Cardiff Camera Club

Photographers Rights & Responsibilities

The question of photographers’ rights seems to feature more and more in public debate.

Whether you take your photos on a smart phone, a dslr, use a drone or some other discreet device, take stills or videos, as a  photographer you have a huge responsibility to act sensibly and not to bring the photographic community into disrepute.

Issues to consider: In particular photographers in the UK need to be sensitive to photographic issues relating to the …

  • abuse of copyright
  • privacy laws (in terms of public, private and personal space, including trespass)
  • protection of children and vulnerable persons – see below.
  • protection and maintenance of commercial interests including in sports venues and public places
  • any act that might be regarded as hindering the operations of law enforcement, medical, emergency or security personnel by filming 
  • the internet
  • statutory protection of wildlife and the country side in the UK including plants (see restrictions on photographing wildlife in the UK . Also see info on the relevant  Wildlife and Countryside Acts
  • Ensuring you act with complete integrity when entering any photographic competition.

 If you think there is the potential for someone to misinterpret any photographic interest you may have take your club membership card along with you so you can evidence that a) your are not a professional photographer (sometimes crucial when you are taking picture of private/commercial/sporting areas) and b) that you are a responsible photographer.

Protection of Children and Vulnerable Persons: In particular it should be noted that …

  • Whilst the taking of photographs of children in public spaces is not illegal it is ill advised especially if you are a man.
  • Similarly, photographing children abroad carries the risk that when you return to the UK others might view your images with suspicion. Never take pictures of naked children (even babies), or of half clothed children without permission or a chaperon being present.
  • Anyone under the age of 18 is regarded in law as a child.
  • When taking photos of children you should make absolutely sure their parents/guardians have given their consent in writing for you to take their photographs.
  •  If you need parental consent, you must have some way of verifying this. It is not usually enough to ask children to confirm their parents have agreed.
  •  If you take pictures of children under the age of 18 of say a wedding, or on a fashion shoot, you should consider the need to obtain a model release signed by the parent.
  • Using film or photographs of a child without consent, even in quite ordinary situations can be considered a breach of privacy.
  • If you take pictures of children under the age of 16 for commercial purposes a licence is required which can be obtained from the local authority. The definition of ‘commercial purposes’ is itself problematic as it could be interpreted to include the amateur photographer who does the occasional wedding and charges for doing so.
  • In the UK, taking photographs or filming children in sports activities such as dancing, swimming, gymnastics and athletics is becoming increasingly problematic especially if the child is only semi clothed, and is best avoided. Always follow the NSPCC safeguarding advice for photographers.
  • The uploading of photographs of children to social media sites needs to undertaken with caution.

Photographers taking pictures overseas should be aware that different laws and cultural norms might mean even tougher restrictions apply.

Respect for Cultural Difference: Particular attention should be given to restrictions placed on photographing …

  • religious symbols and religious practice
  • veiled women
  • train stations, trains,
  • airports, planes and any form of aerial photography
  • law enforcement agencies and personnel
  • plant and wildlife

Before going abroad make sure you have researched the law and local customs, as it affects general photography.

If after reading this you feel uncomfortable taking photographs in the situations described you probably shouldn’t take them at all.

Whilst the responsibilities listed above represent best practice they should never be interpreted as a substitute for legal advice.

If you are concerned about any matter referred to above you should seek your own legal advice.

See also:


  • This information is provided in good faith
  • Always remember that law and customs change over time
  • If you have any concerns about photography and the law best to take legal or consult an expert in the field
  • Be aware that (at present) in addition to UK national laws the European Union have stringent controls in place to protect photography of plant and wildlife.


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