Dang, people, it is hot here. The thing is, yesterday was one of discovery, but that is kind of the thing that sticks out most in my mind right now. At one point the little thermometer in the car registered 97 degrees, and I almost cried. Well, not really, but I wouldn’t say the knowledge that we were three degrees away from hitting the triple-digits put a big, glad smile on my face. Especially since we forgot to pack sunscreen and were still about an hour from purchasing some. It was also a busy sort of day: lots of errands and such, so I didn’t get to the whole picture-taking thing until a bit later in the day and even then, I was just squeezing shots in here and there. Not really a bad method, I’m just used to shooting for chunks of time. Or maybe it’s that I’m supposed to take a quick shot and be on my way and the next thing I know I’ve wandered two blocks off course and it’s been twenty minutes. It’s always good to have a shooting buddy, ladies and gentleman. Preferably someone with a watch and a fair amount of patience (and yes, Dylan, I’m thinking of you as I write this).
I poked around in this really cool store yesterday (not on the errands list mind you, but we’re sort of on vacation) and eventually asked if I could photograph their candle display. It took up most of a wall and I couldn’t resist the varying colors, sizes, and shapes. It was like a coincidental still life. Plus, it was airconditioned in there, and I might have been trying to delay the time until we stepped back outside and started melting. The very gracious sales lady granted me permission to shoot in the shop and the rest is history.
Alright, so those of you who read my post yesterday might be remembering that I “skulked around” outside some residence to photograph their cat in the window. If you’re assuming I didn’t ask permission to do that, you’d be absolutely correct. So why did I ask to photograph in the store? Well, that’s a sticky wicket and one that generally applies only in photography. I mean, sure, if you want to set up your easel and paint in a store you probably need to ask permission too, but as cameras are the most portable art form the whole permission issue comes up a lot more frequently. Here are my guidelines: if I’m just taking a quick shot of a fairly public area like a neighborhood, even a house, I just do it. Now, if I was going to set up a view camera and tripod across the street from someone’s home and take about thirty minutes photographing it (can you tell this actually happened?) then that’s a different story. In that case, I’d ring the bell, explain who I am and what I’m doing and ask very nicely if I could photograph. I might even offer to send them copies of the prints…because they live there and it is a bit intrusive.
Businesses are a whole other ball of wax though. Corporate-owned stores are a huge pain. If you, trying to be a responsible citizen, call ahead and ask permission to shoot in their store (even if you use the word photograph, so they don’t just assume things when you say “shoot”) they will be paralyzed with regulations and fear that you are actually doing some undercover news story on them. They’ll most likely say that they have to call an uppity up and then never get back to you. So, in those kinds of stores, I just do it. Most often, they’ll never even know that you did. And if you really are just using the images personally or for altruistic art reasons, I don’t see the harm. Flip side of the coin: you’re in a small business with just one sales person. Ask nicely if you can photograph and they’ll usually agree. Plus, if it’s a small store, they’ll probably catch you and that just sounds like a hassle (notice how I’m not sure if it is? That’s because I follow my rule and have never had a tussle). Well, there you have it…the complicated rules of shooting in public. Makes you want to never photograph outside your own home, doesn’t it? If this seems like too much rule and regulation, then just keep this more general guideline in mind: if you feel uncomfortable doing what you’re doing, it’s best to ask permission or abstain. Happy shooting!