back to article So, what can you photograph?

It may surprise readers to learn that with a few very specific exceptions, there is no law in the UK against taking photographs. That said, there are a range of quite specific exceptions to this rule. There is no law against taking photographs on private property: however, “no photography” may be a condition of entry to many …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Us trainspotters have been warned...

    Some time ago the Railway press warned trainspotters that taking photographs of the railway might well be considered illegal.


    Thank god I discovered beer and Women.

  2. Paul Dixon
    Thumb Up

    Geograph British Isles

    I help to run Geograph British Isles ( and we get the occasional complaint from landowners whose property has been photographed for the site. Many are incredulous that their permission is not required is the photograph is taken from a public place!

    Also, a handy legal guide we point our contributors is here:

  3. Neil

    Registry offices?

    Why no pictures of signing the register in registry offices? And why only in registry offices - why not churches as well?

    What am I missing here? I just don't get it.

  4. Alex Gollner
    Paris Hilton

    What about moving pictures?

    Are the rules different for those taking a lower-res picture every 25th of a second? In the City of London a police officer said that videoing St. Pauls would get me attention as it is a likely terrorist target. Officialdom are attracted to tripod users. They can use the 'causing an obstruction' excuse to move you along.

    (Paris because she's interested in moving pictures too)

  5. Henry Gomersall

    registry offices????


  6. NickR


    Firstly there is no mention of what can/can't be published.

    You've also missed a few, like Wildlife and copyrighted matertial.

    Private Property.

    Further, if you impose restrictions on access and those restrictions are broken, it becomes Trespass (which in most circumstances is not a criminal offence, not forgetting Scotland has different laws on Trespassing).

    Do not forget no member of public, property owner, employee or security staff have any rights to remove or destroy your property, camera, memory cards, film, mobile phones etc.


    Taking photographs can amount to harassment, that is causing someone alarm and distress and is not just an isolated incident (in Scotland its not a criminal offence, rest of UK it is).


    UK has no recognised right of privacy, but there is an EU convention on human rights, that gives everyone the right for privacy for the family, home and mail/phone calls.

    Law Courts

    Criminal offense to photo a court of law.

    Protected Wildlife.

    You must obtain a licence "near" their nests or places of shelter.

    Copyright infringements.

    Movies is a more common example, but you may be breaking copyright by photographing something.

    Cheers, Nick.

  7. Dan Maudsley

    No surprise at all

    But it does surprise me how many people in officialdom dream up supposed restrictions on photography. 'Can't take pics of your child playing rugby in the park' or 'in the school play' for instance, because the school/club would need the permission of every parent, etc. Utter nonsense. Anyone in a public area is fair game for having their picture taken - in fact they regular are being photographed thanks to the proliferation of CCTV cameras. I don't remember any councils getting permission slips from every parent and adult. Would be fun if they tried.

  8. Tom

    Early Day Motion

    I am a member of a photography forum and this EDM was shown, alot of members have now contacted their local MP to get them to sign it to make the law more clear.

    I got a letter from Tony Mcnulty at the house of commons saying there was no law against taking photography in public, this i now carry around with me whenever I go taking photos incase some coppa doesnt take a liking to me.

  9. Robert Gough


    "As of last week, the government has forbidden couples getting married in registry offices from having their photograph taken as they sign the wedding register."

    Why on earth would they do that?

    A heart, because the government could obviously do with one.

  10. TimBiller

    Marriage registers

    "As of last week, the government has forbidden couples getting married in registry offices from having their photograph taken as they sign the wedding register."

    Surely this not new? There has always been a law against photographing a marriage register in such a way that the writing can be deciphered,

    I've been a photographer for 30 years and have done a few weddings in my time, and in ALL cases, whether church or civil, the minister/priest/vicar/registrar has produced a "dummy" register so that the couple can be photographed pretending to sign it, pen-in-hand, heads-together, with no issues whatsoever.


  11. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    A bit rich...

    ... comming from a Police force with access to around 4million CCTV cameras pointed at everywhere and everyone!

  12. John Hopkin

    That Registry Office thing

    "As of last week, the government has forbidden couples getting married in registry offices from having their photograph taken as they sign the wedding register."

    Anyone care to expand on this? Not that I'm planning to tie the knot again, but out of curiosity - it doesn't seem to make much sense. Is doing the honourable thing and getting spliced now considered a matter of national security?

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wedding registers

    Surely it's just courtesy to not photograph the couple/registrar etc as they sign? In all the weddings I've photograph, this picture is taken afterwards with carefully positioned bouquet etc. Not not to hide the register but for aesthetic reasons.

    Sounds like yet another unneccessary law passed just for the sake of exerting more control over people.

  14. Tony Bryer


    A bus spotter has decided to give up his lifelong hobby of photographing buses because people fear he is a terrorist and even a paedophile. ... In the last year he has been questioned twice by the police and had to give all his personal details after people who saw him innocently snapping buses on public roads reported him.

  15. Anonymous Coward

    You CAN photograph banknotes

    We were once asked to large-format print a £50 banknote. Thinking this was illegal, and needing to justify a refusal to our customer, I specifically phoned the Bank of England. No Problem, they said. So we went ahead and high-resolution scanned the banknote and printed it. And so far none of us has been arrested!

  16. Ross Pavitt

    Wedding registers..

    No, sorry, run that past me again?

  17. Adrian Esdaile

    What about a photographic memory? Do I have to hand over my retinas or brain?

    Having a photgraphic memory is a very handy skill for an architect, so is being able to sketch well.

    So... can I make a sketch of a prohibited building? From memory?

    I can draw the Society Generale Building offices foyer if you want, 12 months after I was assaulted there by a rent-a-cop for taking a photo of the public-heritage-register-listed art deco stairs.

    So... is that illegal?

  18. Andus McCoatover

    @Tony Bryer

    Having followed the link, and seen him and his missus in the piccie, I fully understand why he takes photos of busses.

    Rear shot, natch...

  19. barnaby

    Copy Bank Notes, and wedding registers

    According to the Bank of England you can't copy them without their permission

    "Under section 18(1) of the Forgery and Counterfeiting Act 1981 it is a criminal offence for any person, without the prior consent in writing of the Bank of England, to reproduce on any substance whatsoever, and whether or not on the correct scale, any Bank of England banknote or any part of a Bank of England banknote. The Bank of England also owns the copyright in its banknotes." From

    I understood that the reason for not taking photos of the wedding registers was related to the privacy of other people that had been recently married (and so on the same page). And that normally they will turn to a blank page and let you stage the photographs then,

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Registry Offices

    It has always been the case that you can't photograph the register in a church so I am surprised that this has only just come into force for registry offices.

    I used to film weddings and its something to do with unauthorised copying of a public record. That's why, as others have pointed out, a dummy register or blank page is used for staged photos and videoing.

  21. Adrian

    Wedding registries - the Why

    When I photographed my mate's wedding in the local registrar's office they said take whatever photos you want (including using flash - try that in a church !!). Only rule was no photographing allowed when they signed the register. Why - because the flashgun distracts the people signing and since it is a legal document they need to sign it without distractions. Afterwards it was OK to photograph them (same register, just play acting with a fancy quill instead of the Bic they used to actually sign with).

  22. Mark

    Officialdom making life easy for themselves

    I imagine the reason behind the registry office ban is simply the conjunction of modern, obstructive officialdom and old rules. As others have suggested, it's not permitted to shoot real pages of the marriage register as others on the same page could be identified, breaching their privacy. More and more people use better and better cameras and post their stuff to Flickr etc, so I reckon the registry office people had enough of explaining that the 'real' page could not be used 300 times a day to pre-fueled guests with potential attitude problems.

    As usual in the UK, it's considered easier just to stop people doing something that is largely harmless 99 percent of the time, than try to explain the rules the other 1 percent. I'm sure this applies equally to places like Canary Wharf, where the "hassle anyone with a camera that is big and black" rule applies.

    I've photographed election counts on several occasions over the years, and the only stipulation of the returning officer was that the text on individual ballot slips should be impossible to read.

  23. PT
    Black Helicopters

    @ You CAN photograph banknotes

    You generally don't get into trouble for reproducing money as long as it's nowhere near life size. However, modern hi-res printers and scanners can recognize bank notes by the "EURion constellation" (Google it) printed on them. They may stop processing, in some cases locking up and needing a service call, and if they have a modem or net connection they may call for help. That's enough to make a prudent man hesitate before trying it, at least on one's own equipment.

  24. Anonymous Coward


    "There has always been a law against photographing a marriage register in such a way that the writing can be deciphered"

    They'll just copy all details to disc and lose it!

    And banknotes

    Ebay "Jack Nicklaus £5 note"

  25. Anonymous Coward

    A rethink.

    I think we, as a society, need to seriously reconsider the way in which we educate and train our police force, if they think harassing people is their job then it's a slippery slope, no?

  26. Clinton Elston
    Gates Horns

    What about the BBC and Police Stop Shot Camera Actions Shows

    What rules apply to Aunty and the coppers with all their undercover camera's they like to use for their silly TV shows.

    Typical, its one law for them and another for us !

    Welcome to East Germany 2008

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Flashmob anyone

    Shall we all gather outside MI-5 and take photographs of a famous London building?

    They're coming to take us away, they're coming to take us away....

  28. Paul Glavin

    Photographing the register

    It's only forbidden to photograph the register in England and Wales because of the layout of the book.

    In England and Wales the preceeding certificate is visible and reveals information about the previous couple. In Scotland the current certificate is the only visible one so photographs are allowed.

  29. W

    Pink Tiger Girl

    In the Scottish Metro (25 June 2008, page 16, couldn't find a link):

    [Start of article]

    "Man Cleared over snap of a 'pink tiger'"

    A man taken to court for photographing a child dressed as a pink tiger was given an absolute discharge yesterday.

    Shopper Krzysztof Lucki took a snap of the girl, who also had her face painted, after he noticed her in a busy supermarket.

    The costumed three-year-old was walking through the aisles with her mother when the 36-year old took the picture on his mobile phone.

    But when the child's mother realised what had happened, she became alarmed and demanded Lucki delete the image.

    After their discussion in the Tesco branch in Cumbernauld, North Lanarkshire, the mother raised the alarm with store security and police.

    Lucki was then charged with disorderly conduct, breach of the peace and placing the mother in a state of fear and alarm during the April incident.

    But, when the case came to Airdrie Sheriff court yesterday, Sheriff Robert Dickson asked the prosecutor if she 'really wanted' to continue.

    Wendy McAdam, acting for the Crown, said: 'The little girl was three years old and was dressed as a pink tiger and had her face painted.

    'The man took her picture with his mobile phone as he thought she looked pretty.

    'He was charged as you cannot be too careful these days.'

    Sheriff Dickson allowed Lucki, of Cumbernauld, to go free.

    [End of article]

    Note that this time it goes beyond SLRs and inanimate objects and involves a mobile and a young girl. Shame about the private property element (Tesco). I (journalistically) note too that he was 'allowed to go free' as opposed to the case being 'thrown out of court'. No mention of whether the guy actually deleted the photo.

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