat up when photographing public places?
« on: March 17, 2013, 05:52:52 PM »
I'm not being facetious, but more than once now when taking out my camera in public places I've gotten threats from passers by and general dirty looks.

Just recently, here in Los Angeles a guy who was just walking by my shot (not the actual subject of it) threatened to beat the crap out of me if I was taking his picture. On another occasion in Texas, while taking some photos of an abandoned house, I was approached by two guys who started giving me a hard time.

Keep in mind than in most instances I'm not pointing my camera toward a complete stranger to grab a close up or anything of the sort, just pointing the camera in general directions without focusing on any one person in particular. Nor am I shooting in bad parts of town.

Any advice on how to diffuse a potentially dangerous situation? How do you guys handle a hostile person who threatens you if they suspect that you've just snapped a photo with them somewhere in it?

Do you try to conceal your cameras (kinda hard to do with a large body like the 5D)?

I'm all ears about both advice and any stories you're all willing to share as to a similar situation which happened to you.

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How to not get beat up when photographing public places?
« on: March 17, 2013, 05:52:52 PM »

Mt Spokane Photography

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Re: How to not get beat up when photographing public places?
« Reply #1 on: March 17, 2013, 06:09:08 PM »
Don't take photos of people in public unless you get signed permission.  Many people are concerned about their photos showing up on the internet, and its a valid concern.   If there are children with them, you could end up in trouble.



 In some countries, you will end up in jail by photographing people without permission.




Claiming that you were not actually photographing anyone, is not going to be believable, if a person sees a camera pointed their way or toward their children.



As more and more so called street photographers take photos of people and children without their permission and post them on the internet, we will move closer and closer to totally restricting the use of cameras in public places.



[\soapbox]

RS2021

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Re: How to not get beat up when photographing public places?
« Reply #2 on: March 17, 2013, 06:21:05 PM »
LOL...concealing the camera will make them even more mad if they are the confrontational type. So don't do that.

In some ways the size of the camera matters I think.

I have griped here on the "obviousness" of some lenses and bodies...while I own a one series body and have since 1DsII, for street work or even events I prefer smaller bodies and inconspicous lenses.

Other than bodily threats like those you describe, there is such a thing as being in someone's face even if they are cooperative.

Smaller the foot print, the better. And even the 5D's or rebels really don't meet that criteria in the strictest sense.

A Coolpix was gifted to me and I find it is less troublesome than the 5D3, but really don't use it much. Its like a cheap toy. The 1Dx on the street is really asking for attention, and certainly an overkill.

I came close to ordering the RX1 couple of weeks ago... yes, shocking I know... but the moment passed. But I can't say I am completely cured.
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Midphase

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Re: How to not get beat up when photographing public places?
« Reply #3 on: March 17, 2013, 06:28:30 PM »
Don't take photos of people in public unless you get signed permission.  Many people are concerned about their photos showing up on the internet, and its a valid concern.   If there are children with them, you could end up in trouble.


Hmmm...ok....not sure where you got that information. At least in the USA, taking photos of public places, even if they include people in it is absolutely legal and does not require any special permission or a signed release form.

http://photorights.org/faq/is-it-legal-to-take-photos-of-people-without-asking

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photography_and_the_law

http://content.photojojo.com/tips/legal-rights-of-photographers/

Anyway...back to the topic at hand, any advice on how to get someone off your back if they are overly sensitive?

JoeDavid

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Re: How to not get beat up when photographing public places?
« Reply #4 on: March 17, 2013, 07:57:59 PM »
I've had the police called on me before as a "stalker" even though I was just photographing the exterior of a church  in a downtown area on a Saturday.  The police were pretty amused when they arrived but I wasn't. 

My advice is to pick up a fellow photographer when you go out to shoot.  It is weird but apparently two people with cameras is fine but one is suspicious these days...

Murdy

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Re: How to not get beat up when photographing public places?
« Reply #5 on: March 17, 2013, 07:58:52 PM »
Don't take photos of people in public unless you get signed permission.  Many people are concerned about their photos showing up on the internet, and its a valid concern.   If there are children with them, you could end up in trouble.


Lol - are all your posts this ill-informed?


Nitroman

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Re: How to not get beat up when photographing public places?
« Reply #6 on: March 17, 2013, 08:00:51 PM »
I often have to shoot in public places and understand your concerns. It's frustrating but as sad sign of our times ...

I was in the Californian desert near Twentynine Palms (Joshua Tree NP) taking this pic and i got hassled by some douche. Was just minding my own business and got verbal abuse.

I also work a lot in towns and cities shooting tourism imagery in UK and i find the more professional you look, the less hassle you get off the public. However, the more pro you look the more likely security are to hassle you. It's a double edged sword.

You could try wearing one of those luminous yellow waist coats so you look official. Everyone assumes you're doing a job, especially if your equipment looks pro and you use a tripod.

Not much else to suggest myself i'm afraid ... Just smile and be friendly.
« Last Edit: March 17, 2013, 08:08:23 PM by Nitroman »

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Re: How to not get beat up when photographing public places?
« Reply #6 on: March 17, 2013, 08:00:51 PM »

risc32

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Re: How to not get beat up when photographing public places?
« Reply #7 on: March 17, 2013, 08:09:21 PM »
Don't take photos of people in public unless you get signed permission.  Many people are concerned about their photos showing up on the internet, and its a valid concern.   If there are children with them, you could end up in trouble.


Lol - are all your posts this ill-informed?

Well, i can't speak for mt spokane, but he might not be talking legal action. I'm sure there are many people out there that won't hesitate to lay their hands on you if they feel you are up to no good. That goes 10x when their kids are involved.

RS2021

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Re: How to not get beat up when photographing public places?
« Reply #8 on: March 17, 2013, 08:17:08 PM »
My advice is to pick up a fellow photographer when you go out to shoot.  It is weird but apparently two people with cameras is fine but one is suspicious these days...

Truthfully, one or two photographers wouldn't help if the person is not happy with being photographed... and they are entitled to refusing.

Best policy is to stay in a spot and ask politely or gesture if they mind if you took a picture...expect a vast majority to say no or not even answer or turn their back.

This is why most of today's "street" photography has moved into exhotic places where the poor locals are not going to know what happens to these pics and who may be looking at them in pity or with scorn or indifference. Sad in some ways, that they don't get to choose as we do or may not have all the information, but that is the sign of our times.

In the US, particularly in big cities, people are less sensitive if you keep your distance. 135L comes in handy.

In smaller, mid size cities, small towns, or suburbs you should fully expect to be challanged if you don't ask for their permission.
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CharlieB

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Re: How to not get beat up when photographing public places?
« Reply #9 on: March 17, 2013, 08:19:28 PM »
Don't take photos of people in public unless you get signed permission.  Many people are concerned about their photos showing up on the internet, and its a valid concern.   If there are children with them, you could end up in trouble.  In some countries, you will end up in jail by photographing people without permission.  Claiming that you were not actually photographing anyone, is not going to be believable, if a person sees a camera pointed their way or toward their children. As more and more so called street photographers take photos of people and children without their permission and post them on the internet, we will move closer and closer to totally restricting the use of cameras in public places.[\soapbox]

Totally untrue - except for the "in some countries" part.  I'm sure there are some countries that prohibit such activity.  Countries like North Korea and Iran for instance.  Here in the USA, if its seen from a public place, its ok to shoot.  There is no expectation of privacy, whatsoever, in public.  The only "caution" is what is, and what is not, public.  For instance, a public park, is public.  A theme park, is not public - its private, with paid admission.  I got ejected from the Palm Beach County Fair one year for taking pictures.  That is, the Fairgrounds is public, but the event is private, held by private company that rents the public Fairgrounds for their private event!  And so it said, on the back of my ticket stub, in fine print "... no commercial photography..." amid the rest of the clutter in about 2pt type.  The cops said because I was shooting with medium format equipment, I was considered a commercial photographer.  I didn't push the issue... left quietly, as I was pretty much done for the evening anyway.

RS2021

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Re: How to not get beat up when photographing public places?
« Reply #10 on: March 17, 2013, 08:23:04 PM »
Again, a small foot print helps...

People seem to be more accomodating of iPhones rather than big zooms pointed directly at them.
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SiliconVoid

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Re: How to not get beat up when photographing public places?
« Reply #11 on: March 17, 2013, 08:33:04 PM »
I know it sounds like social interaction 101, but:
Smile, wave, gesture to the camera, say hello, ask how the person is doing, depending on the subject or scene perhaps even ask in advance.

I have found the least objectionable approach is to make sure you do not project yourself on the street in an act of 'surveillance', you should instead look for a place to sit for a little bit, at least stop, engage someone while you continue to observe what is going on around you.

(You will still encounter those who maybe do not like the way they look, do not want someone to know they were where ever it was you saw them, etc.. nothing you can do with that.)
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unfocused

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Re: How to not get beat up when photographing public places?
« Reply #12 on: March 17, 2013, 08:48:40 PM »
I can't seem to put my fingers on it right now, but I recall a story by a photographer who took part in a workshop with Gary Winogrand, one of the greatest street photographers of all time.

Basically, if I recall, whenever a subject noticed Winogrand (which was hard not to have happen as he was not a small guy) he made a point of smiling at his subjects. The effect was disarming and he was obviously very successful in capturing the poetry of the street. Cartier Bresson took somewhat the opposite approach, sizing up the situation carefully, figuring out what he wanted to shoot then quickly moving the camera to has eye and getting the shot. He was small and tried to be as unobtrusive as possible.

Occasionally, we are all going to run into the goofball who takes it upon himself to lecture or harass you. If it's just an individual, just walk away, maybe with a "sorry, didn't mean any harm." If it's a police officer (and you are in the U.S., Canada or Europe) just tell them you are a hobbyist taking pictures. Be polite, but don't feel you have to surrender your ground or your equipment. You aren't doing anything wrong.

Streets are public places. There is no need to ask permission. There is no "right" to privacy in a public place. It gets a little dicier on private property. Most shopping malls, etc., won't let you photograph on their property. I've even seen security guards run off news teams from television stations. It's kind of a grey area, since they are inviting the public in and once you invite the public in, there is a case that can be made that the property is no longer private. Again, just apologize and move on.
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Re: How to not get beat up when photographing public places?
« Reply #12 on: March 17, 2013, 08:48:40 PM »

jdramirez

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Re: How to not get beat up when photographing public places?
« Reply #13 on: March 17, 2013, 09:01:04 PM »
Be bigger and badder than everyone else.  hit the gym & be prepared to hit harder than the next guy if it comes down to that.
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RS2021

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Re: How to not get beat up when photographing public places?
« Reply #14 on: March 17, 2013, 09:04:41 PM »
Be bigger and badder than everyone else.  hit the gym & be prepared to hit harder than the next guy if it comes down to that.

HAHA! Completely unfair but totally practical.
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Re: How to not get beat up when photographing public places?
« Reply #14 on: March 17, 2013, 09:04:41 PM »