Photographers Rights : Royal Oak

I thought I would write up a series of posts about various stories and situations where photographers were asked to stop taking pictures. In most cases these stories are my own, and in some, they are incidents that have happened to friends and aquaintances.

One of the first times I was ever approached about not taking pictures was in a store in Royal Oak. I was with Jay, Dave and Natalie and we were just checking out some of the local shops in Royal Oak. It’s a great suburban community outside of Detroit.

It wasn’t much of a big deal, I was in a store and I was taking a picture of one of the displays. The saleperson appraoched me and informed me that photography was not allowed in the store. At this point I stopped and left the store.

Although stores and malls are places that are open to the general public. These locations are still private property. If someone asks you to not take pictures while you are on private property it’s your legal duty to stop. Any further photography after this warning can be considered trespassing. So this next time you are on private property, regardless if it is regarded as a public space make sure you think before you speak you mind.

Your Canadian Rights as a Photographer

Being harassed as a photographer is not a new thing for me. Nor do I think it is a problem I bare on my own.

In the US there is a great PDF that you can print out as to your Rights as a Photographer. There’s also a PDF for protographers in the UK. But what I have found is that there is no definitive answer as to what are rights are as a Canadian.

I was planning to do more research into this subject but found that Tyler from has already done quite a good job of summing up what some of our right’s are as a Canadian.

There are a few points that I want to stress.

A) You have the right to take photographs where ever you want. That being said be aware if you are doing so on private property.

B) No one can tell you to legally delete a photo. Once you have taken a photo they are your property.

C) Know the criminal code. For example if you are on private property and some one asks you to stop talking photos, if you continue, that would be considered trespassing, which is against the law.

D) Common sense and courtesy go a long way. Being defensive and causing a scene will not necessarily help your case. Take a second to think before you speak.

All in all definitely read this summary of Canadian Law. It will definitely guide you on what to do if you ever encounter such a situation. We can’t stop people from harassing us, but you shouldn’t be bullied either.

The case of Justin and the Burning Building.

I just want to say that regardless if you are a journalist, a blogger or just a regular citizen. You still have a legal right to take pictures in public places.

No one has a right to threaten you verbally or physically or to confiscate your camera.

It seems that again, we are threaten as photographers such as this case between Justin and the Burning Building.

There is this ever increasing grey area as to what you can legally shoot and not shoot with a camera. And to top things off, the media doesn’t have any more or less rights than anyone else in terms oh what they can and cannot shoot. They just have more pull.

I’ve already talked to someone at Toronto Police Service and plan to continue my investigation with the folks at City Hall and with a couple of media outlets. Hopefully with some professional insight, I can draw a more clear line as to what we can’t shoot. Of course, no one wants to go on record, but it’s all because of accountability issues.

There is definitely more to talk about here regarding a photographer’s right, especially in Canada. But if you have a story about being harassed for taking pictures, I would love to hear about it.

New digital camera? Know how, where you can use it

Did you get a new digital camera over the holidays? My father got himself a Canon 20D and Jay got himself a Nikon point and shoot yesterday with a gift cert he received for the holidays.

Now the question of where and what you can and can’t shoot has always been a hot topic especially in this booming digital photography world. Last week USA today published an interesting article, “New digital camera? Know how, where you can use it” which helps outline your rights as a photographer. It’s a good read and have some useful links, but do take note that these mainly apply to photography in America.

[Link forwarded to me by John Piercy]

No Cameras In Tim’s

My friend Lex had a recent
run in with Tim Horton’s
. For you non-Canadian folks, Tim Horton’s is a popular Coffee and Donut chain in Canada.

Some people would even argue that Tim Horton’s is a Canadian insitution. Especially how they market themselves as being a part of the Canadian experience. So you think they would be a company that would encourage you to create memories. I know I personally have a bunch of Tim’s memories especially related to road tripping anywhere along any of the 400 series highways here in Ontario.

This is not the type of memory I thought would be tied to Tim’s

Yesterday I swung into the Tim Hortons location at 111 Carlton for a pack of timbits. I’d just gotten off the streetcar, and was on my way to Allen Gardens to take some photographs in the green houses.

I had my digital camera in hand, and it was on, when I walked into the location. The woman behind the counter immediately, and I mean IMMMEDIATELY, told me “you can’t be in here with a camera”.

No I understand that it would be a problem if Lex was running around the store taking pictures of anything and everything, but this doesn’t seem to be the case.

I actually had a similiar experience last Saturday on the Danforth.


Two seconds after taking this shot, a woman unlocks the door to the store and informs me that I am not allowed to take shots in the store.

I proceed to tell her that I am not in the store, I am on the sidewalk.

She closes the door behind her and walks back into the store in a huff.

We then returned to take this shot.

If they don’t want something photographed, then they shouldn’t put it blatently in the window or they should install curtains so no one could see inside. Otherwise I think it is fair game. In any case, it’s not like I was going to make any money off of this image. So I’m not exactly sure what the fear is about.

Have you had any similiar experiences with your camera?

I know Andrew had a similiar experience a couple of weeks back.

UPDATE: In a similar experience I was at a subway station a couple of years ago with Natalie and a TTC employee told me I wasn’t allowed to take pictures on TTC property without permission. According to their bylaws [16. b) ], this isn’t entirely true.

No person shall operate for commercial purposes any camera, video recording device, movie camera, or any similar device upon any vehicle or premises of the Commission without authorization.

As long as I am not selling any of the images I am allowed to shoot on the premises.

Here are some other related links.

* Don’t Shoot off in Bellvue Park [a similar article from earlier this year]
* The Photographer’s Right
* You Can’t take Pictures Here! [a flickr group]
* Photo Taking and the Law [a discussion on flickr central]
* Assult on Photography Going from Bad to Worse [thread on the]

Don’t Shoot off in Bellevue Park

There is this wonderful little park in Kensington Market called Bellevue Park. They have a decent playground, a wading pool and a crazy statue of the King of Kensington, Al Waxman. This was the location of my third session of “Portraits in the Park”. The session started off okay, despite the impending thunderstorm (which never did happen). Andrea was the first to show up, followed by Allan, Sean and his friend Heather, Carrie and Nadia. So I pretty much shot everyone without and hitch and a few of us stayed and hang out while we waited to see if anyone else would show up. In the meantime Carrie pulled out her camera, popped on her 300mm lens and started shooting things around the park. Needless to say the camera got the attention of some of the locals in the park and they started screaming across the park to not take pictures of her. After stating that she wasn’t taking pictures of them, they proceeded to close in on us, streaming at us and making a huge scene, saying it was illegal for us to be taking pictures in the park and they they would have the legal right to take our film or smash our cameras. It wasn’t a pretty sight, and eventually they left us alone unscathed after Nadia deleted two images on her camera, that showed “their crowd” in the blurry background.

I did get a little worried as they start accusing all of us, stating that they saw me taking pictures earlier. If they were really paying attention, they would have noticed that I was taking pictures of certain people, who I knew, who also signed model releases and not random riff raff like them.

Sean provided me with a link to this interesting article. Basically, we have a legal right to be able to shoot pictures of people in public, doing public things without getting their consent. But publishing this photos, consent may be required. In any case, we were infact doing nothing illegal. And if the woman decided to smash anyone of our cameras, she would be in the wrong.

Shortly after the incident, it started to spit, so we took that as a cue to leave. Carrie and Nadia joined me for drinks at the Emmbassy down the street, followed shortly by Stefan, who couldn’t find us in the park. But this isn’t where the story ends. Afterwards, there was still a bit of light, so I told Stefan that we should head back to the park to do his shots and finish off my roll. By this point the locals that verbally attacked us were gone. In any case we decided to go over to the far end of the park, by the Al Waxman statue. This is where we found this character [I totally understand Matt’s title now]. So I quickly shot off my roll on Stefan and his Bike, and then we were gonna head down to a exhibit opening at Pikto, but before we left Carrie wanted to try and get pictures of the guy by the statue. Needless to say, Carrie’s 300mm didn’t go unnoticed and the guy came over screaming at her. It didn’t last as long as the first encounter, as we packed up and started to leave, but the guy still had time to put a death curse on Carrie.

So never again will I be shooting any pictures in that park and this is the reason why I don’t like shooting strangers in public.

The next session of Portraits in the Park is going to be at Ashbridges Bay Park tomorrow (Sunday. August 7th) I will be out there most of the afternoon for a Birthday party. Drop me a comment or an email if you wanna make it out to this one and I can give you my cellphone number so you can track me down. Otherwise, I’ll also be at Clarke Beach (aka Cherry Beach) on Thursday August 11th anytime after 6:30pm. There’s gonna be a Flickr meetup there, so you may wanna check that out.

PS: Nadia has a better account of the first encounter on her blog

UPDATE : I will near the sheltered picnic area by the children’s playground this afternoon in Ashbridges Bay Park. Probably between 2 and 6ish