I was asked this in the forums recently and thought it was worth a post.

What are the laws about photographing strangers?

To the best of my knowledge, photographers, as well as videographers are allowed to take photographs of any public event, place or person where there is not a reasonable expectation of privacy , which means if it is out in public, it is legally fair game. If it is in a situation where an individual is in a place that would be considered by most normal people as private, then they are off limits.

There are however some rules. Obviously, a person’s image or likeness or even property cannot be used to promote a commercial good or service without a model release. Paparazzi are able to take pictures of celebrities and sell them to newspapers or magazines because celebrities are considered “public figures” and because they are subjects of public interest, they can benefit from the sale of these photographs. There are also some new gray areas of these laws, as certain government buildings are now off limits, and the photographing of children without their parents’ consent may indicate a threatening behavior. (A good rule of thumb is to be careful and just ask if you are interested in taking a picture of a stranger). I get asked this a lot and it has never bothered me to have someone take my photo. 😉

Photographing on private property that is accessible to the general public, to my understanding, is fair game, unless it is clearly stated somewhere. Property owners that allow the general public access to their grounds may ask a person to leave, but they cannot demand your equipment or film if you have already taken an image. (Obviously it depends on the situation, as there are exceptions to this rule).

If I missed any tweaks on these rules, feel free to add them below: