What is a professional camera?

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What is a professional camera?

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I read a report in the paper this week about a guy who is suing a security company in Chicago. He was going to see the Chicago Bears play in Soldier Field (owned by the Chicago Park District- meaning the City of Chicago). He was a photo hobbyist and decided to bring his camera to the game. When he got to the gate and went through a search procedure, he was told that he couldn’t bring one of his lenses in because it was more than three inches long, which makes it a professional lens. The security agent then proceeded to drop the lens, ruining it (that is what he is suing for).

This brings up a point- it is now getting impossible to go to a sporting event and take pictures! Many times I hear from security guys that a camera with a detachable lens is considered a professional camera and cannot be allowed in to a concert. Meanwhile, anyone with $500.00 can go into any big box store, department store or camera store and buy a “Professional” camera. So where does it stop? If someone brings a camera out to the beach to take pictures of a vollyball game, will they be stopped? I see two problems here:

1. What is considered professional and what is considered a hobby? I know hobbyists with twice the equipment that I own, that are very proud of their photography. Guess they had better not bring a camera to the Bears game on Sundays- even if they are paying $200.00 for a ticket!

2. If an event is held on public property, can the artist restrict access to photographers? If admission is charged (like a sporting event) maybe so. But what about the 90 days of free musical events taking place in public parks each summer in Chicago? Does Stevie Wonder have the right to restrict photographers to one minute of shooting and then ask for their copyrights when he is playing for free on public property? Just curious.

On another note, music photographers out there might take note of what is happening in the sports world. A few years ago, Chicago was awarded a WNBA franchise. Someone I know who works for the Chicago Bulls suggested that I become their photographer, given my sports background. I started a conversation with the new teams publicist, and she was thrilled to have me aboard. AS the season drew closer, she called me about shooting the official team portraits at “Photo Day.” We set up a time and a place, and I was ready to work! Two days before photo day, she called to tell me that I would have to speak to an attorney for NBA Properties. She also said, sadly, that this would probably be the last time that we talked! I called the attorney, who said he was expecting my call, and was very excited to be talking to me, having looked over my website. He then said that he would explain the “rules” so that I could turn him down and he could find a photographer that would accept the terms (He knew I wouldn’t).

Here were the terms:

1. I would shoot every home game for $200.00 per game. The NBA would own all of my photographs, copyright included. I would have no rights to the photos whatsoever. (including the fact that I couldn’t even use them on my website)

2. After every game, I would go to an office in the arena and up load a minimum of 10 images to the Getty website, images that Getty could sell as many times as they wanted, with me receiving nothing in return.

At that time, I was represented by a business rival of Getty, so if I would have agreed to their terms, I would be giving photos (for free) to a competitor) thus voiding my agreement with my agency.

I couldn’t help but start laughing. I asked him how he gets anyone to shoot for the NBA. He laughed too and said that, in anticipation of me turning him down, he had already pulled up a list on his computer of the 10 people that had already accepted his terms, knowing that I was going to turn him down

So maybe we music photographers don’t have it so bad!