Central Park Photography rules

Started Feb 19, 2014 | Discussions thread
(unknown member) Veteran Member • Posts: 4,734
NYC in general

NYC is very photographer friendly in general.  A few outliers exist:

Iconic building owners have trademark and other protection on their building.  One example, the Chrysler building.  They don't like people making money off pictures of their property, much as many sculptors don't like people making money off of pictures of their sculpture.  If you're taking pictures of it close enough to the building, their security people may come out and harass you.  The likelihood of that is directly related to the sophistication of your camera.  If you're shooting with a point and shoot or phone, never.  If you have a Phase 1 medium format camera, almost certain.  So shoot from across the street… You'll not have issues with any pictures you make unless they show up in ads without permission.

Tripods aren't always welcome.  Many building security people will ask you to take it down and move on, as will a lot of the police officers.  Again, the odds are directly related to the sophistication and size of your camera.  If you're set up someplace that inconveniences anyone, you'll be asked to move on.  There's a park across in Brooklyn that looks towards Manhattan that's run by the National Park Service, and they have a rule that says, if you're on a tripod, you're making images professionally and need to pay $500 for a permit and show proof of insurance etc.  Idiotic, but I've had run ins with them a few times because I make and shoot pinhole cameras… which need to be on tripods.  Honestly - a hand-made shoebox size (because it was made from a shoebox) pinhole camera becomes a professional camera once it gets on a tripod?  Really?  But they'll stand in front of your camera and wave handcuffs in your face.

Grand Central and Penn Station aren't tripod friendly at all.  I remember when they were indifferent, and there were days when there'd be 10 people with tripods up on the steps.  I understand the concern.

You don't really need a tripod anyway.  ISO on most m4/3 is excellent up to 1600.  There are window sills, newspaper boxes, car roofs, rocks, and friends who can serve as flat stable surfaces instead of a tripod.  It's good to learn to look for tripod alternatives anyway, as many places in the world - historical sites, churches, rare architectural buildings, etc - have anti-tripod rules.

If you're photographing bridges, tunnels, airports, train stations, in anything other than a casual way, you may well be visited by law enforcement or security as a terrorist threat.  There's this fear of terrorists photographing buildings, that becomes irrational because they only seem to notice bigger sophisticated cameras.  My hand-held large format film camera seems to attract security concerns but not the 100 people nearby waving an iPhone camera in the air.  Terrorists shoot sheet film?  Really?

Don't bring a fashion shoot, or anything looking like one.  If you're taking pictures of your wife, friend, kids, neighbor, no big deal.  If you've got two or three people posing for you, and particularly if you've got three or four people posing and someone holding a light or reflector, you've just crossed over into needing a commercial permit.  A lot of fashion shot on the streets of NYC is therefore shot guerrilla style, at least for lower end publications without much budget.

Some people do not want their pictures taken.  So don't.  If you're taking pictures of scenes with multiple people in them, they'll duck or turn their back or whatever, and since you're shooting the scene, that's all they'll do.  If you're taking a picture of THEM, one person not a crowd, they may be more vocal and forceful in expressing their opinion.  I've found that a lot of wonderful faces in Chinatown, for example do not want to be photographed.  So, if they act like they don't want to be photographed, don't photograph them.

Anywhere I go, I always make eye contact with someone I want to photograph to give them a chance to agree or not.  95% of people don't care.  That moment of eye contact may make them less photogenic for a minute or two but then they'll forget about you and you'll get to shoot as much as you want.  Sometimes I don't want my picture taken…

In NYC, by and large your camera will be ignored.  If it's not, respect the concern and move on, there's a lot of spectacular photographs out there. It's not worth being disrespectful to get any photograph.

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