Street Photography Collectives
5 fantastic street photography collectives including OBSERVE, Un-Posed, ...
I have no legal training and shouldn’t be giving advice on the legality of practising street photography in the UK. This article is intended to provide a list of resources you can use to make your own decisions on how to practice street photography in the UK and the approach that I take to a variety of situations. It is worth noting that Scotland and Northern Ireland can have different laws to England and Wales. If in doubt please consult a solicitor.
Broadly speaking if you are standing in a public place and you are photographing people where there is no expectation of privacy then carry on. As is often the case there are exceptions and as a street photographer you need to have an awareness of the following:
This isn’t to say that you can’t or shouldn’t take photographs of the above, but you do need to be aware of how you approach the subject and the situation. Would asking permission help? Would having a conversation first and explaining what you are doing make it easier? This is quite possible and for many photographers this is their modus operandi. As a street photographer who aims to produce candid public photographs, this isn’t how I work.
Simon Moran has published a concise, easy to understand, guide to UK Photographers Rights. It covers issues such as where you can take photographs, what can appear in your photographs, and the subsequent publication of your pictures.
I’m A Photographer Not A Terrorist – PHNAT have published a “bust card” which may be useful as a quick reference when confronted by security guards, police or other official looking people. While aimed more towards journalists and documentary or reportage photographers, the advice can be equally applied to street photographers.
The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) published a letter in 2010 setting out guidance for police officers on photographers and photography in public places. ACPO was replaced in 2015 by the National Police Chief’s Council who have not as yet issued similar guidance.
The British Security Industry Association (BISA) publish a guide, only available to BSIA members, covering best practice for security personnel when they encounter photographers. It is relatively easy to find a copy of this publication by searching for “Photography and Hostile Reconnaissance“.
Remember that while there may be no basis for preventing you taking photographs, and you are not under any obligation to delete the photographs, ask yourself if the photos you have made are actually good photos. Are they keepers? If you are in a situation where you feel that the easiest way to diffuse the problem is to delete your photograph then will you have a better day than if you stick to your guns?
If someone spots me taking candid photographs then I use a number of tools and techniques to put them at ease:
Things not to say (mostly from my own experience):
Things you could say:
Street photography is how I relax and have fun. I don’t find confrontation fun and as such I aim to balance the chance of confrontation with the work I want to produce. I try to know and understand my rights, as well as the rights of the subjects in my photographs. Because something is legal doesn’t make it right.
Bristol; July 2015