Nearly every modern phone has a camera attached to it and subsequently more and more people are taking photos in public places than ever before. The shot might be as simple as snapping a picture of a parade or as tricky as recording video of a riot. Regardless of the reasons, the rules for photographing in public places are the same.P
For the most part, your right to take photographs and video in public places in the United States is protected under the First Amendment under free speech. This includes snapping pictures of your favorite monument when you’re on vacation or taking part in a little citizen journalism. It’s not as cut and dried as you may think and it’s good to know your rights and the caveats that come with them.P
The General Rule: If You Can See It You Can Shoot It
Your basic right is actually pretty simple: if you’re in a public place and you can see it, you can shoot it. This means as long as you’re in a public location you can legally take almost any picture. However, if you’re using a telephoto lens, parabolic microphone, or hidden camera to get a shot of a private property when you’re standing on public property you might have an issue if someone on that property has an expectation of privacy. So, what constitutes a public place? Most places are obvious, a park, a street, a soccer field—these are unquestionably legal places to take pictures of anything happening. But what about all those Instagram photos of food you’ve taken inside a business? That’s a little different.