How to Deal with Clueless Citizens Telling You to Stop Taking Photos


How to Deal with Clueless Citizens Telling You to Stop Taking Photos in Public

As much as we all complain about how the police officers and paramedics crawl up our – lenses, yes, lenses – when taking photographs in public, there is another problem that anyone – amateurs, hobbyists, news crews, professionals, just regular people with iPhones – taking photographs in public needs pay attention to.

The public. Yes, John and Jane Doe.

Not the cops, not the media. The public is all the other people standing on the street watching the paramedics or the police do their job – without a camera on their neck.

Sometimes they are your neighbors, sometimes you have no idea who they are. They’re just watching the whole whatever happen right in front of them.

You will always encounter other people at accident scenes. They may even be the people who (thankfully) called the police and paramedics. But, darn it, the minute a photographer shows up, they go all ballistic. If you think an ass-whupping by a cop is gonna hurt, wait until one of these uneducated fools get up your privates.

I had an encounter with a covey of them today here in Dallas, not far from my home. Simple one car accident, lady on the stoop is being treated by paramedics. Not brain surgery on the street.

For those who shoot to improve their portfolios, or practicing to shoot under pressure for that day when a really big accident or crime scene pops up, this was a simple scene.

Let’s look at their arguments. You should use the replies – or at least know the answers – but keep your temper and mind your manners.

  • This is my private property (No, it’s a public sidewalk).
  • You don’t have permission to take my photo (Lady, you are standing in public and I don’t need your permission).
  • You need my permission to put that picture on the internet (I don’t and I will).
  • Show some respect for that poor lady (The paramedics are doing their job. Please move so I can do mine).

You Need To Get Out Of Here. No One Wants You Here.

I was not out of my truck ten seconds when all the people standing around started getting into it with me. The heavyset lady with the tongue piercing was all over me (she never touched me, please God I swear). And her neighbors were just as mouthy, but they never got off the front lawn.

Telling this woman my right to photograph in public was just as valid as her right to be there would be a waste of time.

Dancing around her when she was not looking was too easy.

I Am Going To Block You From Taking Pictures. And You Are On Private Property. Guffaw.

Kudos to the Dallas Fire Rescue paramedics who ignored my presence. I feel really sorry for the Dallas Police officer who – without any warning – took the brunt of this lady’s blathering as he got out of the squad car. (My favorite quote – Can’t you tell him to get out of here??)

What is the point of this post? It’s called SITUATIONAL AWARENESS. You’ve heard that word too many times in the past few weeks as it applies to mass shootings, but it also applies to photographers on the street. Are you walking into an accident, or are you an accident waiting to happen?

Forget ‘Where’s my light source?’

Ask yourself: Does this crowd look friendly or not? Are there walking wounded who might get emotional or just in your face?? Are there family members around who might be really mad at you?? Are the police lines clearly marked? Are there environmental or physical hazards in the area?

If they start yelling at you, try to explain – WHILE STILL SHOOTING PHOTOS – you have a right to be there and take photographs, and as long as you are on the sidewalk (parkway) they can’t stop you. Learn to dance around the fat ones, and never ever stop taking photos. If they physically threaten or touch you, yell – loudly – for the police. Believe it or not, they usually do step in to break up fights like this. Press charges if you end up getting hurt or your gear is damaged. A press release with a copy of the offense report to your local news outlets is always a good idea).

She Does Not Want You To Take Her Picture. Do You Not Have Any Respect????

She took a photograph of my license plate (I wonder if she even saw the big bumper sticker for my website). I can’t wait for that phone call.

Maybe I can sell her pictures of her hand.

Let’s be safe out there.

All photos Copyright 2015 Avi S. Adelman


War on Photography