Where CAN you legally take photos?
In a small nutshell, anywhere in public without a reasonable expectation of privacy. Now, there's a lot of government code around that but if you are outside and you can see other people, then you can take photos of them or their surroundings. If you're making money from it, there's some legalities around ensuring those photographed are either compensated, or waive all future compensation (the 'Photo Release').
A good quote from Bob Atkins:
"You do not need permission from someone to take their picture if they are in public view. However if they in an area where they have a reasonable expectation of privacy, you are not allowed to invade that privacy by photographing them. So for example you can't use a telephoto lens to peer into someone's bedroom. Neither can you photograph someone in a private changing room or a public restroom even if, for some reason, you can see into it. There's a reasonable expectation of privacy in such areas and if you take a photograph and the subject files a complaint with the police, you may be arrested for charges related to invasion of privacy." - BobAtkins.com
The Reporters Committee for the Freedom of Press has even more on it including state-by-state legal cases.
Before taking or publishing a questionable picture, a photojournalist might want to consider several factors:
Generally, what can be seen from public view can be photographed without legal repercussions. Photographs taken in private places require consent.
Even if people are photographed in public, beware of the context in which the picture is placed (such as an innocuous photo of recognizable teenagers in a story about the rise of teen violence). Use caution when utilizing file footage or photographs to illustrate negative stories. Special effects can be used to render the subjects unidentifiable. RFCP.org
You an also follow the links on RFCP to check your state laws for public photography and what may constitute an invasion of privacy, but again in a nutshell, if the subject is in a public place with no expectation of privacy, you're good to go. Shoot smart and have a good time!
Not even going to try to give credit to everyone who's given me pointers, tips and suggestions, but thank you to all who did! I know I'd miss someone.
- Will England