Photographers: Follow the Rules

As photographers, we’ve all been frustrated at one time or another by rules or regulations set forth by popular locations or venues in an attempt to preserve, protect, and even seemingly limit photographers. Regardless of one’s personal feelings toward photo rules at favorite photo spots, one thing is certain: we need to follow the rules.

I get it, sometimes it's frustrating to see posted rules singling out photographers. It’s disheartening to go to a famous photo destination and see tourists and mere mortals with their point-and-shoot cameras taking all the photos they want, while photographers with bigger gear may be asked not to take pictures. I live in Las Vegas, an arguably more commercialized city than most other towns, where being a photographer sometimes feels equated to being a criminal. I see signs everywhere, even in my neighborhood park with “No Professional Photography” squeezed between “No Graffiti” and “No Drugs Allowed” on signage. As a wedding photographer in Vegas, my clients often request photos be taken at locations that don’t allow commercial photography for one reason or another, and although sometimes I don’t agree with specific rules, I obey them.

I obey the rules because I don’t want to ruin it for other photographers. One photographer breaking the rules or trampling on property they’re not supposed to be on can ruin it for all photographers. The power of social media has made it easier than ever for government officials and location owners and management to find photos posted by photographers in places they were never supposed to be. When this happens, understandably, locations tend to clamp down and make rules even more strict and more inconvenient rules.

If we’re going to call ourselves professional photographers, then we need to act professionally. When one photographer takes a photo while breaking the rules at any particular location and other photographers see it, more photographers are inclined to do the same. It isn’t good for the industry as a whole, and it certainly doesn’t help to build relationships with locations that photographers may want to shoot at in the future.

Rules Aren’t Meant to Be Broken

Well, not always anyway. Sometimes rules are in place for a reason. It may be to preserve a location, or to keep people safe, but, more often than not, rules are in place for a reason. Instead of getting caught up in the moment and wanting to capture that unforgettable photo from a vantage point that no one else has, consider the bigger picture of the accessibility becoming limited in the future because of that one photo that you couldn’t resist taking (when you knew you weren’t supposed to).

Famous landmarks, state parks, and popular photo spots also all may have a process of obtaining permission to obtain free reign for photo-taking, but sometimes photographers don’t know that a permission process exists, or that they have the option of gaining permission. A good rule of thumb is to do your research in preparation for any shoot, which should include finding out if a permit or permission exists for an otherwise restricted area.

It’s true that one photographer can ruin it for all other photographers, so next time you’re inclined to break a well-known location rule to grab a photo, consider the reputation you’ll be making for your entire industry. Also, consider the damage you may be causing to a location and the relationship between photographers and the owners or management of locations they may want to photograph in the future.

Lead Image by via Pexels.

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Casey McCallister's picture

Wonderfully said.
This also applies to Fstoppers and other blogs sharing articles that promote illegal drone flying, rooftopping, and other similar acts.

Robert Wilson's picture

Rule #1 Don't burn the location. (you're not that important or talented, to risk another person to ever be able to take a photo from where you're set up)

Simon Patterson's picture

Unfortunately the concept of "considering others" is too conservative for many people. They've "progressed" past the point of considering those who will come after them.

Gabrielle Colton's picture

Really great read Danette, I hate rules lol. I've learned though usually if you've got charisma and know how to trade and ask politely than you can often get around them. Obviously not always but when rules stop you, there's a million other things to Photograph.

Alexander Petrenko's picture

What can be stricter than “no photos”?

Danette Chappell's picture

Locations could start imposing and enforcing fees, or they could widen the "no photos" zone even more, etc. There are definitely ways of making a "no photos" rule more strict.