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Photography and Privacy – A guide

Nowadays nearly everyone owns a smartphone. Typically, they boast high-quality cameras making photography a more popular pastime than ever before. We have all become dedicated snappers, whether it’s selfies, landscapes, or holiday pictures to share on social media.

However, this has prompted a significant conversation over people’s right to privacy, especially on the issue of taking pictures in public. Here Amy Judge, Solicitor for our Commercial and Dispute Resolution team explains further.

Where does the law stand on this?

On private land that you have been granted access to, you may take photographs, unless you have been asked not to.  Generally, if you are on public property, including public road, footpaths and rights of way, then you are permitted to take photos for both commercial and personal use. However, you cannot cause any obstruction to others.

As an extension to this point, if you are standing in a public space, you are allowed to take pictures of people without their permission.  However, this has to be within reason. Naturally, you cannot behave in any way that constitutes harassment.

What is harassment?

For an act to be considered harassment the act must occur at least twice which results in someone else’s ‘alarm or distress.’ Similarly, if you are experiencing someone continually taking your photo in public without your permission, and against your will, you might be the victim of stalking, and their behaviour might constitute harassment.

What about the concept of privacy?

Everybody has a reasonable expectation of privacy according to Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.  Although there is no specific right to privacy in public places, covert photographs in public places can invade a person’s reasonable expectation of privacy.

Further issues typically arise over what’s done with the pictures after they’re taken.  In light of this, you should always ask the subject of the image whether they are happy for you to publish the snap. You should let them know where you intend on posting the photographs.

It is best to err on the side of caution if someone is readily identified in the photo. Get them to sign a media release form. This omits the likelihood of any complications arising in the future, especially if the snap is defamatory. Remember, that depending on which platform you post the pictures, the platform provider may have a clause in their terms and conditions that allows them to use any picture you publish. This could further complicate things, and leave you open to action by the person you have photographed, even if you have not shared the image beyond your own timeline or feed.

Check local laws

Occasionally, professional photography is banned in particular public places, such as Trafalgar Square, London’s Royal Parks, and Parliament Square, unless prior written permission has been obtained and a fee paid.  It is wise to check whether there are any restrictions when accessing places such as museums, churches and government buildings.

What about public transport?

On the whole, you can take photographs for personal use at railway stations. However, flash photography is prohibited. If these photos are for business purposes, you will need to seek permission in advance.

If you are shooting at a tube station, you won’t be allowed to use a tripod. Also, if you are there for more than quarter of an hour, you’ll need to apply for a permit.

Airports are considered private property. Therefore, limitations apply. However, you should be allowed to take personal photos inside the terminal.

If you wish to discuss any concerns arising from the above information please contact Amy Judge, on 01732 460 565  or ajudge@berryandlamberts.co.uk

The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice.  The law may have changed since this article was published.   Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances