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Author Topic: How to not get beat up when photographing public places?  (Read 29897 times)

Chuck Alaimo

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Re: How to not get beat up when photographing public places?
« Reply #15 on: March 17, 2013, 09:06:32 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?

this is true.  And even in the case of children, no model release is necessary unless the shot is to be used for advertising.
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Re: How to not get beat up when photographing public places?
« Reply #15 on: March 17, 2013, 09:06:32 PM »

distant.star

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Re: How to not get beat up when photographing public places?
« Reply #16 on: March 17, 2013, 09:19:49 PM »
.
If you read the Christian Bible, you'll see that any time an angel appears to a human, the first thing they say is "Fear not."

That's important advice for anyone taking pictures in public. And I especially counsel that you do not heed the words of posters here who are ill-informed, don't seem to understand the concept of a free society and apparently live their lives in fear. The only time you would need a release for someone you've photographed in a public place is if the image will be used for commercial purposes.

Your question is vague so I'm not sure what the answer is for you. To say you're "...just pointing the camera in general directions without focusing on any one person in particular" is a bit suspect in itself. A camera requires focus, and I don't know anyone who takes pictures randomly without some point of focus. If that's all you're doing, get a pinhole camera -- nobody will even know what it is.

I do a lot of photography in public places, and I have general guidelines I follow. You'll find accomplished street photographers will all tell you generally the same thing.

1. Fear not. If you look tentative, it triggers apprehension in other people. The merely assertive may ask what you're doing. The aggressive and/or angry types may threaten you or at least try to intimidate you. If you're out there to take pictures, look like you know what you're doing and go about it in a businesslike manner. Don't look like you're afraid or like you're doing something you're not supposed to be doing.

2. Dress appropriately. If you're dressed in some extreme fashion, it calls attention to yourself for reasons that may make the camera suspicious. Military fatigues and leather are great for photographing streets scenes in the Castro -- it's not going to look so good shooting around Wall Street. Be aware how you're presenting yourself in both dress and manner.

3. Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that your best defense is a smile and a casual, personable demeanor. If you're not comfortable talking with strangers, you'll have to overcome that. You may want to explore the science of body language. I know and use gestures and mannerisms that communicate I'm not a threat. But the smile is the most powerful force you have -- use it freely! And keep smiling no matter what!

4. One street photographer I know uses lies if someone challenges him -- whatever it takes. If you're young, say you're doing an assignment for your teacher in class. Tell them you're scouting the area because you want to propose to your girlfriend here one day soon. Tell them you're looking for a place to shoot a big bikini layout for some magazine. If you've taken a picture of a person tell them you did it because they look so great or you love their clothes -- flattery can't be overplayed. Hell, tell them Walt Disney sent you. I've never had to use this tactic, but I've got it ready if I need it. Oh, and don't use this one with the police. If the police want to know what you're doing, be honest.

5. As someone already said, take someone else with you. It doesn't even have to be a photographer. People who will challenge one person rarely want to take on two people.

6. If someone tells you they simply do not want you to have their picture, smile and delete it for them. Show them as you delete it. Whatever it takes to keep the peace. But keep smiling. And for years to come you can tell the story of how you took the greatest photo ever made by man, and you had to delete it. Like all good stories, over the years it will be embellished, and eventually you'll have done it while the person held a "Dirty Harry" 44 magnum at your head!

7. One thing I do that I've never seen anyone do is carry what I call "Who the hell are you?" cards. They're standard business cards with a Web address, phone number, etc. I hand them to anyone I talk with on the street. (No physical address. Use a disposable cell phone if you don't want to use a real number.) Often I invite people to look at pictures I've taken of them on the Web and contact me if they want to use them or have prints -- making sure to say I'm not selling anything. Very few people have ever contacted me. What I've found is the mere existence of something they think is a business card instantly makes me legitimate. It's silly, as you can get a box of decent business cards for $10 from Vista Print, but it sure works. Again, whatever it takes to keep the peace.

8. Be aware of children. Nothing gets people excited faster than thinking a stranger is photographing children. While it is plainly legal in the U.S., to take pictures of children in public places, we've become a paranoid society, and it's better to self-censor yourself a bit in this regard.

9. Know and understand your legal rights. Here's the ACLU guide for photographers. This is applicable in the U.S.


Taking photographs of things that are plainly visible from public spaces is a constitutional right – and that includes federal buildings, transportation facilities, and police and other government officials carrying out their duties. Unfortunately, there is a widespread, continuing pattern of law enforcement officers ordering people to stop taking photographs from public places, and harassing, detaining and arresting those who fail to comply.

Your rights as a photographer:

1. When in public spaces where you are lawfully present you have the right to photograph anything that is in plain view. That includes pictures of federal buildings, transportation facilities, and police. Such photography is a form of public oversight over the government and is important in a free society.

2. When you are on private property, the property owner may set rules about the taking of photographs. If you disobey the property owner's rules, they can order you off their property (and have you arrested for trespassing if you do not comply).

3. Police officers may not generally confiscate or demand to view your photographs or video without a warrant. If you are arrested, the contents of your phone may be scrutinized by the police, although their constitutional power to do so remains unsettled. In addition, it is possible that courts may approve the seizure of a camera in some circumstances if police have a reasonable, good-faith belief that it contains evidence of a crime by someone other than the police themselves (it is unsettled whether they still need a warrant to view them).

4. Police may not delete your photographs or video under any circumstances.

5. Police officers may legitimately order citizens to cease activities that are truly interfering with legitimate law enforcement operations. Professional officers, however, realize that such operations are subject to public scrutiny, including by citizens photographing them.

6. Note that the right to photograph does not give you a right to break any other laws. For example, if you are trespassing to take photographs, you may still be charged with trespass.

And keep smiling!!
« Last Edit: March 17, 2013, 10:00:50 PM by distant.star »
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RS2021

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Re: How to not get beat up when photographing public places?
« Reply #17 on: March 17, 2013, 09:32:06 PM »
4. One street photographer I know uses lies if someone challenges him -- whatever it takes. If you're young, say you're doing an assignment for your teacher in class. Tell them you're scouting the area because you want to propose to your girlfriend here one day soon. Tell them you're looking for a place to shoot a big bikini layout for some magazine. If you've taken a picture of a person tell them you did it because they look so great or you love their clothes -- flattery can't be overplayed. Hell, tell them Walt Disney sent you. I've never had to use this tactic, but I've got it ready if I need it. Oh, and don't use this one with the police. If the police want to know what you're doing, be honest.


Distant star,  I had no idea about this side of you ;D ;D
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Re: How to not get beat up when photographing public places?
« Reply #18 on: March 17, 2013, 10:01:59 PM »
I try my best to get candid shots, but sometimes I do want to come closer, then it's a matter of communicating, either via a simple smile or walk up and ask. Sometimes when I'm in a market or so, I walk up very close and often even sit down with the people. It takes any tension out of the situation and I can capture very nice photos from the seller's perspective. If I'm on a distance, I'll sort of point to the camera and say OK?, normally people will accept you taking their picture.

Be yourself and be nice and polite, that'll sort the most problems.

fugu82

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Re: How to not get beat up when photographing public places?
« Reply #19 on: March 17, 2013, 10:04:13 PM »
All good advice. I would add that maintaining a keen awareness of the presence of folks who may take a physical level of offense at your activities [as in gangsta types and wannabes, and big, mean drunks] is essential. And anything involving kids. I had a gun pulled on me many years ago, by a small-time punk, while I was unknowingly taking pictures of his kids, so it can get worse than a beating.

RS2021

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Re: How to not get beat up when photographing public places?
« Reply #20 on: March 17, 2013, 10:04:23 PM »
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.

Cartier-Bresson, funny you should mention someone I quote in my status line here....was discreet in every aspect of street... including his Leicas which are naturally less threatening than a larger dSLR. Later in his career, being diminutive, with grey hair and balding head,  he was even less threatening.

http://erickimphotography.com/blog/2011/08/10-things-henri-cartier-bresson-can-teach-you-about-street-photography/
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Re: How to not get beat up when photographing public places?
« Reply #21 on: March 17, 2013, 10:21:55 PM »
I don't do a great deal of street shooting but if I did I would use very long glass out my car window For fast getaway if needed LOL

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Re: How to not get beat up when photographing public places?
« Reply #21 on: March 17, 2013, 10:21:55 PM »

RS2021

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Re: How to not get beat up when photographing public places?
« Reply #22 on: March 17, 2013, 10:27:04 PM »
I don't do a great deal of street shooting but if I did I would use very long glass out my car window For fast getaway if needed LOL

Now that would be stalking! LOL
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Re: How to not get beat up when photographing public places?
« Reply #23 on: March 17, 2013, 10:39:10 PM »
I don't do a great deal of street shooting but if I did I would use very long glass out my car window For fast getaway if needed LOL
And keep a gun visible so people won't get to near you.

Don Haines

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Re: How to not get beat up when photographing public places?
« Reply #24 on: March 17, 2013, 10:43:46 PM »
So I drive into the darkest corner of a parking lot way out in the middle of nowhere....set up the telescope, mount the camera, and am happily snapping away when I hear a LOUD voice say "SIR... STEP AWAY FROM THAT CANNON". I turn around and see two policemen and say "how can you tell I'm shooting Canon in the dark?" The closer policeman then says "SIR: STEP AWAY FROM THAT WEAPON". After a few tense moments they realize that I am not sitting with a cannon getting ready to lob projectiles at our nation's capitol but instead trying to photograph Saturn's rings.

Moral of the story: You can get into a lot of trouble when people with guns mistake what you are doing.

Second moral: Police can't tell the difference between a dobsinian telescope and a cannon in the dark.
« Last Edit: March 17, 2013, 10:46:37 PM by Don Haines »
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Re: How to not get beat up when photographing public places?
« Reply #25 on: March 17, 2013, 10:49:20 PM »
the reason I like to use long glass party's and things you get candid shots with out getting in  there face most of the time they never see you shooting !
 shooting a cross the street works but like I said I Just shoot friends I don't want beat down  !!

jdramirez

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Re: How to not get beat up when photographing public places?
« Reply #26 on: March 17, 2013, 10:51:45 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.

In fairness, I don't do much street photography of people and especially of kids, but I primarily focus on candids.  But I suppose I just lull those who tacitly give me approval by circumstance into a sense of comfort. 

I have done some "field photography" of events and most people assume you are "working" and they accept the photographer because it furthers their cause.  Here are a few examples.
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Re: How to not get beat up when photographing public places?
« Reply #27 on: March 17, 2013, 10:53:20 PM »
Here's one more of a chick who had missed her to chance to stand up for women's rights but isn't going to miss it this go 'round.
Upgrade  path.->means the former was sold for the latter.

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Re: How to not get beat up when photographing public places?
« Reply #27 on: March 17, 2013, 10:53:20 PM »

RS2021

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Re: How to not get beat up when photographing public places?
« Reply #28 on: March 17, 2013, 10:58:07 PM »
135L is the longest I have used on the street...last time sitting on the sidewalk bench with a bagel and coffee. But frankly it is not my favorite way to shoot street...it is too distant and one of the more alluring parts of street photography is the immediacy. And interaction with the subject(s) is frequently part of that equation.

Body language as others said before is important...both your own and reading others. And a smile does go a long way.
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Re: How to not get beat up when photographing public places?
« Reply #29 on: March 17, 2013, 11:02:23 PM »
better then four years of kung fu

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Re: How to not get beat up when photographing public places?
« Reply #29 on: March 17, 2013, 11:02:23 PM »