Doing Lifestyle Photoshoots Without Permits or Permission

I remember years ago, a friend and I got new cameras. As is the case when getting a new camera, we wanted to go out and photograph everything. We spent the day doing it and then night came, and we pulled out the tripods – and that’s when the problems started.

We setup to do a night shot of a certain financial building in the greater Los Angeles area. Now, this building was no more special than any other financial building. Again, we just saw nice colors and wanted to shoot more things with the new cameras to test them out.

Just as we started into our first handful of shots, a couple of police cars pulled up. Long story short, they asked if we had a permit for photography. Of course not. They went on to explain how they could confiscate the equipment while we went on to explain we were just photographing for fun with our shiny new cameras. The police officers further explained that our choice of a financial building was also not wise as it is common for burglaries. When it was clear we were just trying to have fun and weren’t doing a photo shoot, they left us with our gear and a warning.

I often get asked to conduct photo shoots in public central city areas or on private-property where permits are usually required. The problem is I get asked to do the photo shoots without asking for permits, the main reason being to save time and money. Vendors should understand that photographers risk a lot when this is asked of us.

A Losing Proposition

Police can confiscate your gear – thousands of dollars of it. In addition to losing gear, photographers lose an ability to make an income since their gear is confiscated. So, the risk can be long-term. In addition, property owners can sue the photograph user for using a photo with their property in it – because permission was not granted. So, now the vendor is also at risk.

Often, vendors want to take these risks for what most of the time are nominal extra costs. Permits and property rentals certainly add to costs. It can range into a few hundreds of dollars. However, risking a lawsuit is so much more. And, who wants to deal with that. There are also ways to do photo shoots in permitted locations for as little as $100 or less. Some photographers will also have annual permits in place to use certain public locations. While such locations are certainly limited, at least it will be permitted, saving everyone from worry.

If you’re a vendor looking to have a photographer do a location shoot for you, it’s also probably likely you’re incurring all the risks anyway. Most photographer-vendor contracts will mention that it is assumed the vendor has secured all necessary permissions to photograph property, the likeness of someone, etc. That if not, they agree to be responsible for any legal ramifications, remedies, etc., and that they provide copies of these permissions upon request.

Places requiring permits to shoot at are often this demanding because they’re worth it. For just a bit more in your budget, a lifestyle shoot can be completely transformed into photos for really good marketing or sales campaigns. After all, remember the cliché: location, location, location.

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