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I am looking for ideas for an ID card and window placard that I can put together, print, and carry in my camera bag, wallet, and vehicle. I live in Des Moines, Iowa, USA and I wonder what a neighbor or local constable / sheriff / policeman might think, seeing me taking pictures late at night or in the early morning, coincidentally near a school or industrial area. I don't have any credentials but I was thinking of making something like a business card but with more information and an official "look" to it.
I am an amateur who is currently interested in trains, planes, trucks, industrial equipment, construction sites, etc. Last night, I was out around 11 pm, following a train that passes through my neighborhood several times a week, making deliveries to a lumberyard in the next town. To get some pictures of the crew working switches and uncoupling and coupling the carloads of plywood, I parked in a lot at the local school. While I was out of my vehicle shooting the train, someone drove through, stopped near my car and then drove on. Nothing more happened but I got to thinking that my photography will bring me in contact with someone who is curious or worried or alarmed over what I am doing. There's nothing I can do about that but I am wondering about what kind of information I should have at hand to identify myself as a photographer.
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Personally I'd go with just chatting with them and maybe showing them some shots you've taken, could even be worth having some shots in Dropbox or on your handset if you have a smart phone or similar device. A bit like a portable portfolio of interest.
What you propose is probably even worse than having no Id. Makes you look suspicious if you have fake or amateur looking cards or documents. I would suggest if your that concerned carry your passport for id.
May be yellow vest with "FREELANCE PHOTOGRAPHER" on it?
Talk to the people you are taking pictures of and just ask permission.
If the police stop you just explain what you are doing, it should be fine just make sure you have your camera gear with you lol.
Jat's advice is the best way to appear innocent is to appear innocent if no unobtrusive. You could always put "Scene of crime photographer" in large letters on your hi-viz jacket. When approached by a police officer, start complaining about your call-out and mileage allowances.
Pay the money... Join the NUJ. Job done.
(I STILL have mine from century's ago and 'they' still shy away from it and leave me alone - despite the loss of hair!!
What I'd be more worried about at night on my own, particularly if the car had "Photographer" written on it, would be someone breaking into it...
For starters, hanging around a school yard, even though its night will make people very wary of you, especially after all those shootings and kidnappings going on in the US. Go to your local police station and ask their advice. In other words, ask the professionals, not us! They will give you sensible advice on what to do and how to do it. Also, if I were you, do not go out at night on your own with camera equipment, otherwise it might be you who is on the news because of being either robbed or even worse, killed.
I have a FIAP identity card which I have very occassionally shown to a security guard. Of course they have never seen one before but it does make then take you more seriously and check before taking a silly decision. FIAP covers most of the world and the Photographic Society of America (PSA) covers North America but I do not know if they issue identiity cards; might be worth checking.
RADIATION PHOTOGRAPHY IN PROGRESS
That ought to do the trick quite nicely. No-one will come within a mile of you. And, as everything on the planet emits some background radiation, you are portraying the truth.
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