The Long Lens blog: Photography with added snaps, art and culture

The photography site for sore eyes. Featuring: Art, photography, performance and theatre. With extra writing because I'm also a writer.

Street photography, documentary photography – a guide to photographing in public places


Can anyone provide an instance of a paedophile taking photographs of children in a park?

No. Yet being accused of being a paedophile is probably the biggest fear of any photographer.

I’ve spent years being abused while taking photographs. Not because I wanted to be, it’s just that some people aren’t very nice, or don’t know the law (when they should) about taking photographs in public places.

These are the most common incidents I have been on the wrong end of:

“Paedo!”, shouted at me while taking general photos with just adults in them.

“You can’t photograph me. Delete that or I’ll fucking kill you.” Some people just aren’t very nice. I appreciate people do not always like to be photographed – and when they object it’s important to be calm and speak respectfully. Even if you don’t always get spoken to in the same respectful way. But the most important thing to remember is that you are not doing anything wrong – or illegal – when photographing someone in a public place.

“Stop! You can’t take photographs here,” said to me by several security guards while I am standing on public property photographing buildings people. These security guards are factually incorrect as you can take photographs of anyone, including children, and anything in any public space.dsc_0115-scaled500

I have also been questioned by police while photographing. Each time they have been very polite asking me what I’m doing and then allowing me to continue. But I am aware of photographers – particularly in situations like demonstrations – where police officers have not followed (or seemingly been aware) or the actual law regarding photography and photographers. There have been instances of photojournalists having their cameras confiscated or images deleted. Put simply, the police cannot do this. Just as they should not use anti-terrorism laws to try and stop a photographer working. There has been a lot of work done by the National Union of Journalists and the police to educate officers in recent years, so hopefully instances of malpractice should be reduced.

Here is a lovely list of questions and answers to simply your rights as a photographer – and give you the confidence to photograph in public places. These questions apply specifically to Britain. Elsewhere in the world your rights are mostly similar (except in France whose privacy laws means taking photographs of people in public places a bloody nightmare – seek extra advice if that’s what you intend doing).

Do I need permission to photograph someone in public?
No. If you are standing in a public space, you do not need permission to take their photograph

Do I need permission to photograph property?
No. If the property can be photographed from a public place you do not need permission.

What about if I am on private property?
You need permission to enter private property and the owner of the property can impose any conditions they wish on your entry. This could include a ban on photography or a fee for taking pictures.

Can a police officer require that I delete pictures from my camera or hand over the memory card?
No, not without a warrant.

Where can’t I take photographs?
You need permission to take pictures in Trafalgar Square and Parliament Square if they are for commercial purposes (the permission is expensive). There are also some military sites where photography is banned, but these are well signed.

Don’t people have a right to privacy?
In UK law there is no specific right to privacy in public places. The European Convention on Human Rights gives a ‘right to private and family life’ In UK law you do not have a right to privacy in a public place.

Can I be prosecuted for harassment if I take pictures without permission?
Very unlikely. in UK law harassment is defined as a course of conduct which amounts to harassment of another which the defendant knows, or ought to know amounts to harassment of another. Taking a single picture or even several pictures is unlikely to be considered a course of conduct. [legal opinion sought]

Can I take pictures of children in the park?
Yes, and provided the park is considered a public place, you do not require the permission of the parents. Whether this is wise or not is up to you to decide (see this story for example)


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This entry was posted on May 9, 2017 by in Uncategorized and tagged , , , .
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