I am looking for web resources to help persuade someone that photography is not a suspicious activity and photographers should not be considered a threat. Right now, the discussion is pretty cordial and I'd like to keep it that way, while still being persuasive.

To be clear, I'm not asking for clarifications of what my rights are (as this question does), but rather I'm looking to persuade someone who hasn't thought much about it that photography is not suspicious and he should not worry about photographers on his property, even if they don't ask permission first. (The property in question is a privately owned park, so arbitrary members of the public are wandering through all day long.)

The intended audience is someone who's not hostile to photography, but doesn't really know anything about it. On the other hand, they do know the building security department reasonably well in a professional capacity; building security is hostile to photography. The intended audience has not had deep discussions about the matter with security (being busy with other things) and has simply accepted security's recommendations that photography needs to be restricted.


Some good clarifying questions in the responses; here are a few more details.

  • What kind of place is it? It's an open space between a couple of office buildings, in a major US city. There are some areas with nice landscaping, and some gravel areas tables and chairs for eating. It gets a lot of foot traffic from people walking through it. At first glance you might assume it's public property, but I'm pretty sure it's private. It's correct that it's not quite a park; however, I'm not sure exactly what to call it. It does have some unique properties, but I'd prefer not to give too many details because the purpose of the question is not to call out the property owner in public (and I don't think they're important for answering).

  • What happened? I was in the space making photos (from the same places any passerby might be) and a guard came out of the adjacent office building and told me to stop, so I left. The park was empty at the time. I later dug up the owner and sent him an e-mail, receiving a very friendly reply a couple of days later. That's where we are now.

  • There is no policy posted. I have no idea if there have been previous complaints.

  • I'm not interested in quibbling about legalities or make any sort of legal fuss. If the property owner says no, I'll leave it alone. Any photos I make would publicize the place, so I don't want to do that if I'm being hassled, even if I'm right.

  • I want to persuade the owner that anyone should be permitted to take photos whenever they want, not just obtain permission for myself (which would be easy).

  • \$\begingroup\$ It sure sounds to me like there's something non-parklike about this location; otherwise even the most vigorous security department would have a hard time convincing someone that there's any reason to restrict photography. Can you explain what, exactly, the security department is there to protect? \$\endgroup\$
    – D. Lambert
    Commented Nov 23, 2010 at 17:46
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ I think you underestimate the power of bureacracy. :) I believe security has a policy of "no photos" for whatever reason, and the guards are just doing their job. \$\endgroup\$
    – Reid
    Commented Nov 23, 2010 at 19:13

5 Answers 5


Great question.

From the tone of your article is that you're looking to keep discussions cordial, refraining from using legal jujitsu to make your argument.

Does the park have an official policy regarding photography? Is it well defined, and obvious to any public passerby? If not, legally the park owners could be liable for any damages from a harassment charges brought on by John. Q. Photographer--if building security was there on the behest of the park owners, and there was no official photography policy, or it was not clear.

Has the park owner had any complaints by other patrons about photographers?

I think the most compelling resource would be an amazing photos shot while in his park. Perhaps even a nicely framed and mounted print as a gift. The park provides a beautiful space that is enjoyed by so many people; and photographers only add to that.

At any rate, keep us informed with how your discussions are going. I know I'm intrigued by this.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I think I addressed your questions in the question. Let me know if not. Thanks for the followup. \$\endgroup\$
    – Reid
    Commented Nov 23, 2010 at 19:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think Alan has a point. Or, to not violate the ban, you can show the owner collection of great pictures from similar parks (perhaps selected from Flickr) to demonstrate that other similar places allow photography and that it helps people keep memories nice of the place. \$\endgroup\$
    – che
    Commented Nov 23, 2010 at 20:39

I love your attitude.

I guess that in a similar situation, I would be asking the owner questions to understand what they are afraid of. By asking them, I would hope to make them think about the (supposed) threats and realise that there aren't any. I guess the first question is simply:

"What are you afraid of?"
"What could I possibly do that might harm you?"

Another tack might be to explain the difference between threats that building security are trying to prevent (theft, mainly - both physical and intellectual) and threats which apply to a park (hard to think of any).

Hope that helps. :)

  • \$\begingroup\$ This is really important. We need to know why they don't want photography on the property. There could be a legitimate reason, or it could be a case of someone not understanding the risk. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jasmine
    Commented Jun 16, 2014 at 23:44

Don't act suspicious. Don't hide that you're taking pictures and being sneaky, but don't try to draw attentions to yourself and keep a low profile. Don't shoot against people's will, a smile and some words can go a long way.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Great advice! Unfortunately I was already doing this and still got hassled by security (which I didn't argue with, since the individual security guards have no power to change policy). \$\endgroup\$
    – Reid
    Commented Nov 26, 2010 at 4:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ Reid: It happens to us all, sooner or later we end up being hassled but when you're taking photos of a private site you should being aware of that place's policy (even if it's not publicly posted) whether you're planning to break it or not. In the end you should abide to the rules. \$\endgroup\$
    – t3mujin
    Commented Nov 26, 2010 at 11:06

It's naïve to discuss photography as "suspicious activity" without considering the law. Public photography alone shares no proclivity to criminal suspicion. Any individual in public may have subjective doubt of anthers intent. The tool in hand would not make the difference. There simply is no guarantee for objectivity as there is no expectation of privacy in public. Unfortunately enough in public are ignorant of legal difference between private and public property. Sometimes, no amount of self control, willful compliance and disarming smile can change some folks ignorance of law and suspicious skepticism. While our first amendment right to photography in public is well-established and fundamental law, it's best not to engage contempt and go about your business. Suspicion is subjective under color of law, not objective under rule of law. As photographers, the controversy we're challenged with, is the individual decision to educate the public

  • \$\begingroup\$ It's naïve to assume that everyone on the internet is in the USA. The first amendment is applicable to only a tiny portion of the world's population. The law is different in different jurisdictions. \$\endgroup\$
    – osullic
    Commented Sep 18, 2022 at 15:01

There are an infinite number of pictures that can be made. Almost all of them without bothering anyone.

Sure conflict photography is a thing, but why generate conflict yourself?

Why spend energy arguing and persuading instead of making pictures?

Which is to say, that the easiest behavior to change is your own.

Hard journalism aside, making pictures in ways that upset other people is not a moral high ground. At best it is the same ground as the people who don’t want the picture making done in the way it is being done.

My rule of thumb is if the camera is to my eye when someone seems to become bothered, I click and stop. If it’s not at my eye yet or anymore, I stop.

If someone asks me to stop, I stop. Again, hard journalism aside, there are infinitely other pictures to make.


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