The Art Of War - Avoid The Big Mistake, Don't Ask Me
I have an attorney, that should come as no surprise. In the photography business, as in any business, your two most important relationships are with your accountant and your attorney. Your relationships with other photographers are important, too, don't get me wrong, you can learn a lot from other photographers... just not about the tax code or the law.
I had an exchange with an old college friend via Facebook yesterday. He never became a photographer, he went into IT instead (usually it's the other way around, all the unemployed IT guys go into photography, what's up with that?). He, like the other IT guys, still does some photography. He shoots ads for his own little side business, uses both hobbies to make some extra money. Now he's thinking about going into the calendar business and he had a question for me. Following is our exchange. Pay attention, there's an important lesson there for all photographers.....
Joe ...question about photo releases for property. I have always been under the impression that photos taken from public ground were fair game... in other words if you take a picture of a house or building from a public road you can use it for anything you want. Is that true or are there qualifications I should be aware of? If I make a calendar using run down buildings that I can shoot from the road ...do I need to get permission to use the photos?
I'm a photographer, not a lawyer, and not qualified to give legal advice. Why don't you ask the attorney you'll hire to defend you when you are sued, for whatever it is that property owners sue for, when you've neglected to obtain a release? That'll be the only relevant opinion. You never ask an attorney how to expose an image or pose a model, why do you ask a photographer about the law? Don't ask photographers for legal advice, it's not smart.
Joe ...stop being a smart ass. I was asking you as an experienced photographer who may have run across that issue and may know what kind of release is necessary. (oh and also as the president or is it now vice president of your local ASMP.) I am the first to admit that I haven't been working in the field and run across those situations. But you have been and might have seen it. Everyone in a given field has "war stories" about somebody that did that etc.
I'm not being a smart-ass, I'm being smart! Don't ask me for medical advice either, I'm not a doctor. I'll tell you something I've learned in over 30 years in this biz: you want to take better pictures, ask a photographer; you want legal advice, ask a lawyer. It's stupid to ask a photographer for legal advice, you can take that to the bank.
One more thing... my war stories won't do you a damned bit of good in a court of law. What are you going to tell a judge? Joe Pobereskin, the distinguished jurist, told me it was okay to publish this without a release?
Your lawyer's war stories, the ones about how he won that case or the other, those are the war stories that count.
Above: Nikon F3HP, 180mm/f2.8 Nikkor lens, Fujichrome Velvia 50 film