Is it always OK to take photos or videos of movie sets in public?

One issue that came up over and over again with our readers in 2011 was whether or not fans (or anyone) is allowed to take photos of celebrities or movie shoots that are filming on public streets.

Back in the spring we had several readers have issues with the crew (and later with the production company) working on The Amazing Spider-Man in NYC. The movie was filming on the street in various locations around the city, including midtown Manhattan and the Williamsburg Bridge, but fans who were watching (from a distance) were told they could not take video or photos of the scenes as they were being shot. Later, a few fans who did get video of the shoot had it removed by YouTube due to copyright issues.

A few weeks later we had readers in Michigan reporting the same type of issues while the upcoming movie AWOL was filming in Ypsilanti, MI. One of our readers, @Bananadoc, was told no one could take pictures of the movie’s sets (which were located on public streets), while another woman was told she would have to delete any set photos from her memory card.

After a similar issue on the set of Rock of Ages in Fort Lauderdale this summer, the city decided to uphold citizens’ rights to take photos in public.

So what exactly are the rules? It varies from city to city and state to state, but in general anyone can take a photo or video of anything on a public street. That person also own the rights to that photo, no matter who or what is in it.

Of course, we don’t condone taking photos of a movie shoot if you have been asked not to, especially if you have been asked politely, we understand that it does sometimes put productions in a difficult position if information is leaked before they want it to be. But, if a crew member threatens to take legal action against anyone for taking a photo on a public street they are way out of line and have little legal ground to stand on.

So, what’s the point? It’s important to know your rights.

Here is a link to a great cheat sheet of NYC’s laws about filming on the street.

For details about photo laws in other cities (which are generally the same as the those for NYC) visit your local government’s website or call your local government officials. A list of contact information for government offices can be found at

Also be sure to check out The Photographer’s Right, a document that outlines what a photographer can and can not photograph, and what to do if you are harassed for taking photos in public.

Have you had an issue photographing a movie or TV set? Do you think people should have rights to photograph anything or anyone in public? Share your thoughts in a comment below.


  1. just because they have money and influence does not make them right! if they are filming on a public street you can videotape them or take stills!

  2. Copyright Law is a messy one and one that is used by just about everyone in that sort of business they are working. Copyright law is simple and was put in place to stop reproductions or in effect stealing of what you or a organisation has produced.

    If you are taking pictures on a set that is in a public area then you are fine, because its not your fault the building you wanted to take pictures of had a actor say ‘Tom Cruise’ running out of it. They will hit hard over video as they don’t want the content of the film leaked on the web.. But then this falls back on the same argument as PR for the major productions will leak pictures and films on the web..

    If you are confronted on a set for taking pictures and video and you are in a public area, and they are falling behind the copyright shield then challenge them on what part of copyright law you are breaking, there is no-one in any production team that can answer that. Not even a policeman can book you for it.. Believe me they wont even waste the time looking through the handbook to check.. Copyright is pretty simple.. Public place take pictures and run video.. If in a private lot then you cant shoot without permission of access.

    Basically they don’t like people making money ie Paps making money off their productions.. even though we increase the PR of the productions. Hope this helps.. and remember – IF YOUR CHALLENGED THEN ASK THEM TO OUTLINE THE EXACT PART OF COPYRIGHT LAW YOU ARE BREAKING … THEN WHEN THEY CANT TELL THEM TO GO AND GET A COFFEE AND FEEL FREE TO CALL THE POLICE IF THEY WANT..

  3. If they are shooting on public street, you have every right to take pictures or videos. Public place by definition belongs to public, they have no right to privatize it for personal gain. Yes, shooting movies is for a personal gain. I never had any problems with taking pics during movie filming. Had no problems while taking a video of Transformers filming in DC, and no problem of taking pics of R.I.P.D in Boston. The only thing they can ask you is not to use flash which is understandable. Do not let anyone to threaten you if you are taking pictures of a public place unless it’s a bridge, tunnel or high rise.

  4. Last night i was on the set of “The Getaway” in Sofia. 30 seconds and few pictures after i arrived, the crew and the bodyguard of Selena Gomez (this one i think stormed us, yelling “No pictures” and threatening to take my camera if i don’t stop. I started to argue with them, but there is not much what you can do against two guys and a gorilla. I decided to ask an officer and he said “it is filmed on USA laws”. what? I guess he wasn’t informed much. So i moved down the street because they were making laps and waited to pass in front of me. Made some shots and after a while two more guys came and threatened that “i have 10 minutes to leave or they will beat me like a dog”

    I am sick and tired of people abusing with power, not familiar with the laws and breaking the human rights (freedom of speech, taking my camera?), just because they are big and from the USA…

  5. Zippo sounds like you have had a rough deal over the Selena thing. Right first things first the bodyguard for selena is a street urchin so dont get in a confrontation with the dude he will hurt you. So when he is around stay mobile.

    Secondly it would be worth getting hold of a tape recorder of something small that you can roll video on. So when they come over and threaten you, you can record it and show it to the police officer. They have to respond to your complaint. and also TMC or whatever agency it is will probably run it too.

    But yeah it’s best when things are gonna get heated to have back up get two or three of you down shooting, and start recording things cause its you against 200+ of them and believe me they dont give a crap if the body guard did pop you one. But if you have it on video or a recording on tape then its assault.

    But don’t back down from em. If they block you move and keep shooting the madder they get the gaps they create so don’t give em what they want.

    Peace out

  6. Yeah, i should have taken my Ixus for shooting a video, but didn’t expect this. Also i was curious about the officer saying “US law” – first i think its 99.9% impossible, and second – the US law is more open to shooting, judging by the recent Spring Breakers movie. The bad thing is, that they’re shooting at night and my bridge camera isn’t performing at best at high iso, so i guess it’s not worth it to go on war this time

  7. Hey ya.

    Yeah if it’s a night shoot I wouldn’t bother to be honest, if your using a bridge camera. I do this shooting for a living and struggle on night shoots even with a 1.8 len’s. Night shoots are fine with big productions, as they light the scene up like christ is rising from the dead again. But just normal productions it makes for hard work.

    To be honest I dont about US law I’m British but work in Canada the general law is world wide normally for these matters. Unless your trespassing they cant stop you taking pictures. They can block etc but they cant threaten you and so forth. But yeah make sure you pack a recorder when you leave house and when they get in your face whip it out and start recording, and have a buddy step back and start rolling shots of what is happening. They will back down, as anything they do reflects on Selena’s Image. They know the drill.

    They are doosh’s unfortunately.


  8. Hi, by blocking you mean stand in front of me/them? I can show you a pic what the light was, but don’t want to post it online – it was the street lamp and the productions lights consisting of two arc-lights-(that’s the word i think)” at the back of the truck who was pulling the car. Not even a moon :/ At least the video got decent, but nothing you can make money of 🙂

  9. Thanks for sharing this type of information, This type of information is very important for the public. But I have need videos services because I make a video of songs. But most people don’t like my videos so I am looking for a good online Video service. I hope so, You will understand my problem.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here