NYPD Tells NYPD That Photography Is (Still) Legal

In light of some recent harassing of photographers on the streets and subways of NYC, the New York City Police Department issued an internal memo reminding themselves that photography on the streets is (still) legal.

“Members of the service are reminded that photography and the videotaping of public places, buildings and structures are common activities within New York City. Given the City’s prominence as a tourist destination, practically all such photography will have no connection to terrorism or unlawful conduct.

…Members of the service many not demand to view photographs taken by a person absent consent or exigent circumstances…

…Metropolitan Transporation Authority (MTA) regulations expressly permit photography and video recording in subways…although permission is required for commercial shoots…”

The full order can be found after the jump…[Click the ‘continue reading’ link below.]

Thanks to Todd at GalleryHopper.org

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de Carli says:

There is a really sad story about a Greek tourist snapping on London tube and arrested for the same reason. I see some connections with this case and the "consumer needs" of a camera that detect smiles.
The image future is not just possibilities, it shall be the lack of humanity too

LisaNewton says:

Hey, can someone let the “security guards” who haunt downtown LA the same thing? Or maybe it would be better if the LAPD told the “security guards” to leave the photographers alone.

Fenix says:

Sorry. I meant to say I was using neither lightstands nor tripods

Fenix says:

Thanks Chase,

I have been stopped, harassed, interrupted by police and private security at least a dozen times in uptown Charlotte. I’ve often being told there is a city ordinance against photography downtown (no tripods, no light stands). Of course no such ordinance exists–I finally had to get a letter from the police public information officer saying so.

I really wish law-enforcement agencies would get it through their heads that photography is not a crime.

Anonymous says:

Sad and funny. What police person in the USA thinks they can obstruct people from taking pictures in public if they’re not breaking any laws?

Alex says:

I wish the Metropolitan Police would be smart enough to circulate something like that here in London, the situation here is betting beyond a joke.

Mark D says:

Hopefully, Chicago will have something like this soon. This is a terrible story about what can happen even if you are withing your rights http://discarted.wordpress.com/2009/02/10/court-clears-chicago-photojournalist/

Chris says:

Next time I goto NYC, I’m printing this and taking it with me.

Its crap like this that makes me think I will write a screnplay about a time in the future when photography is outlawed, and all the rebels shoot with Holgas, because in the future the Robots won’t know how to develop film. Also Nikon and Canon fanboys will all fight to the death… pure cinema gold.

jeremy says:

Hey Chase. Thanks for posting this up. I’ve also blogged about the Operations Order with some practical advice from my experience as an NYC photojournalist on how to use it.

brandt abner says:

The police I guess are a bit paranoid of
people taking pics of “places of interest”.
I was shooting at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge
recently, and went thru an “inquiry” of sorts.

Groups of people shooting (tourists) have it easier than one or two people with a monopod!

CarBlog says:

Well thats a sigh of relief, LOL.

Mike Kobal says:

I have not had any problems lately, right after 911 bldg guards chased me away shooting on the sidewalk, lots of police in the subway, no one seems to mind when tourists snap away and their flash goes off, but there is a chance you will get your bag searched.

JamesBillany says:

chase love your blogs, id love to see more video, iv been looking at alot of your videographers work, its inspirational!


udi says:

Just in time. thanks. I am going to print this and put in my pocket for my upcoming trip

Oh thank god. In England they’re pushing it to be a felony. The irony in Britain though is that they say no pictures yet they have CCTV (those street cameras) EVERYWHERE filming your EVERY MOVE and yet photographers can’t; secondly they ask for photographers to turn in any photos of terrorist activity in the subway station after that subway bombing while strictly condemning photography in the subway systems… what the hell…

Jon M says:

Saperboy,in general, hand-held devices do not require a permit. They’re now more concerned with blocking sidewalks, shoots with vehicles, large amounts of equipment, etc.

Under the adopted rules, a permit would be required for filming if equipment or vehicles, as defined in the rule, are used or if the person filming asserts exclusive use of City property. Equipment does not include hand-held devices (such as hand-held film, still, or television cameras or videocameras) or tripods used to support such cameras, but a permit would be required in certain situations when the person filming asserts exclusive use of City property while using a hand-held device.source

saperboy says:

It was mentioned that taking photograph with lights and tripod would require a permission… does the mention of “light” also includes speedlites, they might argue that.

Alain says:

Thanks for the clarification, I am forwarding this to a few of my friends who were worried to see me taking pictures in the subway…

Justin S. says:

Thanks for posting this.

Jon M says:

Chase, thanks. Shot a small commercial job in Times Square last night with no problem. Many types of photography in New York City no longer even need a permit (as of last year). For photographers shooting on the street in New York for the first time, check this article:

Summary of NYC Photo RulesThe staff at the Mayor’s Film Office is extremely helpful, so I always call and doublecheck with them to make sure I’m not in a location that’s under special jurisdiction. New York has some odd areas that fall under different departments. For example, shooting in parks requires extra steps I believe.

Photography is Not a Crime.

That just reminded me. Last week, where I live, these college students were making a film on top a parking garage. The FBI and BPD were called in. Why? Props involved AK47 airsoft guns and the kids didn’t think they needed to “OK” it with the Police, or inform anyone of what they were doing. Luckily no one was hurt.

david nyc says:

too bad the pigs here don;t know how to read.

Chase Jarvis says:

keep in mind, all commercial stuff should have (required to have) a permit. of course you can fudge this, but that’s the law…

It’s sad that this is even an issue. But contrary to what the ACLU believe NYPD are just looking out to protect their citizens.

It helps to know your rights as a photographer because a police officer will take advantage of that and ask to see the shots you took on your camera. I had that happen once and out of respect and not knowing what was really going on I let him. Crazy.

Dudley says:

Most cities seem to require permits, insurance, etc once you use a light stand.

this is great, now i dont feel so nervous when i take out my camera…

Dave says:

Jonny count your lucky stars, I wish the UK police force would issue some similar memo ! It’s a right pain when you are out shooting and get stopped and have to wait 10 mins to be policed checked !

LisaC says:

I was asked to stop taking pictures in downtown Dallas last fall… the security officer for a building behind a piece of artwork came out and asked very nicely for me to stop taking pictures of their building…

Anonymous says:

Jonny…maybe we are and we don’t know it yet.

gee says:

LOL! that’s hilarious!!!!!

Jonny says:

We’re not living in Britain yet.

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