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UK Photography Law

I’ve been cruising the web a bit lately – and a bit idly if I’m totally honest – but one of the things that caught my interest was an issue of United Kingdom photography law.

It seems to me that one of the things that most of us take for granted is that people are going to behave in a decent manner – and the vast majority of the time you’d be right. I get it wrong, you get it wrong, we apologise as necessary and make right on our mistakes without the need for [further] prompting. Everyone shrugs their shoulders, no harm done, etc, and move on without the need for drama – the mantra of 99.9% of people you’d ever meet.

But what happens when you meet the 0.1%? Where do you go to from there? Particularly, it seems, as a photographer, where you’ll come across various individuals determined to make your life a misery just because you’re holding a camera in public.

On following one particularly sad case I read on Facebook, I came across a few guides that you might find useful when you’re out on location.

For a general idea of your rights as a photographer, there’s a sort of rough and ready guide to UK photography law that’s useful as a first point of reference.

I’d seriously suggest, though, that you take some of the quite blunt advice this guide gives with a fair degree of caution. Read it in the context of a much more up to date UK Photography Law guide that puts these issues in much more realistic and more detailed context.

Even then, I noticed the UK Photography Law Guide hasn’t been updated since 2009, so a bit more poking around turned up this page that sets out your rights as the best advice for photographers from the Metropolitan Police.

A good example might be that the UK police no longer have any power of stop and search under section 44 of the 2000 Terrorism Act, and can’t stop you filming or photographing incidents or police personal (as long as you don’t get in their way – that’d be obstruction). Other examples abound, like what you can and can’t do in public, what constitutes harassment, photography of – or on – private property, what constitutes trespass, photographing minors and children – just a number of the examples covered.

Give these a read if you have the time as they’re really quite edifying, and just might help you diffuse and deal gracefully with those 0.1% of people and situations.

All the best,

Chasing Rays Photography.

About the Author

Mark Watkins

Mark WatkinsI've been a photographer since 2006 and a computer fanatic since 1995. I hope to share my passion for photography with you through the products and services I offer through my website. See me on Google+ | Facebook | Twitter | LinkedInView all posts by Mark Watkins →

  1. Linda MacphersonLinda Macpherson11-11-2013

    You are correct that the UK Photographers Rights Guide hasn’t been properly updated since 2009 – though I did post at the time in the comments section about the repeal of s.44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 and its replacement with s.47A (note that police powers of stop and search have not been taken away completely, s.47A retains those powers but under much more restrictive circumstances than before). The information in the guide remains current apart from this, however it is time I updated that part for clarity, since my comment regarding the repeal of s.44 has long since been buried under other comments.

    The guide is not at all comprehensive, since it is intended to be a quick reference that people can carry in a pocket. A comprehensive discussion would require a fairly weighty book, which, in fairness, most photographers would have neither the time nor the inclination to wade through.


    • Mark WatkinsMark Watkins11-11-2013

      Hi Linda,

      Thanks for the comment and clarification on this issue – indeed, thank you also for taking the time and trouble to highlight the legislation relevant to photography and make it available in this manner.

      My comment on s.44 was intended to highlight one of the main changes to legislation since your original post but, indeed, it’s important to point out that the police’s powers of stop and search have not been completely removed; it was only my intention to point out they had been removed under s.44 itself (a ruling which I understand may yet be challenged).

      It’s true that many photographers can’t take the time to wade through all the relevant legislation, so in pointing them towards your blog, my hope was to help them understand at least the rudiments of legislation, which in my opinion your post achieved in both a helpful and succinct manner.

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