When photography permit is required for amateurs in public places?

Yesterday when I was shooting dogs in Halloween costumes in the City Center plaza with my Nikon Z6 a security guy walked over and said “such cameras require a photography permit”. I complied and put my camera away but keep wondering if he was right. The plaza is a public place, I’m an amateur and not a commercial photographer. I searched on Internet for related policies, they all talk about commercial photography. Is a real camera and not a phone equal to commercial usage? What should I do next time?

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given that those policies largely depend on which jurisdiction you are under. it would be very helpful if you give at least some idea where you are :slight_smile:

San Ramon, CA

And if it helps - I did not use any tripods, special lights, flashes, etc.

Here in the UK, many places that are “open to the public” are not actually owned by the public. (For example: shopping malls, shops, churches, parks, public footpaths.) The owners can set rules prohibiting various activities. Such rules may be displayed somewhere. They may have a rule banning all photography, or require a permit, but turn a blind eye when the camera is a phone etc.


Check beforehand. If this is a public place and a public event, then I’d suspect that you don’t need a permit. It’d be weird in California.

I found their policies - permit is required for commercial photography only.


Yet I was told by the security guy that “such cameras require permit”. What is the right way to handle situations like this one?

Probably queue the webpage that states the policy on your phone and be ready to show it.

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I’m guessing the security guard’s criterion was ‘iPhone = amateur; camera = professional’. Having a ‘real’ camera of any kind makes you look like a professional these days!


‘iPhone = amateur; camera = professional’.

Despite all these lush iPhone ads on TV that try to make you think that you can shoot a professional movie with one (and 20x its costs in side gear: dolly, lighting… and assistants)


You could try (try!) to argue that its just hobby photography, and that your Nikon isn’t anything more than a holiday camera.

But if they keep persisting , you have to judge how hard you want to fight back. Be sensible in this, and sont ruin it for other photographers:).

'no commercial photography ’ doesn’t mean anything about what gear is used, but non-photo people still see any kind of ILC as ‘a serious camera’ and this equal it to commercial photography in this case.
Heck, some people get ‘scared’ of it, thinking about privacy.

So argue a bit that a hobbyist camera doesn’t make it commercial photography, but I wouldn’t put up to much resistance if they don’t listen to it.

At baby swimming taking pictures / videos was allowed , so all kind of moms in the pool with their newborns , and dads on the edge with smartphones.
But if I take out my m4/3 camera with an effective 35mm lens I was immediately asked to put it away. ?!?! . I can then go argue that those smartphones take better video in the low light of a pool anyway, but if everyone is looking at you weirdly , it’s just better to put it away and let it blow over .


I’m not sure where it was - this happened years ago, but I think it was a castle in Austria or Germany. They told us that we were not allowed to take photos with a “large” camera. To take pictures with a “large” camera, we would had to pay like 30€ extra.
What the exact definition of a “large” camera was, was not clear - the camera I had back then was too large though (it was a Canon 350D!) :smiley:
Of course, that is a bit of a different story, as they have their rights of the householder (you had to pay a fee to get into the castle as well) and can do what they want, thus it was not a public place.

On another occasion we were visiting a particle accelerator, where we were told that taking commercial pictures is not allowed. We agreed to never publish them, just to show them to friends and family, and we were allowed to take pictures even with “large” cameras.

So I think it really depends what they are after. Some might just want to make some extra money by banning “large” cameras (“if you can afford that camera, you can also afford the extra fee” is probably their thinking) - others do not want that you sell or present pictures without their control.


Yeah. Extend that to “if you can afford that $1000+ phone…”. Or turn it around, and replace it with “if you can only afford a 10+ year DSLR, you are free to take photos”. :slight_smile:


Does this count as a “large camera”? :laughing:


Things have definitely changed over the years :wink: That large camera fee was years ago, when phone cameras were like 640x480 :smiley: Not sure if they still do it - or maybe they extended it to phones as well …
Two weeks ago I spoke to a woman who creates marketing videos. She uses an iPhones and a drone… That’s it. She would definitely be categorized as “commercial” but not as “large camera” :smiley:

I guess that would count as “wtf is this guy doing?! Is that a bomb? Quick call the police!” :rofl:


People still take ‘large cameras’ more seriously – see When photography permit is required for amateurs in public places? - #11 by jorismak.
Anyone who wants to remain inconspicuous while taking sneaky photos/videos would just use a phone nowadays.


I was denied access to Wisconsin State Fair earlier this year, and their website said “commercial photography” was the only people who required a permit, but the guy at the front wouldn’t budge, stating “removable lenses” is what deemed me commercial.


Some people really enjoy having power over others, whatever ridiculous ‘power’ (authority) it is. :angry: They are not worth dealing with, but can still be a real pain in the neck.


I suspect that the problem is compact ultrazooms (Nikon P1000, Panasonic FZ2500, Sony RX10 etc), which can invade your personal space from a long way away. People hate this (and I can’t disagree with them). You cannot expect the security guard to distinguish these from a DSLR with a standard zoom lens, hence the blanket ban.

Since I mostly use primes, my first response would be demonstrating that my camera is a totally harmless toy since it does not even zoom :wink:. Beyond that, I would not get into an argument; the world is full of interesting topics for photography.

That said, a lot of micro 4/3 and APS-C cameras look inconspicuous with a prime or a slower zoom that does not stick out much. Go for the gear street photographers favor.


I’m inclined to agree - however I can’t help thinking that anyone asserting “authority” should be expected to have at least cursory knowledge of what they’re forbidding… :weary:

Still, considering that a considerable portion of DSLR owners don’t know the difference between ISO and exposure compensation… (going by a certain Nikon group) I guess it’s too much to expect. :rofl:

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