So for example in a mall, Can I take pictures of people without their permission? Does that depend on wether they notice I take pictures or not? Also in Cafes and streets...all public places, I am not really sure about this. What are some general rules? What to avoid? I am located in the United States, Kansas!

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ It would help to know what country you are asking about. Also, are you interested in what local law permits or what is ethically acceptable(you added an ethics tag)? \$\endgroup\$
    – dpollitt
    Dec 18, 2014 at 2:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ @dpollitt U.S .. but in Kansas ! \$\endgroup\$ Dec 18, 2014 at 2:12
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ This is a good place to start: aclu.org/free-speech/know-your-rights-photographers Note that this is from another question already on the site: photo.stackexchange.com/questions/1008/… Also, you still have not indicated if you are interested in ethics or legalities. They are not one in the same. \$\endgroup\$
    – dpollitt
    Dec 18, 2014 at 2:12
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ See the section of this answer that begins, "Places that are privately owned but open to the public are a little more restrictive..." photo.stackexchange.com/a/35131/15871 \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Dec 18, 2014 at 2:18
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ You can legally shoot anything you can see while standing on public property. You can publish it freely for journalistic or artistic purposes. There's a famous legal case, still ongoing, about a photographer who shot into people's open windows and published the photos as art. A court ruled he had the right to do it. The people he photographed, who sued him, are appealing. artnews.com/2014/09/09/privacy-and-surveillance-art \$\endgroup\$
    – user4894
    Dec 19, 2014 at 8:15

1 Answer 1


I am not a lawyer. Seek one out if you want legal advice.

United States

In the United States, photography is permitted by law in public spaces, and also from public spaces of private property.

You can take pictures of people who are in public spaces without any consent unless it is what I would call obviously questionable to a normal person.

You can take pictures of police officers, criminal activities, and basically anything else you can take a picture of from a public space.

In A Mall/Shopping Center

According to Wikipedia:

Photography on private property that is generally open to the public (e.g., a shopping mall) is usually permitted unless explicitly prohibited by posted signs. Even if no such signs are posted, the property owner or agent can ask a person to stop photographing, and if the person refuses to do so, the owner or agent can ask the person to leave the property.

  • \$\begingroup\$ good enough, it is Christmas season and wanted to make sure paranoid people won't break my camera if I find some nice shot in a mall with all nice decorations around. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 18, 2014 at 2:24
  • 5
    \$\begingroup\$ @user1899082 - Paranoid people certainly can and will do irrational and illegal things related to photography in public. Just because the law is on your side does not mean that people are aware of that. Keep your eyes open and don't be stupid and you shouldn't have issues, but its never a guarantee. \$\endgroup\$
    – dpollitt
    Dec 18, 2014 at 2:26
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Ruling after ruling in U.S. Courts has established that private property open to the public, such as a shopping center or mall, is not considered public property in terms of taking photographs without permission. If there are "No photography" signs posted (even if they are only posted, say, in the mall office) and you take photos there without permission you may be charged with trespassing. The same holds true if you are asked by those in charge of the property to stop or leave and you continue to take photos. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Dec 18, 2014 at 2:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ Kobre, Kenneth. "Photojournalism: The Professionals' Approach (Sixth Edition)" ©2008 Elsevier, Inc. It is pretty much the "standard text" for most undergraduate photojournalism courses on America's college campuses. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Dec 18, 2014 at 2:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ Here's a link to the amazon listing: amazon.com/Photojournalism-Professionals-Approach-Kenneth-Kobre/… \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Dec 18, 2014 at 2:36

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.