Courtroom photography laws

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by Huxl3y, Aug 9, 2009.

  1. Huxl3y

    Huxl3y TPF Noob!

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    Hey all,

    I've been reading TPF for a while now, but now that photography has partially become my profession for the summer, I need more specific advice.

    I searched the forum and around the net for any laws regarding courtroom photography. All I know is that they are some regulations...but I don't know what they are, and this is the first courtroom assignment that a picture is top priority.

    Does anyone have any experience with courtroom shots, and know laws and ususal rules for in room photos? And anything I can pull declaring my rights at all if I get shut out?

    Also, the case is a murder trial, and one that has been hidden from the media with no real pictures of the defendant have been released. All I will say about it is that it has some deep racial undertones.
     
  2. Moglex

    Moglex TPF Noob!

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    You know how, when you see pictures of court scenes on TV or in a paper they are all drawings?

    There is a very good reson for that.
     
  3. Josh66

    Josh66 Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    I googled "courtroom photography" and got a ton of results...

    It seems like the rules are different from court to court. You will have to look up the rules for the specific courthouse your are going to.
     
  4. Huxl3y

    Huxl3y TPF Noob!

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    Yeah, I saw that the rules vary from court to court. I guess I was more posting to see if anyone had any experience doing it...

    And moglex, not all of them are drawings. I'm trying to get information about any circumstances that would restrict photography. Thanks anyway though.
     
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2009
  5. Josh66

    Josh66 Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    Well, find out the rules and obey them first...

    It shouldn't be much different than any other indoor photography.
    Expect the light to be bad. You'll probably have to use a fairly high ISO to get decent shutter speeds. Not sure if you'll be allowed to use a flash, but I doubt it.
     
  6. JerryPH

    JerryPH No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Unless it's night court or something (lol) ISO 800 and F/2.8 should cut it easily enough. Just be 100% sure you are allowed to snap that shutter... else it is instant jail time on the spot for you. ;)

    This stuff is NO different from any other dark room. A dark room or dark reception hall or a church or your living room... they all present the same challenges (varying levels of light aside)... a dark room is a dark room.
     
  7. Moglex

    Moglex TPF Noob!

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    Yes, sorry, I was thinking of British courts where photography is never allowed.

    Apparantly it's likely to wake up the judge.
     
  8. KmH

    KmH Helping photographers learn to fish Supporting Member

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    Every court photography situation I have seen, still and video, is a 'pool'.

    One still and one videographer in the court room, providing gratis images to all the other photographers in the pool.
     
  9. gryphonslair99

    gryphonslair99 Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    Call the Judges Chambers a few days prior to the trial and speak to their Court Clerk. They will give you the judges rules. A day before the trial call them back and speak to the Clerk again. If either side has voiced an objection to photographing certain witnesses, they will advise you at that point. Also make sure you check in before the trial begins.

    When in court, be very quiet, very attentive and do not go moving around. Follow the instructions given you to a Tee. Do not even think about deviating from those rules one little bit.

    That courtroom is the Judges purview. You screw up and you can find your self ejected, in jail for contempt and your gear seized for the duration of the trial. And don't try spouting the constitutional rights thing. You are in that Judges world and they rule it with an iron fist. That is one battle you are guaranteed to loose.
     
  10. In2daBlue

    In2daBlue TPF Noob!

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    This is good advice. Follow it. Each judge is different and, beyond that, each judge has different rules for each case he/she is presiding over. It's really dependent upon so many factors its hard to respond definitively here. But, gryphonslair99 's comment for the best way to approach it.

    From the limited information you have provided it sounds like you might be out of luck, though. If it's a fairly well watched trail locally and you haven't seen any images I think you can bet you will know how your luck is going to turn out. One thing to consider though, if you can't get inside with a camera you should consider camping yourself outside the courtroom where the defendant is being transported. You can often get shots of that which will do. Good luck.
     
  11. henkelphoto

    henkelphoto TPF Noob!

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    As others have said, it all depends on the courtroom. Of course, no still photos are allowed ever in Federal courts. Here in Las Vegas, we (the newspaper) can usually go into any courtroom and photograph, although it is the judge's choice to say no. When I worked for the Los Angeles Times, we had to get a document signed by the judge before entering the courtroom in order to take photos. Also, in LA we have to use a soft blimp, a bag that goes around the camera body to help quiet it. Although with the new cameras, I'm not sure this is needed.

    As for lighting, it can vary. In our courtrooms here, I shoot 1600 iso, 250 @F4 or so. And we are only allowed to stand at the back or sit in the back row of seats, so a 70-200 is crucial. No court I've ever been involved with would allow photos of the jury. If you even point the lens in that direction you will be ejected!

    As for just going in and taking photographs (I'm assuming this is what you want to do since you've said it has been hidden from the media), I don't think you would be allowed in with a camera. Usually, on the door of the courtroom there is a notice that no filming or recording equipment is allowed in court. Do you represent some publication or website?

    Jerry
     
  12. Jon_Are

    Jon_Are TPF Noob!

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    Ahh, I love old-school photography humor. :lol:

    Jon
     

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