by Asabe Vincent-Otiono
You walk up to an event with your equipment in tow. You see something newsworthy and take out your camera to shoot. Before you press record, you hear, ‘Sorry no cameras allowed’. You then explain that you are part of the media and they retort, ‘Can I see your press pass?’ That statement can make every freelancer’s heart drop to the pit of their stomach.
But do you actually need a press pass? Not in these scenarios:
As long as you are on public property (the sidewalk, a public park), you are allowed to take footage of it and the people in it. Yes, even the policeman sleeping on duty. This includes offices, schools, church etc. In case of private property such as a hotel you are allowed to take exterior shots. The law states that you have the right to photograph anything that is in plain view.
In cases of private property, the property owner may set rules about taking visual footage. If you do not comply, you may be arrested for trespassing. However anything viewable from the sidewalk is fair game.
It’s also important to note that police officers are not allowed to seize or view your footage without a warrant. So while important to always follow the letter of the law—a police officer cannot just take your camera or your footage.
However, in times of emergency, police can rope off areas in public areas. Unless you have a press pass, you cannot cross police lines. Even if you have a pass, you need to abide by police instructions… always.
The Press Pass
This is every freelancer’s nightmare and may limit you taking on certain assignments. It’s important to note that a press pass is used for identification purposes. Freelancers can purchase a Member Photo ID from the National Press Photographer’s Association.
Government Issued Press ID
This may provide access in some situations but this is always at the discretion of the person in charge. It can give you access to some courts without being screened. How do you get this? There is no single answer as it differs in several cities. But a police department public information officer is usually a good first call. See examples in major cities likeBoston,New York city andSan Diego.
For more information check out the National Press Photographer’s Association’s website nppa.org.
Happy Shooting Stringrs!