I had a run-in with one of our neighbors the other day because I was out in the street taking photos. I happened to be taking pictures of one of the cars parked in front of my house. The car I was photographing didn’t belong to the neighbor who came to confront me — she just didn’t like it that I was taking photos of it. She seemed to have the impression that it’s not legal to take pictures of cars in the street, and threatened to call the police if I didn’t stop.
She backed down pretty quickly when I pointed out that photography is not a crime and is protected by the first amendment. So she went on to complain about the party we had on the Fourth of July and about how she didn’t like the art car – neither of which was a rational argument, either. I think she just wanted to bitch and took that opportunity as a forum.
Photography is legal in public places, like the street. You can take pictures of private property from public property – with the exception of peeping into people’s windows and private spaces. You can take pictures of people’s cars on a public street. From the photographer’s rights handbook:
The general rule in the United States is that anyone may take photographs of whatever they want when they are in a public place or places where they have permission to take photographs. Absent a specific legal prohibition such as a statute or ordinance, you are legally entitled to take photographs. Examples of places that are traditionally considered public are streets, sidewalks, and public parks.
I’ve been hunting around but haven’t found an ordinance or law in Indiana prohibiting photography in general public places.
I wonder how much she would have objected to me taking photos if I’d done it with a point and shoot camera, rather than a DSLR. I’ve taken thousands of photos with my point and shoot and never had anyone say anything before.
I’ve read numerous stories online about people being harassed for taking pictures in public places – more so since September 11, 2001. The person doing the harassing is nearly always wrong, and the photographer ends up being vindicated. Given that I have this new camera, the subject has crossed my mind.