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Field Notes/Blog

Photographing in a Public Place

Regardless of whether you are a professional or amateur photographer you may need to assert your right to enjoy your photography in a public place.

The law regarding where and what you may photograph is relatively straightforward. In short if you are on private property the owner or their agents can prevent you from taking photos. In a public place however you can photograph freely, this even includes photographing private property providing you are taking the photo from a public place.

Not so long ago the Police were regularly obstructing professional and amateur photographers alike for taking pictures in public places. Various excuses were used, but one that came up time and again was "to prevent terrorism". The fact that terrorists are unlikely to draw attention to themselves by openly filming seemed lost on the individuals concerned. There were even some odd examples where photographers with tripods were being harassed while all around tourists were clicking away with their compact cameras. Anyone with an ounce of common sense could see this was wrong and it took a series of complaints from journalists and photographers alike to get the police and community support officers (CSO's) to stop this harassment. To highlight the problem the National Union of Journalists produced a video that clearly demonstrated the harassment and intimidation that was going on.


Click Here for National Union of Journalists Video



Click Here for an Example of a Badly Trained CSO


The Police were eventually forced to concede that it was perfectly legal to take photographs in a public place and went on to produce guidelines for their officers. Thankfully most police and CSO's appear to understand the law now. Why they didn't in the first place though is beyond me.

Unfortunately the problem of photographers being harassed has not gone away and now private security firms are the latest to come under the spotlight. The video below highlights just how prevalent the harassment of photographers by some private security companies has become.

Click Here for Video of Private Security Staff Trying to Prevent Photography During The London Street Photography Festival 2011


Note
1 This article is not a direct criticism of the police or indeed security companies in general; it simply highlights examples of individuals who try to prevent photography in public places.

2 This article does not aim to provide any legal guidance or advice.