Conversation from:
Emails are real, names are not. University shame is real.

From: Lauren

Dear film/video and photo community at Stanford,

I just wanted to send out a note on behalf of University Communications regarding shooting photos and video in the Main Quad.

It has recently been reiterated to many of us communications staff that the Main Quad has special restrictions for shooting photos and video. 

The short version is that the Quad (inner and outer) or Memorial Court is off-limits to photos and video. 

Stanford University does not want its image being used by others for any profit, either virtual or real. For example, if you are a semi-professional or professional photographer or videographer, you are not allowed to use the Main Quad as a backdrop to any photo or video product that you are selling or using to represent you as a photographer or company. 

The same goes for Stanford units/organizations. If you are hired by a Stanford organization to shoot photos/video, please know that Stanford organizations are not allowed to shoot in the Quad without permission.

The bottom line is there is no shooting in the Quad or Memorial Court without permission, no matter what the purposes or who the sponsor or who you are. It just isn’t allowed.

There have been several incidents recently that have revealed how far the university is willing to go to protect its image, in particularly related to the Quad, thus I am sending out this message as a reminder.

My best advice to you is to avoid shooting in the Main Quad at all costs, and find other campus locations to get that “Stanford” feeling. Exceptions must be approved by central University Communications.

For more information, please see:


From: Mark

Yes, please help me help Stanford administration to stop the vicious assault by student photographers on the Main Quad!

Not only do they take pictures, but they also post them on Flickr for ‘self-promotion’! This irrecoverably damages the image of Stanford university and its community; which mistakenly leads people to believe that it is an open society where students have a chance to explore their artistic vision for a nominal $40,000 a year tuition contribution.

Please help those who need your help the most – Stanford University image!

Of course, as an Alumni I am not even allowed to show my face on campus – because of the risk of ‘photography’. But as active students I think you should fight for Stanford!


From: Rachel

A friend and I were just talking about this.  So if you carry a tripod then you can’t shoot?  Or do you have to get off a tour bus to be able to photograph the inner quad?  Or you can only have a point ‘n shoot camera?  So now there are camera police in the quad?  Very, very bizarre.


p.s.  Mark, as an alumn, just make a sizable donation and you should be fine.  🙂

From: Tricia

Hi Lauren,

What about hundreds, if not thousands of tourists, who take pictures of the
Main Quad all year around? Is there going to be security making sure that
they don’t do that? If outside people can take pictures, why isn’t it
allowed for people, who are affiliated with Stanford? It just doesn’t make
sense. Plus, it is such a landmark. I understand that there are some high
level administrative offices there. But this restriction still doesn’t seem


From: Lauren

Hi Rachel et al,
I hear you and sympathize!

This is a very strange, and stringent policy, and I was just as surprised as you, and thus felt the need to share the information.

If you have a point and shoot and are taking pictures of you and your friends, then I just don’t see how they can stop you, but if you are carrying a big camera and a tripod and using that photo to represent yourself as a photographer, and your photographic work, then that’s a problem.

If you are a university organization, you should not use the Quad as a backdrop to represent you on your website or any other publication without permission from University Communications.

See the link I sent out for more info.

And no, I don’t know how much they will enforce, but several people have lost their jobs at Stanford due to incidents in the last couple months related to this policy.

Basically, avoid the Quad, or get permission from University Communications for your shoot.

Sorry to bear the bad news, but I thought this was important enough to share with you all.

From: Mark

Tours of campus will stop! There will be friendly checkpoints throughout campus to make sure that no tourist will get to the Main Quad! We cannot afford to be lenient on this one. “Here I stand; I can do no other. God help me. Amen!”



From: Albert

Hi Rachel,

What if you are carrying a “big camera and a tripod” and just taking photos of you and your friends? Instead of a point and shoot… will you get told off for that as well? In fact many tourists/visitors use mean-looking DSLRs as well…

Best regards,

From: Kim

Hi Lauren, are you serious?  People have lost jobs recently because of this policy?  Wow!  I am stunned.

I made my comments tongue-in-cheek because it seems so absurd, but people losing jobs over that is pretty serious business.  

I never represent myself as a photographer.  🙂  I’m just having fun with my camera.  And I’m not that good.  I carry a big camera and sometimes schlep along a tripod but I’m shooting for purely personal pleasure.  So if I do that and post my photos on Flickr then I’m in trouble with Stanford?  

What they say here is probably deliberately vague (the part about “non-commercial shooting, specifically):

Stanford’s permission is required to videotape, film or photograph on Stanford-owned lands. The university will consider reasonable requests for news-related, non-commercial shooting, but reserves the right to deny permission for any reason. 

From: Beth

Hey everyone,
This policy is aimed towards commercial photographers: ie, with a goal of selling your photographs, or perhaps using these photographs to sell you as a photographer. I think this policy is for if the University notices pictures that are obviously of Stanford being sold or used in portfolios (ie, they seem as if they are endorsing you/affiiated with you). As long as you aren’t taking pictures with the goal of profiting off them, I think it should be alright. Flickr should be fine.

In the case of “noncommercial” shooting, they’re talking professionals who are trying to do news reports, charity events, etc.

Am I wrong?
If you guys are really concerned, here’s the contact info given on the site.

From: Mark

While commercial photography is well understood concept, ‘sell you as a photographer’ is not.

Lets say I post a picture on flickr and then I refer people to my flickr, is this ‘self promotion as a photographer’? What if my income does not generally depend on photography, but I do a paid assignment once in a while, can I have Stanford in my flickr account? What if my income, when comes form photography, NEVER comes from landscape and architectural photography? What if a friend later asked me to take a picture of his house for purposes of sale (no money exchange); does that put me in the red? Policy as formulated is meaningless and it is not clear what it is aimed at. What exactly is the revenue lost by Stanford as the result of non-commercial student photography?

More importantly, policy is not enforceable – how can a given staff member judge at the moment of picture taking what is the intended use? He/she cannot and hence this policy turns into fear of big cameras and tripods, from people who do not get off the bus.

Moreover in my mind this attitude towards student activities is incompatible with what I would judge to be a goal of an educational institution. Unfortunately it is the recent trend at Stanford. It is equally impossible to reserve a facility in most buildings on campus, unless one is wiling to pay a sizable fee for it usage – $200 (in case of Clark Center). And this is for an even sponsored by Stanford faculty.

I think Stanford would save more money by laying off useless staff members responsible for enforcing this policy. If someone lost their job as the result of photography at Stanford I would really like to know his/her name – I have a great business preposition!


From: Phil

I suggest that we should plan a couple of photo outings in the next week and each time we submit individually a lengthy written request… something ridiculous like: I want to take a picture with my iphone on the quad and post it on facebook. Maybe they specify their rules a little bit.

Kind of a denial-of-service attack.

From: Mark

I think it is the best to test it directly – hold shoot at the quad and delete your pictures event. Where all the participants would delete there pictures after reviewing them at home. It appears that we would clearly not be in violation of anything.

But during the shooting go all out, get some lighting equipment, tripods, full size reflectors. I would love to coordinate the event. And while shooting, lets stop every tourist and ask them to not take the pictures, unless they have the necessary paperwork.


From: Nick

i’m new to this list, so i don’t know how much weight my input carries, but i think all this is pretty silly. i think the best strategy is to not make a big deal out of it. i’ve shot in the quad with my slr and tripod many times this past quarter, and i’ve never been accosted, and judging by the general surprise that this rule even exists, no one else has either. i’d be willing to bet that nothing changes if we just go about our photography as usual, unless one of us sells a photo of memchu for the cover of a magazine.

Hi Nick,
I think we’re just making jokes at this point.  I know I was totally joking with my posts yesterday, because (as you said) the whole thing is pretty silly.  We’re just having some fun with it.  🙂


From: Mark

Unfortunately I know of people who were prevented from doing non-commercial photography in the quad. I agree that enforcement was ad hoc, but this reminders are annoying because that means that someone on the “evil side” of this debate takes this restriction seriously.

Yes, if anything this reminder encourages me and others to go out and photograph on the quad. So in that sense this is great!


From: Frank

I’m more of a ‘lurker’ on this list (with an interest in photography but few opportunities to get out there and shoot).
I’m interested in knowing more about the people who lost their jobs because, on the surface, this doesn’t seem right. Does anyone have more information that’s able to be shared? Lauren?

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