Thoughts on photographing in public/private places. 

Originally published 19/4/22 –

Taking photos of people in public places

“There is no law preventing people from taking photographs in public. This includes taking photos of other people’s children…Unless the images which have been taken are indecent, no one has the right to:

ask a photographer to stop

ask for a copy of the photos 

force a photographer to delete the photographs

If someone is consistently photographing you when you are in public against your will, it may be considered harassment or stalking.” accessed 19/4/22

There are some notable exceptions: military installations, prisons, National Trust Properties, Trafalgar Square, Parliament Square and the Royal Parks in London. There are more likely to be restrictions for Commercial Photography. 

“…if you intend to use the photograph for publication, commercial use or stock photography then you need a signed model release…

Remember photography is not a crime!

In most situations that arise, things can easily be placated with an explanation of what you are doing and what your intended purpose of the photograph is for.  If you seek permission first then you are less likely to have issues.  Where that isn’t feasible or desirable then just be sensitive to individuals and know the facts but remain calm and polite and decide yourself if the image is worth the aggravation of debating things. accessed 19/4/22

There have been some examples of Police interaction using the Terrorism Act 2000, where the Police have used these laws to stop, search & arrest Photographers. The law is a little vague in this area, but lots of work has been done to educate both Photographers and the Police. Generally being polite and using common sense will work best for all. 

Taking photos of people in private land

If you are taking photographs from private land, you need to have the land owner’s permission. Taking a photo of a person where they can expect privacy, such as inside their home or garden, is likely to cause a breach of privacy laws. accessed 19/4/22

This may include places such as shopping centres, certain parts of London (that are privately owned such as areas of Docklands), ticketed events held in public etc. 

Obstruction and Public Order

It is a criminal offence to hinder free passage on pavements, cycle paths and roads. Generally, hand-held photography would not be considered unlawful, provided it is not unsafe.  Introduction of tripods or light stands are far more likely to be considered a hindrance. 

Local Councils can be contacted for permission to use additional photographic equipment in public. My local council publishes it’s guidelines here: Note that Public Liability Insurance is likely required. From the example council given, the word “photography” is little used and the words “film” or “filming” are used frequently, perhaps suggesting the photography is a bolt on.


“Photographs, illustrations and other images will generally be protected by copyright as artistic works. This means that a user will usually need the permission of the copyright owner(s) if they want to perform certain acts, such as copying the image or sharing it on the internet.

References to “images” in this Copyright Notice include:

  • digital photos taken on mobile phones and digital cameras;
  • images that were first generated on photographic film and any digital images created from them; and
  • images such as diagrams and illustrations” accessed 19/4/22

Copyright does not usually extend to Photographers if the work has been commissioned. For example, an organisation pays me to take photos of a person. I am told what, who and how to shoot. The copyright likely belongs to the Art Director or whoever paid for the work. The best approach is to agree on copyright ownership before the shoot. 

“…images of a number of well-known buildings and other edifices are covered by copyright law, and photos of them may not be sold commercially without permission from the copyright holder. These include Stonehenge, London City Hall (known as the “Onion”), 30 St. Mary Axe (the “Gherkin”), the Shard, the London Eye, Heathrow Airport, Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth and Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland.” accessed 19/4/22

With a few notable exceptions, in the UK property can be photographed commercially without permission. This is not true for most of the rest of the world. For example: taking a photo and deciding to sell prints online – for overseas sales a Property Release form would be required. 

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