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  1. #1
    TheFlyingCamera's Avatar
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    Commercial Street Photography regulations in Washington DC

    I saw something on the Washington Post's website today about this somewhat arcane law that can allow DC cops at their discretion to arrest and haul you down to the station for misdemeanor "offenses" that in the minds of most reasonable people would at best merit a citation (the case that brought this to light was a man who had expired license plates and was arrested for it. IIRC, he had out-of-state tags on his car because he was in the military and was only temporarily stationed here, and had just returned from an overseas deployment during which time the plates expired). While perusing the list of offenses which the police could arrest vice cite you, I came across an eyebrow-raiser: "Photographer - More than 5 minutes at location". Only five minutes???? I had to do some more digging to find out what that was all about. It turns out it specifically applies to licensed street photographers - the folks who set up those cheesy backdrops of spray-painted cars and palm trees and (at least used to) snap polaroids for $10. To be a licensed street photographer in Washington DC, it only costs you $25 (or $1... there's something I didn't quite understand in the reg about the licenses of Street Photography Business Licenses and Street Photography Individual Licenses). You must always display your badge and license while conducting business, and provide a card to the customer stating when their photograph will be delivered. The real kicker in the reg is this line though:

    Section 523.2 - Each photograph shall be clear and sharp, and shall show no blur of focus or camera movement which affects the principal subject

    So now the city knows better how to take a photograph than I do? (Not that I'm going to go around selling crappy photos, but I and my customer should be able to decide if they want an artsy/soft-focus/blurry/otherwise distorted image of themselves.

    The complete reg can be found at: http://os.dc.gov/os/frames.asp?doc=/...4_chapter5.pdf sections 521-523.

    Now that I know what the 5 minute rule is all about, it still boggles the mind to think you could somehow make money with setting up for no more than five minutes at a time. Heck, it takes more than 5 minutes just to set up the backdrop!

  2. #2

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    Quote Originally Posted by TheFlyingCamera View Post
    Section 523.2 - Each photograph shall be clear and sharp, and shall show no blur of focus or camera movement which affects the principal subject.
    I'm guilty. Where do I turn myself in? Or am I exempt from incriminating myself?

    Oh, as a defense I might call in the Grammar Cops. I believe the phrase should be "... THAT affects...".

  3. #3
    brucemuir's Avatar
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    DC legislators were never the sharpest knives in the drawer.

  4. #4

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    I guess you show them the GG of your 5x7 to demonstrate how how it's not blurred and the principal subject is clear and sharp?
    That might be fun to watch!

  5. #5
    TheFlyingCamera's Avatar
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    Bruce- too true. And they're also not even very good at being corrupt, which seems to be the one thing they are good at. Try as they might, they can't hold a candle to Boss Tweed or Richard Daly (or Huey Long). We just get stupid and venal stuff like ordering luxury SUVs and charging the taxpayers when it comes in the non-preferred interior color, or getting busted by the FBI for smoking crack.

  6. #6
    SuzanneR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by brucemuir View Post
    DC legislators were never the sharpest knives in the drawer.
    Just bears repeating!

  7. #7
    Leigh B's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by brucemuir View Post
    DC legislators were never the sharpest knives in the drawer.
    Those knives couldn't find the drawer even if they were in it.

    Like all other politicians in this esteemed democracy... best politicians money can buy.

    - Leigh
    “Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools, because they have to say something.” - Plato

  8. #8
    Kevin Caulfield's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BrianShaw View Post
    I'm guilty. Where do I turn myself in? Or am I exempt from incriminating myself?

    Oh, as a defense I might call in the Grammar Cops. I believe the phrase should be "... THAT affects...".

    No need to call them in. "which affects" is correct.

  9. #9

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    I remember one Andy Griffith show where Barney Fife arrested half the town on stupid stuff.

    Jeff

  10. #10
    brucemuir's Avatar
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    In the interest of fairness
    The 5 minute provision was probably inserted into this to make sure you didn't block major tourist spots with a commercial enterprise on the sidewalk.

    Same way they hound you if you try to setup a tripod these days.

    Who knows when this law was even enacted. And no, I don't wanna wade through the net to find out.


    The sharp and in focus provision could've been written in as a "stop-gap measure" to counter those pesky pictorialists back in the early part of the last century

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