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No more sample photos from Stanford University (updated 3/8/11) | Digital Camera Resource Page News

No more sample photos from Stanford University (updated 3/8/11)

Date posted: Wednesday, February 9, 2011

One thing that's made this site what it is today has been the consistency of the sample photos over the years. I've taken photos of the same subjects in roughly the same conditions for over a decade. Today, at Stanford University (one of my regular stops), I was approached by a security officer (my tripod gave me away) who told me that "professional photographers" like myself were not permitted to take photos at the University without permission, and that I had to leave.

As soon as I got home, I contacted the person in charge of giving permission to take photos of the campus. In her reply, I was told that since this is a commercial website, they would not be able to give me permission to photograph anything at the University, and that they've stepped up enforcement to prevent commercial photographers from doing so.

I'm sort of at a loss about how to handle this, though I may be out of luck (see update 3 below). Stanford is a private university and can do as they see fit, but the whole policy stinks, quite frankly. I'd love to hear your thoughts about all this, so drop me an e-mail or post in our forums with your comments. You can read my original letter and their response after the link.

Update: Stanford's official policy can be found here.
Update 2: PLEASE refrain from e-mailing Stanford officials about this. Such things have only backfired in the past.
Update 3: I escalated things up a level and was told that they were unlikely to budge on their policy, so it looks like I'll be taking pictures somewhere else from now on.
Update 4: A story in today's issue of the Stanford Daily discusses the issue and mentions my situation specifically.
Update 5: Sent a letter to the President of the University hoping they'll make an exception. Can't take pictures this week anyway, due to the rain.
Update 6: Never got a response to the letter mentioned in the previous update. Not even a form letter.


Jeff's e-mail:

Hello [University Communications employee who handles photography permits],

My name is Jeff Keller, and I am the Founder and Editor of the Digital Camera Resource Page (www.dcresource.com). I am in the fourteenth year of running this website, which is widely regarded as one of the top destinations for digital camera news and reviews. One of the hallmarks of the site are the sample photos which are taken in the same place in (roughly) the same conditions with each camera that we review. This allows people to compare how the same photo looks on various cameras (see http://www.dcresource.com/reviews/panasonic/dmc_gf2-review/gallery for an example).

For at least a decade, I've been taking about half of my test photos at Stanford University, without issue. Today, while taking photos in one of the hallways in the main quad, I was approached by two security personnel, and told that I was not permitted to take photos using a tripod (as I occasionally do) without permission from the University. I was given your contact information, and then asked to leave, which I did.

These photos are never resold -- they are only shown as examples of what a camera can do. Thus, I would like to receive permission from Stanford to keep taking these four or five photos, allowing me to continue providing a service to the millions of people who visit the Digital Camera Resource Page website each year.

Thank you for your consideration. Please contact me with any questions you may have.

Jeff Keller

Stanford Response:

Hi Jeff:

Thanks for your email.

First let me clarify that the policy the community service officer was enforcing is not new. It has, in fact, been policy at Stanford for about a decade to prohibit any kind of commercial photography in the Main Quad or Memorial Court areas. We recently stepped up enforcement--evidenced by the officer approaching you. I hope the officer was polite and respectful. We have been quite concerned that we would offend people who, like you, have been taking photographs in good faith and without knowledge of the policies.

I regret that I can't give you permission to continue taking photographs on the Stanford campus. Although you are not selling the photographs, your site is of a commercial nature. Long-standing university policies prohibit us from endorsing or appearing to endorse.

That said, the policies the officer was enforcing also recognize that Stanford is a place of business and that our Main Quad and Memorial Court are designed to be used by those going to class or work. The amount of professional photography and filming we have been experiencing recently simply has become unsustainable, especially given Stanford's strict privacy policies.

All of which is to say that I sincerely hope that you will not take this personally. We regret having to turn down folks who have as much appreciation as we do for the beauty of Stanford. Your photographs of the campus more than do it justice. I hope you will be able to find locations that equally suit your needs.

With best wishes,

[University Communications employee who handles photography permits]