Confrontations and confusion about photographing in public places can be avoided much of the time just by using your common sense. If you are photographing an accident, stay out of the way, let authorities and medical personnel do their jobs.
Even though it may be legal for you to photograph a mother and her child in a public place, if you start following them around without explanation, things are going to get out of hand. Ask yourself is it worth a confrontation with the person on the street who does not want you taking their picture.
You are not allowed to take photographs where there is a general expectation of privacy, for example, public restroom stalls. Just because a place is open to the public does not mean it is public property. You are required to comply with property owners requests at “public" places such as shopping malls, theaters etc.
Some military bases, crime scenes, hospitals and other properties may be off limits. You can’t generally set up shop with tripods, lights and such on public streets and sidewalks where you will disrupt a flow of traffic.
Keep in mind that security and law enforcement officers are doing their jobs and a majority of them may not have a clear understanding of your rights as a photographer. They deal with high stress situations every day and even though your actions may be completely within the limits of the law, they may view it as suspicious behavior. As a photographer through, you should be able to state your rights clearly and concisely if you feel you are being unduly harassed.
If you are stopped or detained for taking photographs:
- Always remain calm and respectful.
- If you have been stopped for photography, ask “am I free to go?" If the officer says no, then you are being detained. Under the law, an officer cannot do this without reasonable suspicion that you have or are about to commit a crime or are in the process of doing so. Until you ask to leave, your being stopped is considered voluntary under the law and is legal.
- If you are detained, politely ask what crime you are suspected of committing and remind the officer that taking photographs is your right under the First Amendment and does not constitute reasonable suspicion of criminal activity.