Photojojo, a great photography site with fun project ideas and lots of inspiration, has posted an item about photography and the law. They summarize the ten legal commandments of photography. There’s even a link to another site that covers the Canadian perspective.
Commandment eight, for example, says:
If you are challenged, you do not have to explain why you are taking pictures, nor do you have to disclose your identity (except in some cases when questioned by a law enforcement officer.)
The photo of mine above was taken just before I was approached by security while out on a personal photography project. I was shooting trains on Cominco’s property in Trail, BC. After about 10 minutes of wandering around, a security vehicle showed up. He asked who I was and what I was doing. I explained and gave my identity–contrary to the noted commandment–mostly because the guard was very polite and I figured I had nothing to hide. After a few moments, we both laughed as we realized we knew each other: we had met years earlier, when his sister married one of my cousins.
At work, I run into photographic permission issues regularly. We photograph employees all the time for our monthly internal e-magazine and increasingly we’re shooting people (staff and civilians) for external projects like annual reports. We developed our own model release form, which we use quite diligently, except for the internal work. We tend to let things slide when shooting for internal purposes, since everyone knows who we are and why we’re walking around with our cameras. If someone explicitly asks that their photo not be used–or taken–we honour the request. This “shoot first, beg forgiveness later” approach has served us well, since we get much more coverage than we otherwise might. This became quite clear the few times we’ve asked permission to take and use photos and staff, given the choice, refused.