This is a question specific to US law, and this is the first time I do this, so that is why I ask. I booked a quite nice hotel suite in NYC and I'd love to shoot portraits of a friend there that is traveling with me. The city view there is fantastic.

Do you think I should ask the hotel permission, and/or there can be a location fee for shoots done inside a regularly paid suite (and not in the public parts of the hotel)? The primary subject would be the human (if it makes any difference).

Thank you.

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    1) Are there any visually identifiable items in the suite that would uniquely identify the property? Logos? Trademarks? Architectural Features? 2) What is your intended usage? Personal? Portfolio? Editorial or commercial?
    – Michael C
    Feb 3 '16 at 5:55
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    1) I guess that the style of the furniture pretty much would identify the hotel if one knows it, even if no logos or trademarks would be easily identifiable. 2) Portfolio mainly, I would say, and potentially submitting it to any relevant photography contest. Feb 3 '16 at 6:57
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    Just do it without asking, no one is going to care. Feb 3 '16 at 13:56

Believe it or not, when you book a hotel room you are also signing an agreement to certain terms and conditions. It would be advisable to review the terms and determine if you are breaking any of them before proceeding.

Should you tell the hotel even if you aren't breaking any terms? It's up to you, but how would you feel about booking a model or session in a room and being kicked out because you did break some rule? The alternative is to ask up front and either be turned down or even have the potential to be upgraded to a nicer room at no additional cost. I'd suggest the latter and I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

The hotel is looking for paying guests. Even better if you don't use the amenities and don't spend the night. High end hotels are used to requests like this and will have no problem accommodating you.

  • How would the hotel even know to kick you and your model out? Feb 4 '16 at 17:30
  • @whatsisname - Walking in with bags of lighting equipment for example.
    – dpollitt
    Feb 4 '16 at 17:33
  • If your stuff is in bags, how would they know, and secondly, how would they know its not for some gig elsewhere in town, and even then why would they even care? Feb 4 '16 at 21:38
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    @whatsisname I'm not going to argue how/if you could get caught by hotel staff doing something they may not allow. If you want to take the chance because you are sure either 1.You won't get caught or 2.You are certain you aren't breaking rules - then go for it.
    – dpollitt
    Feb 4 '16 at 21:39
  • Thanks for your comment. As I said my model is a friend, I'm a hobbyist and I personally prefer natural light, so I am not planning to carry any particularly big equipment. I'll try to ask anyway, maybe in advance. Thank you very much. Feb 8 '16 at 21:02

From Bob Atkins Photography:

If you are on private property, such as in a store, shopping mall, sports arena or theater, then you need permission from the property owner to photograph. If you take pictures against instructions not to do so then the property owner has the right to ask you to stop and/or to leave. If you refuse, you can be arrested for trespass. However the simple act of taking a photograph there isn't illegal and you do not have to surrender your camera, your film or memory card and you do not have to show your images to any security personnel or delete your images. You can simply leave the area if told that photography isn't allowed.

If it's just in the suite and it's just for personal hobby, I would say go for it.

And even if it's not just in the suite (lobby, etc.), I've personally taken pictures casually of friends and families at a hotel so I don't see what the problem would be. Just don't start taking out your entire studio set with 3 umbrellas and a reflector.

All in all, I would say just use a good, common-sense judgment and if asked to stop, just simply stop.

  • Thank you, it seems pretty clear. As I said in a comment it's not really just "hobby", but I would say personal / portfolio (non-editorial and non-commercial anyway). Feb 3 '16 at 18:53
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    Keep in mind that it can easily be argued that paying for the room and getting the key equates to permission, a booked hotel room is different than the other examples of private property. Feb 3 '16 at 23:04
  • I'm not sure what the quote really says about this particular situation. That is generally speaking about private vs public property and your general rights to photograph. In this particular case, it's about paying for use of a space and if the use includes photography or not. Your anecdote about taking casual pictures of friends is even further from applicable to this situation.
    – dpollitt
    Feb 3 '16 at 23:26
  • @dpollitt Hotels are considered a private property and therefore the quote directly applies as the second half talks directly about the "simple act of taking photograph" within that property. The heart of the question wasn't whether he should pay but rather if he's allowed to take pictures in hotels without letting then know and possibly paying if it came down to it. apertureandy82 directly talks of bringing a friend that is traveling with him, therefore that anecdote of taking casual pictures with a friend applies here as well.
    – sparkhee93
    Feb 4 '16 at 1:57
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    The context of the Bob Atkins quote is with regard to publically accessible areas that are on private property: areas that anyone can just walk into. It doesn't really say anything about a place for which you have paid rent. When you pay to rent a place the entire relationship between you and the property owner changes. You have entered into a contractual agreement that is governed by the terms of the contract. Absent more specific terms spelled out in the contract, the jurisdiction's general law concerning a landlord/renter relationship would apply.
    – Michael C
    Feb 4 '16 at 3:25

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