Your Rights as a Photographer

images (1)There is a huge amount of misinformation on what you can and cannot take photos of and you need to be aware of what your rights are should you ever be in a situation where somebody is questioning your right to take a photograph of something or someone. We have been in this situation several times in the past and even have had people threaten to sue us over the use of certain images, knowing your rights is the best defense when this happens. That being said, just because you can take a photograph of something doesn’t mean you should. Read on to learn more about this very important topic.

The first thing we need to say is that while we are going to give some pretty general issues, you should always confirm that the laws in your area apply.

One of the more surprising things is just have much freedom you actually have to shoot people and property without permission. Keep in mind that there is a huge difference in being able to take a photograph of someone or something, your ability to use that image can be limited depending upon the situations. For example, just because you can take a picture of someone in a public place without their permission, you cannot necessarily use that image to promote a product or service without having a model release. In most cases, you can take a photograph of anyone or anything if you are in a public place or in a place that specifically allows for photography. When there is no specific law forbidding taking photographs, then you have the right to do so.

We are also going to recommend that you exercise basic common sense. If you are being harassed by a security guard or even police officer you are usually much better off to walk away and then call the management or supervisor and explain the inappropriate action of the individual rather than have a confrontation that may end up getting out of control because you are demanding your rights be upheld. We aren’t saying you shouldn’t stand up for your rights, but arguing with a clueless security guard is not going to get you anywhere.

Back to the common sense, just because you can legally go to a public park and shoot pictures of little kids while hiding in the bushes with a huge telephoto lens, this is probably not going to be a good idea. Not only will someone most certainly call the police, it is not uncommon for an irate Dad to kick the snot out of a photographer who he believes is taking inappropriate pictures.

How Far Can They Go?
While it is extremely common for someone such as a security guard to question you about what you are doing, you are typically under no obligation to explain what you are doing. Again, standing by this particular point is bound to only escalate a particular problem. However, should someone threaten to cause you harm, accuse you of a crime, or damage or take your property, this is a crime is virtually all situations.

The best course of action is almost always to simply take down the name and pertinent information about the person who is confronting you, contact their employer and file a formal complaint.

More Information
For more information we recommend printing out and keeping a copy of The Photographer’s Rights available at as well as checking out the following books:
Legal Handbook for Photographers: The Rights and Liabilities of Making Images
The Law, In Plain English, For Photographers

Now get out and start shooting!


Kerry Garrison lives in Castle Rock, Colorado with his wife and two dogs. With 10 years of experience shooting products and 5 years of experience in the wedding industry, Kerry brings a good deal of technical know-how and can explain topics in easy-to-understand terms.

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