Legally Photographing on Private Property & Getting the Most Out of It!

May 20, 2014

Topic:  Locations
Time Investment: 5 Minutes
Suggested Product: Property Use Agreement


So what do you do if you find a location that is private you MUST have it – do your research and professional due diligence. Just like anything else in business, it is important that all responsibilities and liability are outlined in written agreements.  

Approaching a private property owner can be daunting, especially if not equipped with a script or written agreement.  Here’s some legal and business tips to reduce that anxiety and achieve use of the property you desire!


So what do I even say?

Deciding to solicit someone can be scary, especially if you’re an introvert, but here are some tips to help you out!

-Identify who you are – Let them know you’re a registered business (offer to show documentation)

-Marketing materials – Take marketing materials with you to show what you do

-Lay out your goal – Explain your expected use of the property

-Request permission – Of course! That’s what this is all about. ASK them if you can use it! Worst they can do is say no!

-Offer compensation – If they are wary then offer them some compensation


What types of things should my agreement include?

-Property description & address

-Length of agreement

-Care of premises

-Release of liability


-Ownership of photograph


How do I pick a location?

Just remember, locations aren’t always the most beautiful – get creative!  Look for crevices and areas you can use to maximize the property you are using to the fullest extent.


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How do I find who owns the property?

Search the Owner’s name: The county/city has public records that you can request at the appropriate government buildings (County Clerk or County Recorder’s office).  Some places do require a nominal fee in order to secure this information but may we well worth it.


What if we found it during the session?

A lot of times you may stumble upon a property you want to use DURING a session.  I highly recommend not just entering – ask for permission if someone is around.  Carry a Property Use Agreement in your bag or on your tablet (apps such as Gravity Forms on your site, or the SignNow application are great!).  If you do run into an owner and have a spot you want to use you can whip out the agreement and have it on hand right there!


Go the extra mile

#1 Get creative

If you’re going to go to great lengths of securing permission to shoot on someone’s land – why not throw in some extra perspectives such as panoramics.  They really haven’t been my thing until now. I am so excited to share an eBook my friend, Scott Kivowitz, just wrote called Go Wider with Panoramic Photography – this ebook is 50 pages packed with education, no fluff and straight to the point, content about panoramic photography.


I figure if I’m already taking that time to educate the property owner, get them to sign a Property Use Agreement, and possibly expending a fee to shoot – I may as well shoot some extras for clients or just for myself.

The only panoramic photography I have done up until recently has been on my iPhone (#embarrassed) but now I feel equipped with skills required to make a panorama. In Scott’s ebook I learned how to setup for a panorama and process it using software you already use like Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom.

#2 Take care & Thank the owner

Make sure you send a THANK YOU the property owner and take care of their property.  Many places are having to institute strict rules and hefty fees for photographers because some take advantage.  Treat their property and them as though it was your studio/home and client.


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