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Photographer's Rights to PHOTOGRAPH

Are photographer's of any nature allowed to take pictures freely inside of *private/public* businesses?
I am in need of legal counseling. If I want to go inside of a private business and just start shooting pictures do I have the right to do that until someone asks me to leave? Obviously I wouldn't be taking pictures in a bank, federal building, or courthouse etc... but rather in corporations that I stand firmly against (think Walmarts, McDonalds, Starlessbucks, etc...). I want to photograph as an act of protest by angering the customers and the establishment but also by possibly getting decent shots of incriminating conduct (obesity is the 21st century tobacco epidemic!).

So my question: can I take photographs in private establishments until they ask me to leave or do they have the right to arrest me once I start shooting photos? Obviously if there is a sign posted saying no video/photography I would understand being arrested on sight but I am ignorant to the law of walking into a Walmart and taking pictures of employees, customers, etc... and making everyone uncomfortable.

Please help. :)
bright lights 16.Mar.2005 14:22


dont be a dim wit! use some stealth...a lip stick camera....a 007 approach....If you go in with FLASH photog....well you get the idea....you go in move among them.....without them even knowing....I call it pic & split...now go and try not to get busted!!!

Legal/not legal 16.Mar.2005 15:11

corporate media

It's legal to take pictures until asked to leave, unless posted no trespassing.
It's legal to take pictures in public, it's legal to take pictures into businesses if it's from a public area where the public would normally be able to see it, i.e. the public sidewalk.
It's legal to use hidden camera except in bathrooms, changing rooms, etc. (This is a bit of a gray area, unfortunately)
It's not legal to use hidden microphones in Oregon - this is a two party consent state(the act of taping is the offense, not whether or not you air it) except on the telephone, where it's single consent. But you can't tap a phone, that's considered zero consent, YOU must be one of the parties. Tapping requires a court order.

Advice to you 16.Mar.2005 15:23


You should pose this question at:www.photo.net. This is a major photography site with forums that can advise well. As a photographer, I know that your use of these photographs largely determines their legality. If not careful, you can be sued for everything ya got, so caution is advised.

Good Luck, Tatyana

Secret Cameras Rule 16.Mar.2005 15:25


Listen to Alan. If you take a visible camera, then the security might destroy it and the film. Corporate media, in their "exposes", have hidden cameras. Maybe not the best role model, but a great precedent nonetheless.

Instant Gratification vs. Delayed Activism 16.Mar.2005 16:21

Bright Lights

I appreciate all the input mentioned so far and I understand the idea of being covert but that is not what I am aiming at. I want patrons of these establishments and the people who work there to feel uncomfortable and question their reasonings for being in such a corporate hell that rapes money from local entities. I want to catch their reactions when a BLATANT photographer walks into their "establishment" and just starts shooting away. I want the rawness of it all. I'm not out to catch corporate criminals (yet), I just want people to be aware that they are being watched... So legality is in question as to the nature of where I can post/publish these images and if I am able to "shoot away" if there are no visible "trespassing" signs around... Thanks again all! 8-)

an idea 16.Mar.2005 17:56


Hey bud...for the most part, for what you want to do, you don't even need a real camera...you're talking a kind of street theatre...use some kind of trash that looks like a camera...you'll still get the reaction. Watch what happens when they walk up to you all huffy and self righteous, thinking they're really going to bum you out by conviscating your piece and banning you from the store. Use a pal with a hidden video cam or still to get the reaction.

Advice from a cop 16.Mar.2005 18:25

not sayin'

Ok, here is the really basic info (FYI, I studied press law a lot in college too, so this info comes from both photo/press law and from criminal/cop law, but I am not a lawyer so take this all with a grain of salt).

You can walk in if they don't have "no tresspassing" signs.

You can shoot film until they ask you to leave or stop.

They can not take the film from you (they may try, but if you say no and they keep trying and use physical force, such as snatching it from your hands, they are in serious trouble).

Once asked to leave, you have to go. Failure to do so makes you guilty of tresspass, and the camera can be seized as evidence (but returned to you after trial).

Once they say "no photography," or some such phrase, you can get sued for the contents and derivative products of the film (such as any prints you make). This only applies to photos taken from the point they ask you to stop and you keep shooting, but that brings up sticky questions such as how to prove in court that photo A was taken before they asked you to stop, and photo B was not.

If there is a sign saying no cameras, and you bring one in anyway, you might be busted for tresspassing (and thus lose the film and camera as evidence and not get them back).

If they have any signs stipulating who can come in (such as "customers only," "people with appointments only," etc) and you go in anyway, you can be busted for tresspassing the same as a person who sneaks into a concert without paying.

If they say "Hey! You! What are you doing? What do you want?" etc, none of those are actual conditions that require you to stop shooting, and thus until they say or post something that specifically tells you to either not be there or not shoot film, you are golden.

As always, this is the "technically" answer. In reality, few cops would bother to arrest you for such a small thing, and few companies would bother to press charges. Fewer judges would really order your camera forfieted. The odds are, if you walk in, shoot a roll of film and cause a moderate amount of commotion, get the images you want and then voluntarily leave, you will be fine. If you only want pictures of their reaction, this would be the best way to go.

photo tip: invest in an off-camera flash bracket. ten bucks on ebay. Those things really seem to set people off more because they have a broader front surface area, look wierder and generally make people wig out more. And you get better lighting. And, to top it all off, you can "Frankenstien" them by detaching the flash and holding it about waist level, thus getting nice shadows that make them look really evil.

you can "Frankenstien" 17.Mar.2005 07:37


not sayin' gave me my laugh of the day, thanks

more 17.Mar.2005 13:49


use Lexis Nexis Weslaw or talk to alan graf or the guild
your intent???
this thread=evidence of intent to annoy, that might not help you with a judge

intent to annoy 17.Mar.2005 15:47


Okie dokey, which statute covers annoying people? I am annoyed by people every day, and they often intendtionally do it. Can I have the mormons arrested?