11 October, 2015

Photographer's Rights

Sony G 70-200mm - Mt Coot-tha, Brisbane [Click image to enlarge.]

Photographer's rights in Australia are essentially the same as those in the United States. I'm free to take any photo I want in a public place or from a public place. But this post is not legal advice. The law is the context, but not the subject of this discussion.

Public places: I've never had a person in authority question my right to photograph in a public place. (Once, when I had a 70-200mm out, however, I was asked if something was happening.)

Would I stand my ground if challenged? Probably.

Less public places: When I'm in a less public place, such as a gallery or museum, if it's not already posted, I ask. Usually the prohibitions set by galleries and museums are to protect the art — while I'm more interested in photographing the viewers of the art. Oh, well.

Other people's art: In public markets I occasionally see vendor's signs prohibiting the taking of photos of their wares. The rationale seems to be that the mere photographing of their product or design, even incidentally, is a breach of their copyright. Nonsense. I have no desire to photograph someone else's art; but if it happens to be in my shot, then it's in my shot.

Inside a shop: Their shop, their rules. (But it's not copyright.) The largest shopping mall near to where I live is "posted," so there's no "street" photography there. It's a pretty sterile environment in any case.

Deleting images: I've never had a person demand that I delete a photo from my camera. That, however, isn't too surprising because if I'm waved off or if it's clear to me the subject sees my photography as an intrusion, then I don't persist.

If I were asked to delete a photo, there would have to be a compelling reason for me to do so. If it was reasonable to believe that a photo of mine would ridicule or embarrass the person, or intrude on their grief, for example, I'd probably delete it to put their concerns to rest — and I would make it clear that was my reason. (Such a shot would have to have been inadvertent, as I don't take those kinds of pictures.) In most other cases I would simply tell the person that I won't use it.

Previewing: Even when I'm doing street portraits where I've asked permission for the shot, I'm rarely asked for a look at the LCD preview. I think there are a few reasons for this. When I approach someone I emphasise that I'll only take a minute. When I've taken my shots I thank them and offer to tell them where they can find my site, signalling that I'm keeping my promise not to intrude unduly on their time. And, there's one other reason: I rarely chimp my own work. If following a shot I were to begin appraising the display on the back of the camera, it would obviously invite the interest of the subject.

As to chimping more generally, I think it was Jay Maisel who mentioned that when you're chimping you're not seeing the next picture.

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