Many years ago I discovered this little piece of paper and have since kept it with me at all times. It’s called The Photographer’s Right and it was written by Bert P. Krages II, a lawyer, about the photography law. I keep several copies in my crumpler camera bag, just in case. It outlines the basics of our rights as a photographer, in the United States. The law is pretty simple and I have explained this to countless amounts of people throughout the years.
The first thing to understand is the expectation of privacy, as it’s most important. You can shoot just about anywhere or anyone comfortably as long as that person has no expectation of privacy. This means you can’t shoot into someone’s window or, in a dressing room for instance because in those areas you have an expectation of your own privacy. If you however, are out in a public place (even if it’s personal property) you have every right to take pictures as you please. This includes photos of people, places, and children.
With most laws, comes a lot of grey area like copywrited material (art or advertisements), and even landmarks! You really only need to be concerned with these types of restrictions if you plan to do something commercially, and/or for financial gain with your pictures.
There is also protection for certain military operations and installments so it’s good to always check with someone beforehand. You must also understand that certain venues, may have their own prohibited activities, such a photography, and they have every right to restrict whatever they like. You can usually call the venue ahead of time and get a “press pass” which will grant you access for a few minutes during the show or event. It helps if you are a student working on an assignment or associated with a magazine or newspaper. In my own personal experience, even though these rules may be in effect you can usually get away with taking your camera in. In recent years, these venues have eased up a bit, banning “cameras with a removable lens” because they produce higher quality images, and can be sold.
There will always be restrictions, but the basics are outlined on Bert P. Krages II‘s website that I’ve linked to the image above. He’s wrapped up the law with a bright red bow for all of us. It’s really a great .PDF that you can download and print. I suggest you take a look now and keep a copy with you.