I got a follow-up question after the latest post about photoshoots on interior locations with and without a permit. The first thing I’d like to say is that the situation is very different in Europe and the US.
Basically, one place you can’t arrange a photo shoot in Europe is an expansive hotel’s amenities. They make a big deal about guests’ privacy and comfort and you are absolutely not allowed to work there without previous negotiations. Even with negotiations, you will get a conference room rather than the lobby.
All the other places in Europe — are easy. Castles (except major attractions), Museums (not Louvre of course), Libraries — all public places don’t require permits, even if you would like to come in with lights and a team. Cafes — you need to talk to the owner, but if you are polite and order some coffee, and if it’s not rush hour, chances are you will be fine. One little insider hint— if you have a local person on your team, let him/her do the talking.
But in general European logic is: if you don’t bother anyone and if you are respectable to the place they will allow you to use it for your photographs.
American logic is a bit different: if you have the potential of making money using their location, they want a piece of it. Means for example if you are in a national park with just a model, bothering no one at all, the ranger will still ask you to show a permit or stop the photoshoot.
Hence if you can get a permit in the US, you should. Some parks and museums provide a permit for free if you sign a contract saying you won’t sell these photos. Other places are happy to let you in for good publicity (I got access to all amenities of the Boston Plaza Hotel like this, which I couldn’t do in Europe). Small museums, gardens, and Airbnb owners will let you in if the pictures will be published in a magazine. Some of the cafes will open a couple of hours early for you to bring in light and do the photoshoot not disturbing other clients if they can use the pictures in their own promotion. So, if you negotiate in advance, try to look as good as you can — show how many people you can reach and what kind of benefits you can offer.
At the same time, if you spontaneously want to use a place — cafe, rooftop, mall — and you don’t have any previous agreement, be as simple as possible. It’s late to talk to the owner or manager, who wants a promotion, now you are talking to waiters or concierge, who doesn’t want trouble. Their reservation is that you will disrupt the workflow and he/she will be responsible.
But he/she also doesn’t want a displeased customer (yourself). So what I normally do in this case, is I come in just with the model, order a coffee and then ask if my friend and I can take a couple of pictures. If you come during less busy hours like 10 a.m. or 3 p.m. for instance, and you are just two, and you are not wearing too fancy lens on your camera (I use 50mm fix) and not use flash, this will give you around half an hour of the uninterrupted photoshoot. I normally end it by thanking the waiters with good tips and mentioning that we will tag them on Instagram and that they have a great space. Normally it leaves them in a good mood and us with some good photos. Of course, this approach won’t give you a full editorial, but it can be a good opportunity to diversify street photoshoots or wait out the rain.
Last important note: I never ever sell the pictures done on someone’s property or place of business without a proper contract with the location. I also go through all the formalities if I work for the client because I never know if he/she will want to extend licensing later. All is fair in the art world, but the only fare is fair in business:)
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