Sometimes You just have to know your rights as a photographer!
There are times when, as a photographer shooting on location you might come across an over zealous rent-a-cop or a police officer who really has no idea how to handle you and what you’re doing; and they will immediately tell you to cease and that you can not be there or that you can not be taking photos.
This is undoubtedly annoying when you are not breaking any laws to get that wonderful shot.
This is something I’ve had to deal with in the past. More often it’s rent-a-cops that are the biggest problems.
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.
Just do not at any time interfere with police doing their jobs. That will be a problem and get you into a great deal of trouble.
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.
- 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.
- 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).
- Police officers may not confiscate or demand to view your digital photographs or video without a warrant. The Supreme Court has ruled that police may not search your cell phone when they arrest you, unless they get a warrant. Although the court did not specifically rule on whether law enforcement may search other electronic devices such as a standalone camera, the ACLU believes that the constitution broadly prevents warrantless searches of your digital data. It is possible that courts may approve the temporary warrant less seizure of a camera in certain extreme “exigent” circumstances such as where necessary to save a life, or where police have a reasonable, good-faith belief that doing so is necessary to prevent the destruction of evidence of a crime while they seek a warrant.
- Police may not delete your photographs or video under any circumstances. Officers have faced felony charges of evidence tampering as well as obstruction and theft for taking a photographer’s memory card.
- 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.
- 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.
Read more here: Know Your Rights: Photographers | American Civil Liberties Union.