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Photographer's Rights

Hints & Tips

As a photographer you do not have the right to take pictures anywhere you choose and it is worth taking into consideration the many legal restrictions relating to the rights of taking a picture and publishing any of your images.

There are no general restrictions on taking photographs while on private property as long as you have permission from the owner to be there, the owner must have also given you permission to take photos on their property. You are allowed to take pictures of private property from a public viewing point. If the owner has asked that you do not take photographs on their property then you are required to honour that request. If you have entered onto private property without permission, this is classed as trespassing. It is a criminal offence to trespass on some property, such as railways, military bases, etc, and you can be arrested.

Taking any photographs in a law court is classed as a criminal offence, as is publishing any photographs taken within the court. Photographs taken outside of the court are legal; however there are restrictions on the publishing of these images. Images taken outside of the court may not be legal if they feature people involved in legal proceedings, for example a picture of a witness printed in a newspaper could lead to the witness being put at risk.

Terrorism has led to concerns over security and now taking photos of subjects that you may not think of as sensitive, such as power stations and refineries, can be more of an issue than you think. It is also a criminal offence to take photos of prohibited places which could benefit the enemy, places such as defence establishments, factories, any ship or aircraft belonging to the Crown. In 2000 the Terrorism Act was introduced which now means that it is an offence to take or possess a photograph containing any information that is likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism.

Most museums and stately homes prohibit any photography being taken, as do most concert venues.

Taking photos of UK bank notes is an offence unless permission has been given in writing by the relevant authority.

If somebody attempts to confiscate your camera and/or film when you are taking photos you are under no obligation to give it to them. If they then attempt to take your camera or equipment by force or threat then you still not have to hand over anything, if they succeed in taking your equipment by force then they can be liable for theft. Police officers must have a court order to allow them to confiscate any of your equipment.


Copyright is a legal issue that photographers should be aware of. Copyright gives the creator of any original work exclusive rights to this work, usually for a limited time. The copyright allows the copyright holder the right to be credited for the work.

British law copyright means that copyright is awarded at the point of creation of an image or original work meaning the photographer owns the image by default. There are a few main exceptions to this rule. Firstly if the photographer is an employee of a company that the photos are being taken for, then the photographer will be working on behalf of the company and the company will therefore own the copyright. Also if a prior agreement has been set up that assigns copyright to another party. In all other cases the photographer will retain the copyright and therefore any reproduction of images without permission is an infringement of copyright.

There are no legal reasons to register the copyright of these issues however it may prove beneficial, this could reduce the possibility of another person claiming the ownership of your images. However it is a fairly simple process to register copyright for your images and it can be done online.

It is important if you do not want people to use your image that you mark any of your photos with your copyright mark. Your photos can be marked digitally with a watermark image done via a semi-transparent text across image which contains your details. This will also prevent people using your photo for anything.

It is a breach of copyright to take a photograph of work that is protected by copyright. If one of your images is being used without permission then your first step should be to contact the individual and make them aware of the issue, you may wish to be compensated for this.