Day 39 – Not Always Welcome

Today was going to be about photography, and it still is in a way, but not quite how I originally intended. Abbey had suggested she needed to visit a nursery for some trees, and in exchange for doing the driving I could take some pictures while there…

I started off hand-held around the place, wandering around with the camera around my neck and doing a great job taking pictures where people were either out-of-frame or completely out-of-focus.

A Roof without a Roof
A Roof without a Roof

Then I decided to walk back to the car and get the tripod I had packed to get some sharper shots for comparison. I sat down on the grass and took a few pictures outside of general view where there were no people. Then I moved back to the entrance road to take a shot along the row of signs along the way.

And then one of the staff walked out informing me reasonably politely that they didn’t want photography on their premises.

I hadn’t even considered this perspective, and I felt a bit silly.

Of course I packed up at that point. Private property, so their word goes in my mind, but it did prompt me to have a look at legalities here in Australia so next time I am better ready for the situation.

Legal Roo Says NO!
Legal Roo Says NO!

Resources I consulted:

On the face of it, it’s simple enough:

  • Photography in public places for non-commercial purposes is fine
  • Photography on private property for non-commercial purposes is fine provided you follow the instructions of the property owner
  • Commercial purposes: make sure you get a release from any people who are clearly identifiable in the shots

I will not try to dig down into the full nuance (see the links above for more of that), but while simple on the face of it, reality has many caveats:

  • Many places that may seem or feel public really aren’t… shopping plazas for example, or some parks even.
  • Commercial purposes may include more than you realise… as soon as you upload a picture to online services like Flickr that can count as commercial purposes. They assert relevant rights in their license agreement you probably clicked through without reading.
  • Taking pictures of people for non-commercial purposes is not restricted… there is no right to privacy in Australia that protects your image alone.
  • Number plates are actually not illegal to photograph… even so, I try to crop or blur them when they end up in my shots.
  • Without a police officer involved you cannot be asked to delete your images… more over, jail terms can apply to: threatening to damage your camera equipment, threatening violence, trying to prevent you contacting the police.

Do not take any of this as legal advice, because despite watching many episodes of LA Law, CSI and Boston Legal, I Am Not A Lawyer.

In almost all cases my personal sensibilities are more restrictive than what I have outlined above. But it’s interesting to note how different reality is from what many people might think the law says. Partially this may be a result of US-centric culture, which is definitely much more repressive surrounding these topics.

Regardless though…

My opinion is that it seems foolhardy in this day and age to believe that you can limit photographs getting taken. Most if not all people walk around all day with a camera in their pocket. Most if not all people are not aware of the legal details surrounding photography.

But also: most if not all people will feel uneasy about taking pictures you’d object to in the first place without you needing to ask.

4 thoughts on “Day 39 – Not Always Welcome”

  1. I’m a bit naughty and generally try to take photos surreptitiously. Mind you, I’m not generally concerned with photographic excellence or artistic merit. 😉

    While travelling overseas, I have found that some countries prohibit taking photographs of public amenities, especially those related to defence industries. Not sure what would happen here if, for example, you set your tripod up outside http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMAS_Kuttabul_(naval_base)

    1. Legally there are generally bans on photography of military installations, so in that case the police would probably show up and ask you to delete the pictures. But that’s just a guess based on what I read.

      Bit tip from those sites is never to be surreptitious because that just makes you look suspicious right off the bat.

  2. I was extremely irritated in Chicago once when taking pictures of the outside of a cathedral from the road. There were children playing in the courtyard running around a fountain. This prompted a church official to tell us to stop. Political correctness gone mad, or just plain old stupidity.

    1. Common sense suggests that it’s not the person standing in full view taking a picture that you have to worry about. The real threat would at least be trying to be inconspicuous.

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