Saturday, August 15, 2009

Photography Etiquette Question — How to Shoot at a Place of Business?

A planned trip to the blueberry farm turned into an unplanned trip to a produce stand.

I brought my camera along to take shots of Dwight and his mom picking berries as well of shots of the berries and location. I was comfortable with that. It's outdoors, very casual, and a place where people wouldn't hesitate to take a snapshot or two.

Since the blueberry farm was closed for the season — something we discovered when pulling up to the farm entrance — we decided to head to a local, large-scale farm stand. This isn't a side-of-the-road kind of stand, more like a regular shop. I felt rather uncomfortable taking photos there but couldn't pass up the opportunity of shooting all of the vivid fruits and veggies. I began to wonder about how other people handle these situations.

I've seen gorgeous images from other bloggers taken at farmer's markets and the like and thought I'd pose these questions:

What is the etiquette for taking photos in a public place of business? Do you ask permission? Do you ask each stall owner if you're at a farmer's market? Do you feel odd shooting at these kinds of places?

Due to my uncertainty, the composition of the photos is lackluster, some of the shots are out of focus, and depth of field is not ideal because I didn't bother messing with camera settings. I was too nervous and felt like I needed to be stealthy about it.

I know part of my feelings of unease have to do with feeling self-conscious. Letting that go would be a first step, but what about what is proper?

Help me out — what do YOU do in these situations? Let me know in the comments, share your stories and blog posts. I'd love to hear about your experiences!


  1. Hmm, well I say it depends on what kind of public place it is.
    Here in India, there's usually no problem in taking photos of the markets. Though it is usually a good idea to ask the shop-keeper first.
    In other places, larger stores or malls, it can be a little difficult, especially if you look professional.

  2. Your pics are quite nice.I am new at this and about to purchase a new camera, an upgrade from a Sony Cybershot. What camera do you use? BTW, I usually mention that I am going to be taking pics unless that is an issue. They never care! In fact, going today to the local farmer's market. Hope they're smiling in this heat!

  3. Kelly - I can relate to what you're feeling. Often, I scout out places to go that allow me to both get great produce, etc. and shoot some photos...but I usually end up not taking as many pictures as I'd like because I'm wondering if it's "ok". I like Dan's idea of mentioning it to the shopkeeper and letting them tell you if it's not cool.

    Also, I have been thinking of getting some blog/business cards from Moo and offering them to any owner whose produce/wares/etc. I plan to feature (in pictures or otherwise) on my blog. That way, they'll know where they're being promoted.

  4. In the U.S. you can photograph anything that is in public view. Now if some one asks me to stop taking photos nicely - I probably will.

  5. Thanks for all of the great advice, everyone. I think asking permission is the best solution, for the courtesy if nothing else.

    Elizabeth - LOVE the card idea. I've been meaning to come up with some myself and this is the perfect way to use them. Thank you!

  6. Dan -
    Thanks for the compliment! I use a Nikon D80 with the Nikkor AF-S 35mm f 1.8 lens. Love both the camera and lens.

  7. Great topic! I hope you get a lot of responses because I face the same dilemma :-/

  8. I feel most of the things you put down. I usually ask if I can take photos and most if the times the farmers are happy to oblige. There are times when the guy doesn't look particularly friendly so I don't bother and move on .But if he's got something I'm really interested in, I quickly take a shot. It's uneasy. It's especially good to carry a point and shoot to such places in stead of a a huge dslr that stands out.

  9. In case anyone is checking back on this, there was a really good article on DPS just the other day. It's definitely worth checking out, including the comments.

  10. I haven't been into food-related photography that long, but I have never asked permission. That changed this year, however, when I visited a Sprinkles bakery in Dallas. I was going to document my trip to the famous bakery (as many bloggers had done) and started to take pictures of cupcakes inside the shop, when one of the sales girls told me that pictures were "not allowed" and that is was "against company policy". HUH?

    So I will ask from now on, whether it is an outdoor farmer's market or an indoor store of any sort.

    Personally, I would be quite flattered if anyone wanted to take a picture of me or of my food. ;)


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