As bloggers we love to take photos. In order to fully share an experience with our readers, we need to have good visual imagery to get our stories across. Just like our fellow non-bloggers and photographers, we know that DSLRs in hand can make us stand out. Sometimes the reception is good, sometimes people will approach you to say that they feel uncomfortable, and other times you may not be aware that you are actually breaking the law.
Before you travel, you should gain a good understanding of your photography rights, so that you don’t find yourself in a legal battle, or so that you can correctly argue your case against those that do not understand your rights.
Disclaimer: Even if taking a photo of your subject is legal, where ever you go you should adapt a moral conduct to never make a person feel uncomfortable, and always ask permission from your subject.
United Kingdom – You can legally take photos of people and private property without permission from public land, however you must not be able to see inside of the private property. There are some exceptions of this, such as in Trafalgar Square and Royal Parks, where no commercial photography is allowed.
Photographing children in areas such as parks is not allowed, however there is no UK law to prevent you from taking photos of children in public areas without parental consent.
Be wary of using fields in your photos, you risk trespassing unless you are clearly on a public footpath.
When taking photos in train stations, your photography must be for personal use only, commercial use requires permission from the stations owner.
UK airports must be seen as private property also, and you may be asked to put your camera away. Same with shopping centres etc.
UK Police and security personnel cannot make you delete photos under any circumstances, and only police can seize your camera on suspected terrorism offences.
United States – Photographing people, including children and police officers, does not require consent, even if they wave you off (but be respectful).
If you are taking a photo of something that can be seen from public property, even if it is inside private property, it is legal to take a photo of it (in contradiction to UK law).
Be careful of what is considered public property – tax funded buildings such as museums or monuments will require permission to take photos.
Spain – “The taking, reproducing or publishing of the image of a person captured by photography or filming or any other means in places or moments of private life or outside these” is considered to be an “illegal intro-mission in private life”, in civil law. However, it is extremely rare that you will find a problem with street photography in Spain.
Do not – at all – take photos of on duty police, as this can land you in big legal problems.
Australia – There is no law stating that people in public places cannot be photographed but be prepared to be questioned by people who believe that it is an invasion of their privacy. Prepare a friendly speech about being a travel blogger, and share your professionalism, and be respectful should they ask you to move on. But, you are not undertaking a legal activity.
There are also no restrictions on taking photos of people on private land from public property, so long as they are not…’getting it on’.
Each local government sets rules about the use of photography in parks and beaches, where it is banned in some states, so check first.
Iran – For tourist means, Iran is known to be photography friendly, so long as you do not proposition yourself as a journalist. You will also be free to take photos in mosques. However, in Tehran, photographing women without consent is not allowed, neither is taking photos of government buildings, even if from public property.
India – Even though tourists flock to India, including travelers and journalists, there are no defined laws on photography. Outside of the main tourist spots, such as around the grounds of attractions, it is generally best to not take photos at temples and of women, as you may encounter problems with the public.
China – Of all the major destinations for travelers, China may be the most photography friendly. Most people will be more than happy to be photographed, including children. Even though it is always best to ask permission, most people will mind being photographed going about their business. In more rural areas of China, be more sensitive and reach out to those you want to be subjects.
Hungary – If you are going to Hungary you must know this as a travel blogger: if you take a photo with a person in it, even if they are not the subject, you must have their clear permission, even if they are in a public space. If the person can be identified in the photo, then you must ask if you can keep and use the photo. Be prepared to be approached if you are taking photos.
European States – With the exception of Hungary and France, countries in the EU generally follow the rule that as long as you are taking photos in public space and your photos are not-for-profit then you will see no problems. Also be aware of the phrase that when taking photos you must do without ‘damaging dignity and safety’. In some countries, such as Italy, you may be approached by police if they find you suspicious, however they cannot force you to delete photos or retain your camera.
France – Like Hungary, France is another exception to the statement above about EU countries. French Civil Code states that everyone has the rights to their own image in a public space, therefore you should get permission from an identifiable person in your photos before using them. However, know that a right to freedom of expression is also respected, so as long as your photos of public members serves a purpose, such as to show French way of life on a travel blog, you will have a good argument in terms of street photography. But again, so ask for permission before taking photos of people.
Japan – If a photo of a person is to be made public in any way (blog!) then you must inform the subject of the exact matter and obtain explicit consent. So for example, if you see an interesting person making something on the street and want to take a photo for your blog, you must explain that you intend to use that photo of them in a blog post on the internet. In my own experience, Japanese people are more than happy to pose for photographs though, and faced no questions when taking photos of people on private property.
Switzerland – If you’re doing a tour of Europe then Switzerland is probably on your list, but remember that Switzerland is not an EU member, therefore the previous statement on relaxed EU law is irrelevant here. Swiss Civil Law, like France, contains a clause protecting personality rights. Therefore, when taking photos where a personal is identifiable is seen as an offensive, and unless you have permission off the person you may be forced to delete your photos, should they be aware that you actually have a photo with them in it.
Cuba – Despite the news of the treatment of bloggers in Cuba, and restrictions on general and media freedoms, people in Cuba are largely open to being photographed and are very used to street photography, even if you have to give them a dollar for the privilege of it. You should get great street photos for your blog, just be careful that you don’t seem invasive around police officers and government buildings.
Morocco – The people of Marrakesh will be used to the army of tourists with cameras, however this beautiful country is much more than just Marrakesh and most travel bloggers will want to get out of the main areas. Outside of the tourist bubbles, people will generally not want their photos taken, even if you approach them for permission. It is not uncommon for photographers to be forced to have their photos deleted if they are taking photos near border areas, so to avoid this nasty experience keep your cameras away when travelling in and out of the country. Some travel bloggers have reported success when offering locals money in exchange for them to be in their photos, so if you really want to portray a specific activity that you are seeing, then try this method.
Street photography and travel blogging go more hand in hand than people believe, and its definitely something that I like to explore on the side of my writing. But being aware of what you can and can’t do, along with local expectations can help you stay as safe and respectful as possible. I’ve left my sources for my information below, however I do apologize if there are in-corrections in this post.
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