Risky Shots - No Tripods in New York City

posted on 16th of june, 2010

Ok well maybe the title is a bit misleading. There are many, many places that you can set up a tripod in New York City and no authority will bother you. However these places rarely offer good vantage points. Pretty much every worthwhile landmark has tight security and the no-tripod rule is in strict enforcement. Tripods are not allowed in Times Square, Rockefeller Center, financial district, etc.
The other day while trying to photograph the Brooklyn Bridge from what I thought was an inconspicuous location, I was stopped by a police officer and threatened with a ticket. Here is a PDF from the Municipal Government explaining some laws regarding filming and photography on NYC streets: permits regarding tripods
The reasons are simple, tripods cause congestion on narrow sidewalks and streets. But as a photographer, how is one suppose to get a good photo in the city during darker hours?
Be sneaky, of course. The best time of day is early morning and late evening. I personally always carry my tripod retracted into a monopod, because monopods are generally accepted. Be casual, but be aware of who is around you. Police officers? Security guards? Don't spread that tripod. Mostly empty early morning streets with an occasional passerby? Then set up your tripod quickly and discreetly. Use your time within reason.
Being stopped by a police officer for something as innocuous as a tripod can be frustrating, but always be cooperative. Being difficult is a sure way to be slapped with a ticket.
Here are some shots I was lucky enough to capture with a tripod in no-tripod-zones.

ETA: One last thing... Brooklyn and Jersey's coast are generally very favorable and you can get all those classic shots of the cityscape from there at night. It's mostly Manhattan with such strict enforcement.

Good luck shooting!

Comments (18)

Posted by Waxart on November 11, 2010
I'm amazed at the clarity of these night shots, tripod and low ISO notwithstanding. I note that you're shooting with a Nikon D3000. I hadn't thought that the image quality could be that good. Congratulations!
Posted by Sepavo on June 27, 2010
I used a tripod today in Times Square and plenty of police saw me, but no problem. However it was about 5:30 am on a sunday. I think if you choose your times wisely they won't bother. if it's 5:30 p.m. on a friday afternoon, they'll likely ask you to fold it up.
Posted by Sepavo on June 23, 2010
I often hear that the type and size of the camera is taken into account. I think police are concerned about by large and uncommon looking cameras. Also those types draw attention easily.
Posted by Studioportosabbia on June 23, 2010
the effort of bringing the tripod was worth it...great shots! Never heard of the no-tripod policy before.
Posted by Preckas on June 22, 2010
First of all, amazing shots; especially Atlas and the Bridge! I agree with the comment about asking. If you are nice and polite about I don't think they will deny you the pleasure of working.

If they do, well, then you can just come back another day. !!
Posted by Sepavo on June 21, 2010
Yeah it's a gamble but I too have gotten away with it for days at a time. Then for whatever reason they come down on it hard. After the latest attempted terrorist attack in Times Square, they escalated enforcement.
Posted by Stuart48 on June 21, 2010
I have been to New York many times and used a tripod in Times Square. Lots of Police about but nver been stopped or questioned or asked to stop taking photos.
Posted by Imaengine on June 21, 2010
the "no tripod" rule seems to be spreading ... i had similar problems visiting Europe, inside some landmarks, where the lighting was not very giving ... but i managed to steal some shots using my tripod without the interference of the security men. example
Posted by Jdanne on June 18, 2010
Thanks for the info. Which tripod do you use?
Posted by Sepavo on June 17, 2010
Hey good comments and advice everyone.
Yeah you can definitely get away with it, even right in front of some police officers. However you'll also come across an officer who will stop you.
It's hard not to take up a large part of the sidewalk at times since many are narrow.
Posted by BCritchley on June 17, 2010
Yes I just checked. You can use as tripod without a permit as long as you do not take up a sidewalk, lane etc I'm sure many photographer has a tripod to get Times Square at night.
Posted by Yuritz on June 17, 2010
great pictures and thanks for the advices
Posted by Elephantopia on June 17, 2010
The following activities do not require that a permit be obtained pursuant to this
(i) Filming or photography occurring on City property, as described in
subdivision (a) of this section, involving the use of a hand-held device as defined in
paragraph three of subdivision (a) of ยง 9-02, provided that such activity does not involve
an interaction among two or more people at a single site for thirty or more minutes,
including all set-up and breakdown time in connection with such activities.
(ii) Filming or photography occurring on City property, as described in
subdivision (a) of this section, involving the use of a single tripod, provided that such
activity does not involve an interaction among five or more people at a single site and the
use of a single tripod for ten or more minutes, including all set-up and breakdown time in
connection with such activities.
(iii) Filming or photography of a parade, rally, protest, or demonstration except
when using vehicles or equipment...(More)
Posted by Kenishirotie on June 17, 2010
Interesting, I went to New York city on May 11 and have used tripod for night scene shooting on Times Square, I even used tripod to take photos of police car in stand by mode at side street. So far, no police officers give me any warning. I must be lucky then.
Posted by Thanatonautii on June 16, 2010
I haven`t knew that! Interesting rule! :)
Posted by Sepavo on June 16, 2010
Thanks guys. Yeah asking and knowing is better for sure if an officer is around. However sometimes I find even the officers are confused about were it's permitted and were it's banned. Some will stop you, some won't. If you have 5 or more people (models etc), then a permit is pretty much necessary.
Posted by Egomezta on June 16, 2010
Thanks for sharing..... I'm going to NY in september, so this "law" is good to know, I don't want to get a ticket. By the way nice images.
Posted by Dan1 on June 16, 2010
If there are no people around and a police officer is present ask permission. Asking is better than a ticket.

Comments (18)

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Photo credits: Sean Pavone.

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