Expert QA

Kevin Milne – Photography and privacy

Achieving that perfect candid shot isn’t easy, especially when you need to make your presence known to the subject. Be sure to know where, when, who and what you can shoot, before you get snapping.

**I’m going to become a photojournalist, but am unsure of the rules. Can I photograph people on the street without their permission? What about children in a public place? Do I need to get their parents’ permission? And is it illegal to photograph police doing their job?


The general rule is that anyone can photograph or video another person in a public place, as long as there is not a reasonable expectation of privacy. You can’t take photos, for example, in a public changing area. Nor can you photograph anywhere where your presence would ruin the enjoyment of others.

This might include photographing lovers over a candlelit meal in a restaurant. You need to have a legitimate reason for taking the photos. In your case, a genuine photography project would be fine.

As for children, this is a sensitive issue, so I would seek permission of a parent or guardian. You cannot take photos in a playground or classroom without the school’s permission. You also cannot use any photos you take

of people for commercial purposes, like a travel brochure, without negotiation.

 As for the police, you are free to film police doing their job in a public place or with a landowner’s permission, but your presence cannot hinder their work.

You need to be extremely careful that your photo doesn’t show a member of the public in a light they might consider defamatory, such as seemingly being arrested, when they were not.

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