47 responses

  1. savvysavingbytes
    May 2, 2011

    9/11 made a huge change in taking photographs around New York City. Not only are photos of bridges, official buildings and installations off limits now, but many public buildings and places forbid photos too. Such as theaters and office buildings:

    http://savvysavingbytes.com/2011/01/taking-photographs-without-permission/

    There’s a new paranoia in taking photos of kids playing in parks too. A femaie, I had no problem with that in the past but recently when I took a photo from some distance away of kids playing in a fountain, the mothers pretty much had a fit.

    • The Longest Way Home
      May 2, 2011

      That sounds very familiar these days, it’s playing catch up. I think it’s going to get a lot more restrictive, sadly.

  2. Malcom
    May 2, 2011

    I hear you with the google maps thing. In Australia it’s fine out in the bush, not a soul around to bother you. But in the big cities I’ve noticed a lot of no Photography signs going up. And, we are meant to be pretty liberal!

    • The Longest Way Home
      May 2, 2011

      Yea, I thought you Australians didn’t really care that much ;) I think where the west goes on this, Australia will follow, no disrespect meant!

    • Adrian
      October 7, 2011

      Australia (as usual) seems to be falling over itself to copy the US and UK approach. A short and sarcastic summary — Photograph buildings and you’re a terrorist, photograph people and you’re a pervert.

      There are very few legal restrictions on what you can’t photograph, but there are hundreds of companies who put up “no photography” or even “no cameras” signs on public and semi-public areas — an unenforceable joke when nearly everyone carries a mobile phone and nearly all mobile phones have cameras in them. Good luck on testing any of them in the courts once the local security guard starts chasing you away telling you “photography is forbidden”

      • The Longest Way Home
        October 7, 2011

        I hear you with the mobile phone camera. Getting searched going into a cinema is a prime example of that. Sure, a 12 megapixel phone camera with a 32GB memory card can’t record a movie as well as a DSLR …. Anyway, that one annoys me too. And, the presumption of carrying “big” camera around means you are up to something. I’m guessing sometime over the next 10 years they’ll enforce camera licenses.

  3. Leslie (Downtown Traveler)
    May 2, 2011

    Interesting post, but I have to take issue with your selection of the US as worst country for snapping photos. When was the last time you came to the US, and what part did you visit? I disagree that “Take your camera to the park as a male and you’ll probably find yourself on the sex offenders list the next day.” Every single tourist in NYC has a HUGE camera hanging from their arm and takes hundreds of pics a day. I’ve taken photos throughout my country and have never, ever had a problem– from Wyoming to California, Utah to Alaska and Maine. You know I love your blog and your insights, but I have to respectfully disagree on this one :)

    • Mark T
      May 2, 2011

      I’ve had problems photographing on the streets of NYC!

      I was told to “cease and desist” by the NYPD when trying to photograph a sidewalk. Unless I had a “permit” I was to move on.

      But I live NJ, maybe that’s the cause.

      I agree, we have a paranoia that’s influencing our freedom. I’ve experienced it.

    • Ciki
      May 2, 2011

      Hi Leslie! Interesting comment! In Malaysia, most city folk are usually OK with chicks and cameras but more weary of men. However, it all depends on how one looks – like open and friendly face- no problem. But man in trench coat .. no no! something like that. Also if you bring a camera to a pool – very suspicious!

    • The Longest Way Home
      May 2, 2011

      Hi Leslie, you actually just highlighted something I should have edited a little better. I thought the U.S.A text was enough to highlight it was not apart of the list. I’ve since added a line break to highlight it some more. So no, I don’t count the USA as being the worst for restrictions on photography. The U.K. is listed as that in this article. However, I will say the USA is heading there very quickly.

      Regarding never had a problem with taking a photo. It will depend on what you are photographing as I wrote above. Landscapes, empty areas, and tourist trails will remain free. Even in a place like Beijing or NYC I am sure you can take a lot of photographs. But, even as some others here have pointed out, stay too long, or take an interest in something deemed not appropriate and you’ll have a tap on the shoulder.

      I know you have an interest in street art, so you might find the the following interesting about a documentary photographer in Los Angeles getting arrested for photographing graffiti artists at work last year. He’s since been cleared, though it did take several months, and a lot of trouble before that happened. And, also one about a case in New York

      L.A. Photographer Faces Criminal Charges for Documenting GraffitiLA Photographer Faces Criminal Charges, Appeals for Help

      US Department of Homeland Security has settled a claim brought by photographer Antonio Musumeci

      • Leslie (Downtown Traveler)
        May 5, 2011

        Wow, that’s crazy– getting arrested just for photographing street art! I haven’t heard of that before.

        I could see NYPD beat cops being overzealous about restricting photography. They aren’t experts on the law and clearly use racial/gender profiling. I’ve never been stopped for a “random” bag check on the NYC subway (as a white female) or been prevented from taking a photo. I could see a single male being hassled for photographing city landmarks, if he’s deemed “suspicious.”

        That said, the cops cluster in a few areas like Times Square and around the WTC… the vast majority of people can go about photographing anything they want in NYC without a problem.

        BTW, I would never advise a lone middle-aged male to start snapping photos of little kids in a park– that’s creepy anywhere! If you do that, you should be more worried about hyper-vigilant moms attacking you than cops.

  4. Aye Tanner
    May 2, 2011

    On a day when Osama bin Laden is killed, I fear the situation will get worse for any of us carrying cameras in the world.

    • The Longest Way Home
      May 2, 2011

      Dead or Alive, the problem is there, and growing for many photographers and writers alike

  5. JH
    May 2, 2011

    Wow … Being a photographer or photojournalist or just traveling around & taking photos, it’s refreshing to read how different countries (especially those off the main/popular tourists routes) reacts to being photographed!

    It would be awesome to take street photography with lovely, warm and friendly people, immersing and knowing more about their country and local culture!

    I agree with you on the increasing restrictions on photography worldwide, some are understandable and justified, while some (or many) are plainly paranoid or simply don’t know what they are afraid of. It’s pretty much the same here and getting more common overseas I feel.

    Personally, I would just avoid those restricted or “paranoid” locations, there are a lot more places, people, events for me to photograph, document and share with people from all over the world and it’s a lot more fun, interesting than being chased by “scary people” :)

    Oh yes, time to take more photographs & share!

    JH
    http://www.photojournalist-tgh.tv

    • The Longest Way Home
      May 2, 2011

      Thanks for the great feed back JH. I often think the same thing when moving to a new country. How hard or easy will it be to take a photograph there. And I too get the feeling of wanting to move on if it’s too difficult. But, I don’t, and can’t believe this is the answer. At least not for me.

      I think if we keep moving on to other places that are easier, sooner or later we will run out of places to go. Countries have a habit of copying each other, and especially the “important” countries.

      I remember a tourist, an American citizen, in Kathmandu talking about watching another tourist getting taken about by taking a photo of the above “American Club”. And, getting questioned for 3 hours and having his photos deleted (which is an illegal act). Someone asked the American tourist if he took a photo too or if he helped his friend out. He said no. To quote him – “I don’t want to get on my governments black list”. He was scared to be put on a terrorist watch list by his own government for taking a photo, or helping a friend out. So he left both behind.

      The man showed no remorse or felt nothing wrong with either situation.

      That to me is really, really scary. He is not only scared of his government overseas, and at home, but also accepting it as normal.

  6. Sabina
    May 2, 2011

    I have a bit of a habit of taking photos when I shouldn’t. I went down to Ground Zero a month after September 11th and took photos. It wasn’t with a digital camera, though, so you won’t be seeing any. I heard a police officer who was guarding the site tell someone else they couldn’t take photos, but I think I still kept on doing it. I didn’t understand why it was forbidden. Later I asked a firefighter friend of mine, who went down to the site from time to time to help in the cleanup, and he said that photos were not allowed because it was considered a crime scene.

    Also, I took photos of men praying, through a window in Al Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. I don’t think there are signs saying not to take photos, but I know you shouldn’t photograph Muslims praying. This was like a year and a half ago, though, and I would never do that now. Looking back on other contraband photos I’ve snapped, I guess I’m not the most respectful photo-taker on earth. You’ve raised my awareness with this post. I think where photo rules are in place for religious reasons I’m going to obey the rules from now on.

    • The Longest Way Home
      May 2, 2011

      Ha ha, I do enjoy your comments Sabina!

      Great insight into Ground Zero. It’s always strange how the law changes to suit situations. A crime scene, sure, but one that the entire worlds media descended upon. This is a big thing I notice when it comes to local policing, what’s said in the morning brief is often misunderstood on many levels and causes many breaches of civil liberties. Not just in the USA, but around the world.

      As for taking photos of people praying. I ask the the person in charge of the religious site if it’s possible? If they give the go ahead, I have no problem. If it’s close ups etc, then I will ask someone’s permission. Usually explaining what I am doing. Like you said, getting permission is really important!

  7. Ciki
    May 2, 2011

    Hi Dave! Great post – got me thinking. in fact photography is not even the real issue these days. If you want to be more current – the instagram craze is just taking the world by storm! I have friends who do instagram “walks” thru dodgy areas – taking photos w/o people knowing.. it’s even more scary because you cannot identify the iphone as a camera. So.. i think up front photography are the least of our worries these days..

    • The Longest Way Home
      May 2, 2011

      Hi Mei, that’s a really interesting subject matter you bring up. I think if your friends get caught, physically they might well be in a world of hurt. Moreover if they publish them or sell them, they might be open to criminal charges. Depending on Malaysia’s privacy laws.

      Your point also brings up the the “other” people photographing and videoing people. Public CCTV cameras, and private security cameras, I am sure some bright spark will end up suing some firm for taping them without express written permission soon. Least of all what happens to all that footage we don’t even know that’s recording us!

  8. Arman Photography
    May 2, 2011

    I hope it is okay to leave some links to other examples of photographers rights being ignored.

    Big fan of your site, you have more insight than the average 1.4F ;)

    Man arrested for photographing Santa

    Woman arrested for photographing a tourist attraction outside an airport

    • The Longest Way Home
      May 3, 2011

      There’s no problem leaving relevant links!

  9. Roxanne
    May 3, 2011

    The country in which I thought about this the most was actually Lebanon. The army/police strongly discourage you from taking photos of anything that may denote war, conflict or violence (even though there was a civil war there…) Photographing bullets in statues or even gaping holes in buildings is prohibited and, if caught, you often have to delete the photos.

    Useful and interesting post. Thank you so much, Dave!

    • The Longest Way Home
      May 3, 2011

      Hey Roxanne, thanks for your contribution. Looks like the Lebanese police have been told to make sure everyone sees the place through rose colored glasses! Deleting photos is the same as deleting evidence, which is also illegal. I wonder how the law is upheld there though?

  10. T-roy
    May 3, 2011

    I get the whole article but to be honest the worse thing I ever had happen to me as a tourist was in London, I was at the London Eye taking photos across at Big Ben. Some guy walked up to me not even speaking English telling me I can’t take a photo (never mind there was a 1,000+ people waiting in line for the ferris wheel snapping away like nothing with point and shoot cameras). I told the guy to get the hell away from me, as I didn’t know who he was or really what he was talking about. Come to find out there’s a govn’t foreign building next to the London Eye, which who the hell cares and I wasn’t even taking pictures of it as I had my back to it.

    Off topic some; what I think is more of an issue and unjust then all these little one timer stuff for a tourist and traveler is churches, museums exc that don’t let you photograph. This affects travelers more daily then not being able to say shoot a photograph of an embassy or something. I get this weekly when traveling and it personally bothers me.

    —————————————————
    1) If I can take photos (without flash because that make sense for older art) at the Louvre why they hell do all these little shitty places get all high and mighty about “No photos”? Seriously what is the harm in taking a photograph of some clay pots? This makes no sense to me because for every photograph taken, it’s free advertising for the place. Some places just can’t wrap there head around it. I have asked others and was told “because people with nice cameras will sell the photos and we have photos for sale of it”. Again, are you kidding me, more FREE advertising! How much are they really going to make off some photos sold at the gift shop vs friends on Facebook sharing there photos, who then email to others, twitter exc. Do you know how much that would costs in dollars to get that much exposure if paid for??

    Perfect example if I could ever think of one: The Salt Church just north of Bogota, Colombia. They will allow you to take photos inside the church (it’s not an officially recognized church at all, just an old shaft of the salt mine they converted into a religious thing to draw in some tourism dollars on something that would otherwise sit empty) but you can’t use a tripod. They say using a tripod could let people take good photos that could be sold later, so basically they want you to get crappy photos. I got access into it with my tripod and got some great shots (Good to know a Colombian Police Capt for certain things) but it took a full hour to be granted permission. What bothered me, was they touted that the Salt Church was Colombia’s #1 tourist site but in truth no one other then Colombians know what the hell it is (it’s actually pretty cool) because no one has any good photos of it. The money the think there saving is actually costing them 100x more in lost advertising. How dumb is that for a business that is solely trying to make money.

    —————————————————

    2) Churches or any religious place for that mater. If your teaching “Gods” word and trying to show the world about his message… isn’t then the place actually belongs to all people of God? [I won’t even go down the road about charging entrance fees into religious places (Catholic’s are the worse about this then anyone)]. I went to a Church here in Mysore, India yesterday in hopes of getting a few shots on the inside, guess what, no photos? I can’t think of any churches in Latin America where that has happened but it happens all the time at the Hindu Temples. What message does that send for someone wanting to know more about their religion? (why i hate religion because it’s such a double standard, so just want to say that up front).

    —————————————————

    Ok, i went on a long soap box rant here but yeah the everyday stuff of photographers rights of not being able to take photos at govn’t buildings and what not are so small compared to the actual everyday places you would visit when you travel. If i can’t take photos of a place, then I don’t visit or bother with it most of the time. Would rather go some other place and enjoy my time doing what I like best, documenting my travels and showing the world what I see.

    • The Longest Way Home
      May 3, 2011

      Thanks for taking the time to give such a detailed synopsis of what happened to you in London. The foreign office and MI6 have long been buildings whose security randomly seem to pick on people. I think it’s more to do with boredom than anything else. As quite frankly both of these buildings have been photographed, and appeared in movies quite a few times. Let alone google earth etc.

      Museums and the like: Well flash does fade out inks so I can understand that. And, I can understand no tripods indoors for various reasons. However I will tend to agree with you about not being able to photograph something due to the prospect of sale. There’s surely a reason behind it, art thieves, replicas etc. But in this day and age there are plenty of ways to sneak a photo. So I am sure someone has done this already. An old law, that needs to be updated.

      Oh, by the way if you are stuck in London again, you might check out http://www.photolegal.com for some advice on the next time the police hassle you

      Churches and religious buildings. There’s something to be said for not having a lot of people shooting photos around a person who’s their for peace and prayer. I’ve seen some very ignorant tourists photographing people close up when they are praying, without permission. This is simply wrong. In this regard I agree about no photography. However is an establishment has select times when people can go in to photograph, this would solve the issue. The Armenian church in Isfahan, Iran is a prime example of a magnificent mural inside which the the church says you cannot photograph. The kicker is, they charge foreigners to enter, yet Iranian mosques don’t.

      • T-roy
        May 3, 2011

        Totally agree about people in churches, that to me is anywhere and you should always ask if getting close or it’s a personal thing, but what i mean is just the structure itself. All the churches in Cartagena, Colombia charge $5 USD to go inside but all the ones in Medellin and Bogotá are free… that’s what gets me going on places like that, plus ones that charge then state no photos.

  11. Travis
    May 3, 2011

    Wow this is fascinating.. I never would have thought Iran would be the most permissive and the UK the least. Very eye-opening.

  12. Jason
    May 3, 2011

    Informative post Dave and should raise an eyebrow or two on the UK’s position. Like yourself I have been taking photo’s in all manor of places throughout the world over the past 20 years. I for one never pull a Camera out whilst crossing a border (especially an SLR with a large Zoom) as it always drawing unwanting attention, legal or not. Come to think of it, border crossings are in most cases the most boring places on the planet, so I’m not really missing much.

    I’ve never really had to many issues over the years, although there was a time a couple of years back in Moscow where I did raise a fair bit of suspicion, although nothing happened.

    President Putin was to visit one of Moscow’s prominent churches for the Easter celebration. I was walking around and happily snapping away at the Church in the afternoon as it was great light. I had my zoom lens and hood on, and it made for a few soldiers to follow me a little, but in the end nothing was done.

    I think people will be surprised at the fact the Iran is quite liberal to photography. Something I also enjoyed whilst there. Great post mate.

    • The Longest Way Home
      May 3, 2011

      Yea the old border crossing thing is another strange law. Again, I always say, google earth is photographing it, so why can’t I? Let alone the countless mobile phone photos. Friendship bridge is great place to have undercover Chinese police pop up and hiss at you for taking anything out of your pocket.

      Nice to hear you got Putin’s police to take some exercise with you!

      Check out the following podcast website for some info on what’s been happening in the UK
      http://www.photolegal.com

  13. Ivy
    May 3, 2011

    There is a point where you have to drop the cameras. Some pictures are too intimate to put on the internet. Like i wrote in previous posts there is no reason at all for taking pictures of people and other items if there isn’t a legitimate reason for it. But if you witness a scene of inhumanity or injustice, please take as many pictures as you can with or without permission. I don’t know about the legislation in Europe (place where i live), and it’s highly possible that the UK is very strict about taking pictures, but what can you possibly put on a picture that is interesting in the UK? ;)

    • The Longest Way Home
      May 3, 2011

      Good points as always Ivy. Just to bring up a point though. Some people, and cultures will look at things from a different point of view. For example some people may think taking a photo of a homeless man on the street is taking advantage. While others will say it’s promoting the fact there is problem in this city.

      Like wise an Indian man may have no problem photographing begging for money, while a westerner would often give something to them ( I’ve seen that a bit, so feel I can say it)

      Nothing to photo in the UK? Are you the only girl who doesn’t want a photo with Prince Harry? ;)

  14. Nomadic Chick
    May 4, 2011

    Really solid, informative post. I am like Sabina, a bit of a rebel when it comes to photography. I took photos at the funeral of the last Maharajs in Jaipur, but in my defense there were journalists and a few other tourists snapping pics (though not many).

    I thought about posting them because it was a major historic event in Rajasthan, but realized that would be poor taste.

    I feel more enlightened after reading this and humbled.

    Are you going to rap me on the hand now? :)

    • The Longest Way Home
      May 4, 2011

      Sounds like you found your inner voice for what’s acceptable or not to publish. So no rap needed ;)

      I remember the Ghats in Varanasi, lot’s of personal moments there. And, a camera of course. Something’s are too graphic and personal. Others, especially, non-identifying scenes can easily be put under the “cultural understanding” side of things. Night time funerals can be good for that I believe. Clear, an element of mood, emotional, and non-identifiable so it can relate to many people.

      Just my 2 cents on funerals :)

  15. Rebecca
    May 5, 2011

    Having just returned from a trip to London and various smaller towns in England, with a two day stop in Paris, I have to say I took 1,000 photos with my large and cumbersome Nikon d5000 around my neck the entire time. From inside and outside museums, government buildings, churches, malls, cemetaries, subways, train stations etc etc. without the slightest problem (except for a rude street vendor in Camden Town, an isolated incident). I even took shots of the French military as they wandered the streets with machine guns, and the interior of Notre Dame cathedral. I honestly had no idea such restrictions even existed. I agree with Nomadic Chick and Sabina that I’ll push the envelope with regards to photo taking. I’ve also never encountered a problem shooting in the U.S.A. even having shot various street artists and graffitti in San Francisco last year. I’ve shot numerous children in street photography also. Do I dare pull the “female card” or have I simply been lucky? Your post has given me something to think about next time I pull out my camera.

    • The Longest Way Home
      May 6, 2011

      Some ladies have already made reference to the “female card”. No doubt there are always elements to this, in both good terms and bad. Likewise the type of photography one takes can also play an inclining factors and the equipment used.

      As an example a huge lens will often garner more attention than a small kit lens, or a micro lens. Ditto for tripods etc. Then we have peoples perceptions of a what type of photograph people take. Some may think photographing a musician on a street is street photography, while others will think taking photos of drug addicts is. A police officer is going to take a different view of both.

      Again, as you can see from the other comments, and links here that there are numerous people across the board who have had problems. So we’ll need to through a game of luck and chance in there too I think :)

  16. Erin D.
    May 6, 2011

    Although a pretty obvious one, North Korea is quite restrictive in regards to photos. I was only near the border area, but they will quickly confiscate your camera and delete your memory card…that goes for a number of places in South Korea leading up to the border. I watched someone in our group get his camera snatched. At the DMZ, there is a yellow line, and if you even lose your balance and slip an inch forward, there will be guards and police all over you. I interviewed a traveler for another site I write for about his 2 week trip in North Korea and you have round the clock surveillance…your every move and photo are watched.

    • The Longest Way Home
      May 6, 2011

      Sounds like North Korea is well and truly big brother through and through.

  17. baron de friesland
    May 13, 2011

    i enjoyed reading your blog .what a fantastic thing to do for 6yrs. lifes
    to short to let it all be taken up buy modern slavery working for a pittance for big greedy corporant companys. people have for got what
    the meaning of live is. its not just work until you drop you cant take your spoils
    of work to the grave. you are right about britain and america. they are
    eroding freedom of speech with there dna data basis. people are blind
    to see there civil libertys are being eroded day by day. you are no more free in western society as opposed to the east in some respect. id say wake up the west and kick these anti terror laws out of the window. your more free in africa or asia than you are in europe. good on you a man with a respective on like seen through travel. thankyou for a magical insight into a big world.

  18. Michael
    May 23, 2011

    Interesting article and some good comments.
    I live in China and I’ve had a few issues here taking pictures (with a P&S no less). But at the same time, I’ve never had so many people pose for pictures in any other destination.

    • The Longest Way Home
      May 23, 2011

      Good points about China. Living in a place can give you some great opportunities to capture some unique images.

  19. Dan Curtin
    March 10, 2012

    Interesting article. I was very surprised about your report of about the SM Mall(s) in the Philippines. I have been to 3 SM malls there. SM Mall of Asia, SM Clark & SM Pampanga City. I took a many pictures inside the mall, restaurants & just walking around. No one ever complained. I even took photographs of security guards

    • Dave from The Longest Way Home
      March 10, 2012

      Might be a different experience if you have a big SLR and go outside SM and start snapping shots of the building!

  20. Darlene
    April 12, 2012

    This is an interesting article. One of the issues that I’ve seen in the U.S. is that you seem to need a permit to photograph just about anywhere and/or use photos commercially. Surprisingly, this has nothing to do with intent of use, but insurance! They want to make sure you are insured in case they are sued for something you do. This whole country feels like it has to cover its butt on everything because of our very litigious culture.

    • Dave from The Longest Way Home
      April 12, 2012

      You make some good points Darlene. Photography permits due to insurance issues are rarely mentioned in any genre. I’m guessing this will only increase in prominence within other countries in the coming years too.

  21. william
    June 16, 2014

    I was waiting for my daughter in Ocean Reef primary school, western Australia. My daughter was having after school program. Decided to take out my new Em1 for a test. Was in the part of the school with no child around and was photographing landscape and micro. A teacher approach and says a parent complaint I was photographing school children. Decided to show the teacher the photos on the camera and no children at all. This is paranoid to the extreme. Is there a sign that show I a pervert. I have been taking photo for over 30 yrs and have been fun, enjoyable and relaxing. I have always take care to respect others when taking photos. I find this experienced insulting to my pride by ignorant people that lack common sense, as a responsible parent and a photographer.

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