Guidance on Photography of People In Public Spaces

Photography of people in public places raises a potential conflict of interest between the individual’s right to privacy on one hand and the photographer’s right to artistic expression on the other. These notes are intended to provide some guidelines to LSAPS club members on the legal and ethical position including the specific case of photographing children.

Photographing People In A Public Space

Photography of members of the public (including children) in a public space is perfectly legal, and no-one has a right to stop you or ask you to delete any images you have taken. However if a member of the public objects to their image being taken, then it is common courtesy to respect their wishes – persisting in photographing someone against their wishes could be interpreted as harassment. There is no restriction on the use of images of adults in club competitions, exhibitions or on the LSAPS website, however images of people should not be used for commercial purposes without the agreement of the individual (eg a Model Release form). The particular case of photographing children is covered below.

Photographing People In A Private Space

A lot of places considered as a public space are in fact private property, such as shopping centres, airports, gardens or sports locations. A property owner does have a legal right to ask you not to take photographs on their property if they wish, however members of the general public do not have any more legal right than they do in a public space (though they could complain to the property owner). If there are no signs that photography is forbidden, it can probably be assumed that photography is acceptable, however you should be prepared to stop if challenged by the property owner or their employees and delete images if requested. Photographs taken on private property should not be used for commercial purposes without the agreement of the property owner.

Photographing From a Public Space

Where the photographer is standing in a public space, it is legal to photograph members of the public who are located in a private space as long as they do not have a “reasonable expectation of privacy”. For example, a person in their front garden which is in view from the street would not have an expectation of privacy. However a person in a back garden which is not adjacent to a street would have an expectation of privacy, and therefore would have a legal right to ask you to stop and delete any images taken (for example if you climbed a tree for a view of the garden!)

Photography Of Children

All the above points apply to photographing both adults and children – there is no difference under the law. However in the case of children there are some other important considerations that may mean a parent or guardian might not wish a child to be photographed, and in particular would not wish their image to be displayed on the internet. One circumstance is where the child has suffered previous abuse, and the parent/guardian wishes to prevent contact with a family member or other individual. Another is where a child may be subject to bullying. In both cases, revealing the identity, location or activities the child is involved in could present problems.

For these reasons, when photographing children in public, it is good practice to seek permission first, though for large street scenes this may not be possible.  If you do not seek permission because you are concerned that it will not be granted, then that is a good indicator that you probably should not take the picture at all.

LSAPS policy (LSAPS Child and Vulnerable Adults Protection Policy) is that images of children taken within the UK will not be shown on the LSAPS website without the consent of the parent or guardian. This does not restrict the legal and ‘artistic’ right of the photographer to take the picture in the first place and images of children may be entered into club competitions and exhibitions with or without parental approval. These venues have a limited audience and duration, and therefore the risk of revealing a child’s identity is low. However the LSAPS website has a national reach, images can remain on-line for several years and despite some security precautions, they can be copied and studied via a screen grab. Therefore display of images on the LSAPS website carries a greater risk of inadvertently revealing the identity and location of a child. For that reason, the policy is in place to protect both the child’s identity and protect LSAPS as a club from any possible come-back. The website has very few international visitors, so the policy does not apply to images of children taken outside the UK.

LSAPS Process

When images are entered into an LSAPS competition via the website uploader, there is a check box for the photographer to confirm that if the image includes children, they have parental permission for display of the image on the LSAPS website. It is not necessary for this permission to be in writing, however the photographer should understand that by checking the box, they are taking responsibility for display of the image, so should be comfortable with that responsibility. This confirmation will be held by the LSAPS Webmaster along with the competition images.

If the permission box is not checked or the image is not submitted via the website, then the LSAPS Webmaster will decide whether an image ‘includes children’ (based on whether a child is identifiable) and will then discuss the image with the photographer before making a final decision on its display. This will avoid instances where the photographer has simply forgotten to tick the box or does not fully understand the policy.

Note that if it is decided not to display an image on the website, this does not in any way imply wrong-doing on the part of the photographer. It is only that the LSAPS policy places a priority on the protection of the child’s privacy.