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American Photographer Calls For An End To 'Professional' Kit Discrimination

A photographer in the states wants to stop those with 'professional looking kit' being discriminated against when not on paid-for shoots.

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Photographer Jason Lanier wants to bring an end to the discrimination some photographers face when out taking photos with what some consider to be 'professional looking kit'.

He's recently posted the video above which shows a couple of discussions he had with officials while out taking photographs in San Francisco. On both occasions, Jason caught the eye of the officials due to the camera equipment he was working with and they wanted to see if he was shooting for a commercial purpose. If he was, he would require a permit but on these occasions, Jason wasn't and explained this. 

During the second shoot, a Park Ranger who was very polite, a little more understanding and at the end of the day, only doing his job noticed Jason using off-camera flash while taking photos of a model in front of the Golden Gate Bridge.

"Generally when we start setting up more than just a tripod and camera, we get into the realm where we want people to have commercial permits," says the Ranger.


The Ranger went on to say: "Anytime you conduct business and make money in a National Park, you've got to get a permit for it." 

After further discussion, where Jason explains the group won't be making any money from the shoot, the ranger tells Jason and his group that he won't ask them to leave but he'd be happier if they 'put away the big flash' and make the shoot look 'less official' so they don't 'catch the attention' of someone else. 

But as Jason points out in the video, what if, like the group, you're not being paid for the shoot? What if you're just taking photos with all of your gear simply because you love photography and prefer the results you achieve with off-camera flash?

"What if you just wanted to use the flash to take pictures of your own family? Something I personally do all the time...," says Jason. 

The point Jason is trying to make is that he believes photographers who choose to use a certain type of equipment face 'discrimination' more often than those who use smaller cameras or even their Smart Phone to take photos, of which they could still sell if they want to. 

"(I) just wanted to share my feelings on being discriminated against from law enforcement and other officials and why I believe it's wrong and needs to stop," says Jason. 

"I do not believe photographers should have special rights. We shouldn't be allowed to set-up big productions, block traffic, cause disturbances, impede the enjoyment of other citizens etc. But not being allowed to take simple pictures with minimal set-up is nothing short of discrimination," says Jason. 

Jason goes on to explain how many photographers don't have a lot of money and huge production budgets as they simply 'love taking pictures'. He also asks for officials to 'show some reason' and for organisations to offer 'a reasonable permit fee' so all photographers can enjoy public lands and parks. 

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Andy_Curtis 5 808 United Kingdom
6 May 2015 4:19PM

I was taking pictures of a street perfomer who was in front of a shop, a shop assistant came out to tell me I cant take pictures of the shop, or have the shop in my pictures background. I Told him that legally I can as i am not doing this for commercial use. He then kept repeating "This is what managment said..."

I asked him why all the other people taking pictures were not being told to stop? "They aren't professional looking cameras"....

He gave up eventually. But the point still stands.

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TyChee 15 275 1 United States
6 May 2015 4:46PM
I agree 100% This has happened to me in the NYC area as well. As long as I'm using a point and shoot or my mirrorless sony, no one bothers me... but walk around with something more heavy duty and its a different story. What they don't realize is someone who is truly a professional can get great results with any camera. Smile

JackAllTog Plus
11 5.9k 58 United Kingdom
6 May 2015 5:10PM
Hold a camera phone up and no one bats an eyelid.

But just because you are passionate enough about your hobby that you look different you are discriminated against is unfair and itself illegal.

Keep up the work of education.
Mirec 10 23 United Kingdom
6 May 2015 5:52PM
London is especially bad as everything is own by someone and as soon as you will take out a bigger camera out, or
use any professional looking kit like a 'reflector' in that instance you have some security guard trying to impose all
the rules. I understand their situation as they only do they job and do what they been told by a boss. The fact is that if
you do a photoshoot with a model, you won't see that much of surrounding and if is only for our portfolio update than what.
Problem nowadays is that society is making people greedy and everybody is trying to get money from everything without
any work. Some of us forgot what is to be human and what that word means. I am professional photographer and I did big
photoshoots on locations like St.Pancras station and in the hotel, in other 5 stars hotels but for a professional photoshoot
you have always paperwork (permission ready. I like to take sometimes models for free just to enjoy shooting so I won't forget
how it taste Wink but many times it is spoiled by these unfortunate rules...
Cagey75 8 42 Ireland
6 May 2015 6:04PM
This is the same guy who made a huge deal about switching to Sony... his very point in making a fuss about that was that he was downsizing his gear. And the benefits of doing just that. Sometimes I think this guy purposely goes to shoot in areas where he knows he'll run into issues. Because there are plenty of alternative locations where you will not be greeted with any hassles. Just move along, and don't get into an argument with the law. It does nothing for photographers.
6 May 2015 7:28PM
The term 'professional' refers to the person taking photographs indicating that they do so to earn a living. Amateurs take photos for pleasure. Either may or may not take good or bad pictures - subjective to the viewer. Photographic equipment is inanimate and as a general rule doesn't mind who uses it or for what; manufacturers however like to portray their wares as being so good as to be able to influence the outcome of the users abilities. Kit is kit, photographers are photographers regardless of their professional or amateur title

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