Monday
Jun
2008
09

The High-Wire Act of Getting Photo Permits

by Scott Kelby  |  6 Comments

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I’ve had a number of posts, email, and even phone calls from friends, asking about when they would need a permit to shoot, and how to go about getting one.

This isn’t an easy question to answer, because every city and every location has its own set of rules (or lack thereof) and most times the biggest problem isn’t getting a permit; it’s finding out whether you need a permit or not in the first place.

Who needs a permit?

Again, there is no hard and fast rule about who needs a permit, but generally if you’re shooting in a city, from the sidewalk, with a handheld camera (even a professional DSLR), you don’t need a permit. However, the moment you decide to unfold a tripod, in most big cities, it instantly becomes “permit time,” because now this has just gone from a tourist with a nice camera, to a commercial photo shoot.

But here’s the catch:
Let’s say you’re not using a tripod at all; you’re just hand-holding a DSLR, and you’re on a public sidewalk talking photos as you walk around the city–that’s not a problem, right? Well, it depends on what you’re shooting. If you’re on the sidewalk, but shooting a commercial building you can almost bet a security guard from that company is going to come out and ask you to stop. I’ve even heard them demand that you erase the shots you’ve taken of “their building.”

Now, this opens that whole, “Does he have the right to stop me from shooting a building out in public view while I’m on a public sidewalk?” debate. Well, of course not (perhaps), but that won’t stop them from trying. In fact, try this sometime; stand outside a downtown building in Chicago, Detroit, LA or New York and start taking photos and take a look at your watch to see how long it takes for a security guard to come and tell you, “You can’t shoot there!” So lets say you pitch a fit, tell him he has no right to stop you, and demand that he call the cops (which probably won’t take much convincing by the way), and then the police arrive at the scene.

Will the policeman know what the local guidelines are for shooting private buildings? Are there even local guidelines for this at all? So, at the end of the day; it’s going to be up to this police officer who answers the call to decide whether you continue or not.

The Small City Blues

What got me thinking about this is a talk I had with a friend who has a studio in a medium sized midwest city. He wanted to do a portrait shoot outside his studio, just outside of downtown, so he searched the Web for any clues to whether this city required photo permits or not. He couldn’t find anything saying yes or no, but he told me, “Ya know, if I go and set up a light and tripod, how long will a bit before a cop shows up and tells me to “move along?” My guess? Not long.

If he were to call City Hall and ask the operator who answers the phone, “Do I need to apply for a permit to do a photo shoot?” would she even know where to send him? If he were in New York, Chicago, LA, or any city where commercial ads are often shot, they surely would. But what about in Valdosta, Georgia or East Liverpool, Ohio, or Naples, Florida? In smaller cities like that; you know who will ultimately decide whether you can shoot or not? The first policeman who sees you shooting. And what do you say when he inevitably asks, “Do you have permission to shoot here?”

The Big City Blues
Now, if you live in a somewhat larger city and want to avoid the whole security guard/police man intervention thing, the first thing to do is a Google search for your city + “Photo Permit.” For example, I wanted to do a shoot in downtown Tampa (with a tripod and a light on a stand) and I Googled “Tampa” + “Photo Shoot” + Permit and a few seconds later I had found a reference to the “Tampa Bay Film Commission” (I had no idea this even existed). Once on their site, I was able to dig around until I uncovered how to apply for a permit, who needs one, and once we applied, I was granted a permit with no problem. They were great.
Another thing I’ve found, is that at first glance it may seem like you need proof of $1,000,000 in liability insurance to be approved for a permit (and the permit needs to list the local municipality as the co-insured), but so far, after looking carefully, in each case that’s only applied to video shoots, and not still shoots (even though local photographers warned me that’s the case, so far I haven’t actually run into it). And now you’re seeing another side of the problem; there’s so little information, or misinformation, it’s hard to find anyone with a real grip on the rules, and if there is such a person; don’t worry–they won’t be available when the cops come up, you show them your permit, and the cop says, “How do I know this is legit?”

That’s another problem; I doubt the local Film office distributes a copy to every police officer in town, so they know what the permits look like.

Making Your Case for a Permit
If you do decide that a permit is the way to go (in other words, you’re going to use a tripod), one thing they will want to know is, “What will the photos be used for?” They may ask if they’re going to be used for commercial purposes, educational purposes, to be sold as postcards, etc.

For example, on my recent trip to New York, we contacted the observatory at the top of 30 Rockefeller Center to request a permit to shoot the New York Skyline at dusk from their observatory (which would require me setting up a tripod). They had a page on their site for photo permits, and who to contact, etc. and so we followed their instructions. Unfortunately, we were turned down because we were going to use the photos in one of my books, which they felt was a “Commercial Purpose” so our request was denied.

We also contacted the Guggenheim Museum in New York, and they had a request for photography permit section as well, and they were pretty clear and adamant about the fact that both the exterior and interior of the Guggenheim were copyrighted, and tightly controlled. Despite several calls to the department that handles photo requests, we were never able to reach anyone, and they never called us back, so we were out of luck.

Where to Start
If after a quick search for your city and “Film Commission” and then your city and “Photo Permit,” etc., my next stop would be to contact (by phone), the local Convention & Visitors Bureau. They are usually pretty clued in to rules and regs for their area, and they might be able to send you in the right direction.

Unfortunately, the worst possible scenario is that there is no formal permit, and the person at city hall tells you, “Oh, it’s OK—you don’t need a permit to shoot here,” because when the security guard, police officer arrives and you say, “Cindy at City Hall says I don’t need a permit,” what you might as well say, is, “OK, I’ll pack up my stuff.”

If you want to shoot at private location (like a business, or commercial building, etc.), I’d start with their Public Relations dept. (you can usually find their direct contact info on the company’s Web site). Again, be prepared to let them know why you need special access to their building, and also let them know how unobtrusive you’ll be during your shoot (unless you’re actually going to be obtrusive).

In most cases, the PR folks, and Film Commission people have been very friendly and eager to help. They just want to know who you are, and what you’re doing, and that you’re not going to disrupt their city (business) and you’re not going have people tripping over your gear and suing them.

The bottomline
You’re basically relying on the kindness of strangers, who really don’t have any real burning desire to help you with your photo shoot, other than they like you, so be really, really nice.

I wish I could offer more help, and secret insights, but because each city is different, and apparently there are no set rules, you just don’t know what you’re going to come across out there, so be prepared to be really, really polite when you’re out shooting, because at some point you’re probably going to have to convince someone to let you keep shooting.

Friday
Jun
2008
06

What’s It Like Going To Photoshop World? It’s Kinda Like This!

by Scott Kelby  |  0 Comments

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Our video crew put together a short two minute video clip that really kinda gives you a feel for what being at the Photoshop World Conference & Expo is like. Click on it below to check it out.

Also, we’re just putting the finishing touches on a free 2 1/2 hour “Best of Photoshop World” online class that we’re making available FREE to NAPP members, and it features segments from the some of the classes, behind the scenes footage, a look at some of the latest gear from the tech expo, and loads of other interesting stuff. I’ll let you know as soon as it goes live. In the meantime, check out this video.

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/7W7M8t2sod0" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Friday
Jun
2008
06

Friday Stuff

by Scott Kelby  |  0 Comments

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Here’s some stuff to lead us into the weekend:

  • This first thing had virtually nothing to do with Photoshop (but plenty to do with photography), and it is so funny that I just have to turn you onto it. Rate Your Music.com released their picks for the “Worst 100 Album Covers Ever” and it is just a riot—not just the awful covers themselves (which are stunningly bad), but their hilarious comments about them as well (which are totally R-rated by the way, so if you go there, don’t say I didn’t warn you). There are names on the list you’d expect, like Donny Osmond, and Menudo, but some will really surprise you. Trust me; this will start off your Friday right! (here’s the link). Thanks to my longtime buddy Jim Workman who sent the list my way.
  • There’s a fascinating article in the current issue of Scientific American from Dr. Hany Farid, called “Digital Forensics: How Experts Uncover Doctored Images” and it’s really worth a look. I spent an afternoon with Dr. Farid a couple of years ago, as he showed me some of the techniques and technology he, and his colleagues at Dartmouth, are developing and it was really just amazing. Here’s the link.
  • I’m excited to announce that Barnes & Noble Bookstores have put together a special promotion rack, in all their stores, featuring some of my technology books, with a special 30% off deal on them until the end of June (the rack is shown above; photo by Glenn Bisignani). By the way, The Vista Book on the bottom shelf isn’t by me. That one is actually written by my buddy Matt Kloskowski, and Kelby Training Director Kleber Stephenson, but somehow those rats weaseled their way into my metal rack when I wasn’t looking. Anyway, if you get a chance, stop by and pick up oh, say four or five copies.
  • If you want to go into the weekend with a little inspiration; how about something different: some photo journalism. Each week MSNBC.com runs “The Week in Pictures”, and it’s a small collection of fascinating, heartbreaking, funny, hopeful, tragic, and awe inspiring photos from around the world. Sometimes there’s some heavy stuff there, but you’ll also find some that’ll make you smile, and you’ll always see some really great photo-journalistic photos in their short gallery. Here’s the link.

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  • OK, I couldn’t leave you with all that heavy-stuff, so how about a really dramatic photo of a really cool car (The mini you see above). It’s from UK-based automotive photographer Tim Wallace (I’ve talked about Tim’s work before here on the blog), and Tim’s got some really fantastic images, so if you’ve got a sec, check out his site (Ambient Life) by clicking here.
  • One last thing: I had hoped to compile your comments on ideas for the next versions of Photoshop and Lightroom into a survey/poll that we would post, but unfortunately we won’t be able to get it up until next week. Thanks so much for your patience on that.

Well my friends, that brings to an end another exciting episode of “Friday Stuff.” Tune in on Monday to see what a new week brings. Have an absolutely Kick-Butt weekend, take lots of photos (and do your best to get it right in the camera) and we’ll see you here next week. Ciao!

Thursday
Jun
2008
05

Thursday News Update

by Scott Kelby  |  0 Comments

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Here’s a coupla news quickies:

  • Nikon just announced a major update to Capture NX (called Capture NX2), and there’s already a lot of buzz about this new version all over the Web. Nikon photographer (and Guest Blogger extraordinaire) Vincent Versace has this to say about the new version, “Capture NX2 unlocks my creativity in ways I never imagined. Using this software, the impossible becomes just an opinion. Capture NX2 is a RAW processor that allows you to be in the 21st century.” Vincent is regarded as the leading authority on NX, and he’s just released a Capture NX2 training DVD called “Unleashing the RAW Power of Capture NX2″ (he’s offering a $15 off discount if you pre-order the DVD before NX2 actually ships). Here’s the link with all the details on Vincent’s DVD.
  • There’s a free Photo Walk coming up this Saturday, June 7th, 2008 in downtown Chicago that kicks off at 7:00 am from Bicentennial Plaza, (337 E. Randolph). Dan Ablan has all the details on his blog. Sounds like fun! (ya know, except for the whole 7:00 am thing).
  • One of my readers, Baptiste Firroloni, brought this video clip to my attention, that is just hilarious. It’s a Washington DC Fox 5 news report, and they were doing a piece called “Photo Flap” about how photographers are getting hassled about taking photos in DC’s Union Station. So, Fox 5 did a live interview at Union Station with Amtrak’s Chief Spokesman who is talking about how it’s not necessary to have a permit to shoot in Union Station, and while they’re talking, a security guard comes up and makes them stop taping, and says “No photographs!” Priceless! You gotta see it: Here’s the link.
  • Stephen Frishling, over at the FlyingwithFish.com blog (which focuses on tips for traveling with your photo gear), has a really great contest going on. Stephen says, “To kick off the 2nd half of the year, I’ve decided to help someone pick up their camera, spread their wings and go explore America by giving away a $100 Southwest Airlines gift card. No strings attached, I’m just looking for someone who can really tell me where they want to go, why they want to go and what they want to see!” The details for the contest are over at his site (here’s the link).
  • One more thing: just a quick thanks to all of you who help out answering some of the questions posted by other readers here on the blog. Earlier this week, when I did the post about the Korg recording studio shoot, there were a number of follow-up questions, and I was home writing that day so I fielded a few of the questions myself, but I wasn’t able to answer all the them. Luckily, other readers here, like Kurt Shoens and Scott Wiggins, stepped in and provided some really good, helpful information, and I just wanted to say thanks, and let you know how wonderful it is to see readers helping each other, and not slamming or berating people when they have questions (which happens all too often in online forums). Hey, we’re all in this together, and it’s this kind of stuff that makes it all work, so thanks.

Hope you all have a fantastic Thursday, and we’ll see you back here tomorrow for a weekend wrap-up.

Thursday
Jun
2008
05

Two New Online Classes from Katrin Eismann and Eddie Tapp

by Scott Kelby  |  0 Comments

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We just released two new classes on KelbyTraining.com (well, technically Eddie’s new class, Seeing the Light, went live last week, but I didn’t get a chance to let you know), and now Katrin’s new class called “Creative Panoramic Photography” (shot live on location), is now up, where she shows how to prepare for, shoot, merge and experiment with panoramic images. (Here’s the link to her class).

Eddie’s class, filmed live in the studio, is focused on just one topic; a simple formula for getting spectacular lighting (here’s the link to his class).

Thursday
Jun
2008
05

Korg Skin Follow-up

by Scott Kelby  |  0 Comments

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I’ve had a lot of questions about the whole keyboard “skinning” thing, so just to follow-up, I thought I’d post this image, which is a series of photos shot and put together by RC Concepcion (click for a larger view) which shows the process of “skinning” a Korg M3 Music Workstation/Sampler with a Skintronix skin. Thanks to RC for letting me share this you guys. :)

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