How to deal with police and security guard as photographer.
by Dolwolfian Photography
This is my humble way to share how I deal with police and security guard as night city landscape photographer.
After 9/11 all changed and certainly not for the best but we have to deal with it.
We have rights and obligations but it’s the way we act who often seal the final outcome.
It’s not because we have rights that we have to use this “nuclear weapon” as a smile and correct attitude will ease most of the problems and will even open to you some area normally close to the public!
I’m shooting long exposure city landscape at night in the most sensible cities as London, Paris, Barcelona,… and never had any problems at all!
Of course I met some police officers or security guards but the outcome was always positive as I acted the right way.
Believe me I’m happy to see them as I can put myself in not so safe area alone in the middle of the night as I’m focused on the subject.
Don’t forget that they can protect us as well not only “bother” us.
I’m tired to see on YouTube this pseudo videos of “bad cops” or “bad security guards” as the majority of them are provocative encounter where photography as no place at all!
It’s for these reasons I decided to share some tips for how to act to prevent or deal encounter with police or security personnel.
First know the law of the country you are and don’t assume they are the same all around the world!
Even in some country they can change depending of the area you’re.
By example in UK London Trafalgar Square and Parliament Square is prohibited for commercial photography (unless authorisation from Greater London Authority) and yes you will encounter more problem with your big shiny dslr on a tripod.
Others area are not prohibited but more sensible for obvious security reason.
Don’t shoot or point your camera at CCTV or sensible building feature as emergency exit, electric power grid,…
Don’t trespass as it can be a major offence in some country!
Carry an ID with you even you don’t have to show it to the police unless you operate a motor vehicle but it can be very handy especially if you’re in a foreign country.
At the location
When I arrive at an interesting location I look of course for composition, light, best angle…but I evaluate as well the sensibility of the area.
If it’s a private building the first think I do if the security guards are visible I just say hello with a big smile for “break the ice” as be nice don’t hurt nobody, right?
After don’t forget that even the public area around the building can be private land then you can try to settle your tripod there but if the security guard ask you to move just ask him where start the public area and move there.
Maybe he will ask you why you take pictures just say it’s your hobby and in the majority of the case he will be satisfied and leave you alone.
If isn’t the case just stay calm and remind him nicely that you have the right to take photos from a public space even of a private building.
If in the extreme case he will still ask you to leave or threat you to call the police say to him go ahead and even if the police come they will asses the situation.
At all time stay firm but calm, nice, polite as you’re there for take photos not for a confrontation and believe me you get what you give and by be nice and friendly it can open you doors or area normally close to the public!
If it’s a public building or space it should be problem free unless sensitive area but the same tips that above can be used.
The only difference is that you will deal with police officers who in the majority of the case know the law.
If you are unlucky enough and deal with some who don’t just ask nicely to talk to their supervisor but don’t make yourself even more “suspect” by the “remind silence” tactic!
Don’t think that the police and security guard personnel have nothing better to do that bother us as they just do their job who’s not easy especially in sensible buildings in the most sensible cities as London,Paris,…and don’t think either that as photographers we are above the law or need to be arrogant or aggressive. As soon some people have their camera in the hand is like some people with their car they become madman or madwoman!
We have of course rights, the same as all citizens and if you know them you can comfortably remind them firmly but nicely to your interlocutor.
Your attitude is the key of problem free photos session as a smile can dissolve any tension.
Be friendly, engage conversation even before start any shoot as the “fear” is the unknown. For us take photos with big shiny dslr with big lens, tripod, shutter release and our big bag for carry all our stuff it’s normal but don’t assume is it fo others.
It can be very strange for others that we go out all night for take photos of buildings, bridges or landscape!
If somebody approach you don’t throw him away and be rude, educate people in sharing your passion it take 1 min and give you peace of mind for hours in the area you shooting!
As I said early you often get what you give and the following story will show it.
I decided to dedicate one full night to the Canary Wharf in London who’s one of the most sensible area in London. I shoot in long exposure setting and can stay in one spot 30 min to 1 hour who’s not particularly discreet especially with tripod and all my equipments. A concierge who was going out for his cigarette break told me “oh man you will be in trouble with security guards…” I say well I just here for take photos not for make any trouble! Few minutes later as the concierge said a security guard arrive and ask me “do you have a permit for take picture here?” I answered nicely to him that no I don’t need any permit as I’m shooting from a public space and that I don’t intent to commercialize my photos (The Canary Wharf hold his image right as many building in London and over the world). He told me then that I still need a permit. I said well could you contact one of your supervisor who will confirm you that I have the right to take photos for non-commercial use from a public space. He did and the supervisor show up few minutes later. He asked me the usual questions and was satisfied of my answers. He told me then that even if it’s a public space some of the pavement around the building are private but as I was cooperative, nice and non violent I could continue and even make a call on the radio to his staffs for leave me alone. But something striked me when he said “non-violent”….I asked him why he expected that I will be violent…Then he explained me that on several occasions some “photographers” came like me but when security guards came to them they acted like they owned the place and was particularly verbally violent..then photographers have bad reputation around the personnel…You see how the act of few can destroy the reputation of the majority! This night I was happy to give back a good name to photographer and had my best shooting session ever with all security personnel taking care of me and they even let’s me go in some area normally not accessible to the public!
Choose your attitude and you choose the outcome.
I’m a Night Owl hunting light and colors when mother nature turn off the light!
Discover My World at Dolwolfian Photography
I’m not a lawyer and only shared some tips who work well when I’m out shooting.
Be sure to know the laws of the country you’re and stay updated as they can change.
Stay safe and have fun!