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This map shows areas in the UK where photography is restricted by law as well as places where photography is often restricted even though there is no legal basis for doing so. You may often be able to photograph these places without any trouble at all, however, photographing in or around these areas may be subject to additional attention from bored security guards or police officers.

Section 76

Under s58a (more commonly known as s76) of the Terrorism Act 2000 it is an offence carrying a sentence of up to 10 years imprisonment:

a) To collect or possesses information of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism.

b) Possess a document or record containing information of that kind.

Terrorism Act 2000

This is obviously a hugely wide ranging power with massive scope for abuse on the ground. The normal burden of proof is reversed so that the accused must prove that they had a reasonable excuse for having the information in their possession. The act also goes on to specifically include photographs.

While it is unlikely that a case against a photographer would ever make it to court to be accused of this crime by an officer on the ground can still be disruptive and threatening for photographers.

Previous to s76 there were very few laws restricting photography apart from in specified areas such as nuclear facilities, army bases and airports. However this new law means that taking a photograph of anything that may be of use to a terrorist such as a bus station or a ship could lead to arrest or at the least a stop and search.

The Official Secrets Act 1911

There are numerous areas that are considered prohibited places under s3 of the Official Secrets Act where it is illegal to collect, record, publish, or communicate to any other person photographs or information which is calculated to be or might be or is intended to be directly or indirectly useful to an enemy. These include:

  • Military establishments, munitions stores, aircraft and ships
  • Civil Aviation property and naval dockyards
  • Telephone exchanges and communications centres

The Secretary of State may also declare any railway, road, waterway, power station, waterworks, nuclear power station or any other place owned or being used by the state a prohibited place although nowhere currently is.

Bylaws

Some places have bylaws specifically forbidding photography without permission. Airports usually have a bylaw to this effect. Trafalgar Square, Parliament Square, and the Royal Parks all have bylaws that forbid photography for commercial purposes without a permit but allow amateurs. Generally speaking using a tripod is considered ‘commercial’ and anyone using one is usually swooped upon within seconds by heritage or park wardens.

Private Property

There are numerous places that may seem public, but are in fact private. Many town shopping centres are now privately owned and as such the property owners may set restrictions on photography. They may not have any displayed restrictions but you can be asked to leave the property immediately by the owners or their agents (security guards for example) without any reason.

Last Orders

This is by no means an exhaustive list or full discussion of the relevant legislation and does not cover the use of harassment, privacy laws or injunctions that are also used against photographers or the publication of photographs. If you can think of anything that we should add, leave a comment below.

71 comments
  1. mark says:

    Photography is banned at the National Photography museum Bradford ! i kid you not

    • MaFt says:

      i thought photography was banned in most museums anyway?

      it’s the National Media Museum by the way ;)

      • Sue says:

        We had no problem taking photos at the British Museum earlier this month, though don’t know about other museums in London.

    • Pete Spooner says:

      I had no problem taking lots of photos there. Other people taking them too.
      Pete

    • Shaun Brown says:

      Some museums will allow you to use a camera as long as you use a mono-pod instead of a tripod. This is down do health and safety, most won’t let you use flash photography because as I was told the bright light could damage some of the artifacts and sculptures in the museum, that I find damn right ludicrous really. But the power of a picture could make a vast impact in years to come. Surly people should realise this.

      • Tanya says:

        Lights from flashes, or indeed any bright lighting, can, over time do damage. If in doubt of this leave something in the sun during the six week holidays and then turn it over to see the difference. It shouldn’t be a problem to adjust your camera settings to low light to protect historical items. I give great kudos to the British Museum for allowing photography. On an evening visit there some time back they were delightfully respectful and helpful at all times.

  2. Paul says:

    In the UK, most museums ban photography. In the USA, if you ask if it’s allowed – “Of course it is!” – they’re surprised that you even thought to ask.

    • Jon Ridge says:

      To that effect, do not try and take photographs inside Topkapi Palace Museum, it will result in much shouting, seizure of equipment and forced deletion of photographs, and occasionally weapons being drawn and targeted at you.
      Trust me on that one. They REALLY don’t want you to photographs their historic collection of Ottoman armour. In case you’re a terrorist, I guess. Just a really old school one.

      • Hello Jon
        I am one of the official photographer of Topkapi Palace Museum.
        As you know the museum has two part. Inside and out. You can freely take any pictures at the outside. And no one asks you any question. Everyday thousands of people takes pictures. But at the insides you can not take photos at the rooms indicated “no camera”.
        “Trust me on that one. They REALLY don’t want you to photographs their historic collection of Ottoman armour. In case you’re a terrorist, I guess. Just a really old school one”
        So Jon we REALLY don’t want wrong information about our museum. How can you talk about weapons being drawn and targeted at you? There is no one security guy with weapon at the museum. Its totally forbidden even for security.
        And the reason to not to take photo inside of the some galleries is to protect them. As you know %90 tourists doesn’t know how to use their camera and they take pictures with flash which kills the history. BTW you can buy books and pictures at the entrance of the Topkapi Palace they are not expensive and you can have all the pictures places and historical pieces.

  3. Tito says:

    That’s not true at all. In many museums photography is also not allowed in the US!
    As a matter of fact, depending on where you go, you can even get harassed on the street for taking pictures… and I’m talking middle of the street.. not some army government secret location… Try going to LA and you’ll really change your perspective, specially with the advent of HDSLRs… they are going to start asking you for permits if you pull out one of those… haha!

    The grass always looks greener on the other side…

    T ; )~

  4. David Green says:

    The Google map doesn’t work properly

    • What exactly isn’t working?

      We are aware of the issue of icons having an active area larger than the icon itself, this is due to the way custom icons are added to google maps – we’re trying to fix that.

  5. themusicalbodger says:

    As one who has work in a few national museums, I understand that the restrictions on photography in museums are based on: a) the deleterious effect of flash on the exhibits, and b) copyright issues.

    • misskitty_79 says:

      There is no copyright on Michelangelo’s ceiling (in the Sistine Chapel) & most of the time, there’s enough lighting in museums & the like that there’s absolutely no need to use a flash. And yet, there are guards stationed throughout the building to prevent the use of photography within the Chapel! I think they’re just excuses for people who are being greedy with something that isn’t actually theirs.

      The really funny part is that, with the advent of camera phones, there’s virtually no way to prevent people from taking those forbidden photos…

  6. Adrian says:

    Misskity, problem is that you and I may well known that a flash is not need or no use, but 80% of the people who would go in there do not. So people that know how to use a camera get penalised by those that do not.

  7. Mark says:

    The Art Gallery in Birmingham allows photography and even flash, as long as you register at the reception to get a sticker, and agree to not use the images commercially. There are a couple of areas that you can’t take pictures, but these are marked clearly.

    Seems reasonable to me.

  8. All Licensed Nuclear Sites (including civil nuclear power stations, nuclear fuel processing plants and research laboratories) are Prohibited Places under the Official Secrets Act 1911, through the Nuclear Installations Act 1956 and subsequent Orders.

    Many former Government buildings and offices are no longer automatically Prohibited Places, as they are no longer owned by the Crown, having been sold off to property developers, based in tax havens, and leased back to the UK government at premium, under former Chancellor Gordon Brown’s controversial Public / Private Finance Initiative schemes etc.

    These include the Ministry of Defence HQ and HM Treasury in Whitehall, all HMRC tax offices, the Home Office in Marsham Street, the Ministry of Jutice in the re-developed former Home Office buildings in St. Anne’s Gate /Petty France, all the Identity and Passport Service passport and ID Card interview interrogation centres etc.

    None of these Government building have, as yet, been declared to be Prohibited Places by a Secretary of State.

  9. Gary Brindle says:

    Have a look at http://www.secret-bases.co.uk/

    He has surely lifted the lid on many places and all with clearance. He exposed how much was available and how pointlesss a lot of secrecy was in the UK.

  10. Rich D says:

    It is amazing just how much detail you can see of many of the “restricted” locations if you switch the map to satellite view and zoom in.

    So just how far from a restricted location do you have to be before taking a photo becomes legal again?

  11. Stuart says:

    Who’d want to go to America anyway ?

  12. TLH says:

    A security guard stopped me from taking photos of the KPMG building on the approach to City Hall (just off Tooley street). Shame as it’s fantastic modern architecture. Are they allowed to stop me?

  13. Graham Wright says:

    While the comments about Canary Wharf are true about it being private land, and one sees a lot of private security guards about, the management do seem at ease about photography. There are always people snapping the tall buildings with either compacts or DSLRs and no one seems to mind. Maybe there has been an outbreak of common sense amongst the Canary Wharf Management, who probably accept that photographers maybe capturing vital evidence should there be a terrorists attack on the day they were there.

  14. I teach night photography in central London; however, I have had to stop taking my students on the South Bank opposite the Houses of Parliament (behind St Thomas Hospital), I have been told by the two police offers that stand there, that it is against the law to take a photograph of the Houses of Parliament without written permission. I did argue with them about taking a photograph; however, their threat of arresting me and my students was quite convincing. This has happened three times.

    And as for security guards and the London eye; gosh they make you want to…

    • Mark says:

      So the thousands of tourist that take pictures of the Houses of Parliament and stand to get arrested ? I think not.. you should have taken his number and sorted it out at a later date with his inspector.

  15. Ian Sinclair says:

    Reference taking photographs in museums.
    I don’t know what the rules are for other museums but at the Science Musseum in London it is allowed as long as a tripod is not used for safety reasons.

    • don edwardson says:

      i have never been stopped from taking photos in Manchester Science museum and photos are allowed in most of the war museum in manchester

  16. SStevens says:

    Photography IS allowed in the National Media Museum – just not in the special exhibitions where photographers images are subject to copyright…..

  17. Avatar says:

    The UK, unlike the Continent is really anal about photography. Photography is not allowed in most places indoors.

    In London, there is no photography allowed in the National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, Tate Britain, Tate Modern, St Pauls, Westminster Abbey, Parliament, all Greenwich museums, Windsor, the British Library, Soane Museum, Hunterian Museum, and dozens of other museums, castles and stately homes, private or public. If you say you won’t use flash, they’ll claim copyright. If you point out the objects are hundreds of years old, they’ll claim gift store. If you offer to buy something from the gift store, they’ll claim ‘they have no authority to authorise it’ and so on. However you counter their reasons, there’s always another one.

    In Paris, most places allow personal non-flash photography e.g. the Louvre.

    Germany & Brussels are fine with photography too. In the USA, it’s okay as well.

    In Cambridge, there’s a quaint little artists’ house called Kettle Yard that charge a small fee of a few pounds for people to take photographs. Everyone’s happy.

    • Amy says:

      I went to the Tate Britain and Tate Modern . I always ask permission and they said as long as a flash isn’t used it is fine. Most museums in London are the same no flash no problem. I was carrying round a DSLR the whole time and no one cared . In fact the security guards laugh. They laughed when a girl was even saying about a piece of modern art (a pile of seeds literally) , and she was saying what happened if I threw my phone at it . They just laughed it off. If you were committing a serious offence I’m sure they would tell you .

  18. Ian Boyle says:

    I was stopped on a public street in Croyden for photographing a tram. Their opening gambit was ‘Did I have a permit to photograph there’. Permit from who? At the time I suspected that their main motive was that I was a token middle-aged white guy to help balance their ethnicity/age ratios (which the press has since suggested happens regularly). Allows them to harrass more young kids.

    I frequently just use a compact super-zoom where feasible these days – long telephotos seem to freak them out whatever the subject.

  19. Shapps says:

    I recently took a few pictures in Canary Wharf and as I entered the complex I asked a security guard if I could take some pictures. He said yes as long as I don’t take any of the reception areas inside buildings.

    so with tripod up I took some early morning shots and then a little while later the guard came over to have a look at the shots in quite a friendly manner. He then got a question over his radio asking what I was photographing from his central control and he replied, ‘Some touristy pictures. Nothing to worry about.’ It seems common sense is prevailing in Canary Wharf.

    • Wharfer says:

      I’ve also had a similar experience at Canary Wharf. If you just ask the guys on the barriers as you come in if you can take photos, they’re perfectly happy and usually very helpful. I totally agree as photographers we have the right to photograph pretty much everywhere in public and I know there are some aggressive police officers and security guards out there that don’t seem to fully understand our rights. But I have also seen photographers, on private property, get pretty militant with security guards as soon as they’re approached. If they had the slightest common sense to quickly ask permission first and just be generally polite to these people then there isn’t usually a problem.

  20. Jim says:

    A thought – if you have signed the official secrest act 1911 (and ammendments) can they still do a section 44 on you…. while you take photographs

    • MilPics says:

      The Official Secrets Act is a law covering everyone, there is no need to sign it to be governed by it. When people are asked to “Sign the Official Secrets Act” they are in fact just signing a reminder of what the Act entails to bring home the point.

  21. David Hawkins says:

    I was stopped from taking photos of the christmas decorations inside the West Quay Shopping Centre – Southampton.

    Thank god for this website, it’s nice to know there are folks out there who are willing to stand up for our hobby.

  22. Alex says:

    Sorry to be a pedant, but the planes are at the airports; the tanks are on Salisbury Plain.

    Otherwise, keep up the good work.

  23. Dafydd says:

    Hiya, Great Site !

    I got stopped while taking photographs within St Davids Shopping Centre in Cardiff yesterday – dunno if you want to add it to your map ?

    thanks.

  24. The Newland Shopping Centre, Kettering you can’t take photos on these grounds i found this out when some other photographer for the evening telegraph with a camera 10 time smaller than nikon D90 was going round and asking some people some question and photographing them, so the security was called to sort this out and guess who they came up to and told off me because they thought because i had the bigger camera it was him then about 10 mins later they released they were wrong and at least they apologised but made sure i didn’t forget the rule of no taking photos. Stupid but oh well.

  25. Alice says:

    Would you please add Northern Ireland to your map, there are many places that photography is not allowed, photographers have and continue to be haressed by the police, security persons.

  26. Sue says:

    Prohibitions on photography are not new in the UK. Over 9 years ago I was stopped by private security guards at Canary Wharf from taking photos of buildings and they were none too pleasant about it. Also, around the same time I was told that I couldn’t use a tripod outside around what was the Royal Navy Hospital, Greenwich.

    Over the years I have been stopped from photographing at numerous shopping centers, including the Whitgift in Croydon (at least 10 years ago) and in Lisbon last year.

  27. Jules says:

    Waterside shopping centre, Lincoln,North Lincolnshire, UK. Got told off for filming in there for college, told no photography allowed of any kind. No signs or anything.Why exactly do they have this huge thing against photography in shopping centres? It’s pathetic.

  28. Ian says:

    The Bullring Shopping Centre, Birmingham.
    Security Officer approached me at lunch time and told me not to photograph/video because of copyright issues relating to the shops!!!! And also because they like to be seen doing something to prevent terrorism!
    I am querying their ineffectual policy, because the officer told me it was ok for friends and family! How do they know who is genuinely related, and in any case being related should not be a defense to potentially carrying on terrorist activity!

  29. Vidar says:

    I’ve not yet encountered any trouble with photography in Norway apart from concerts, but so far I’ve not taken a photo of the American Embassy. Paranoia is very likely a huge hobby around that building!

  30. Hayley says:

    humm, that cant be good me and some fellow students were taking candid shots in the national media museum just days ago wuppps.

  31. Mr Mo-fo says:

    Gunwharf Portsmouth (shopping centre) is fine to take photos as long as you OK it with the security guards and assure them that it is only for personal use and not commercial – they can get a bit funny if you want to use a tripod but as long as you are polite they seem to pretty OK with most things.

  32. Ian says:

    It does appear as though the driving force to ban photographers is, in fact, to deter copyright infringment. What do you folks think? The SIA has not replied to my query with regard this.

  33. John says:

    As far as I can tell, it is okay to photograph most airports… Everything is in plain view. The chain link fence is what is there to prevent people, so as long as you don’t break through that, everything should be okay. Photographing the contents of hangars is usually a different story as hangars are designed to close and hide things!

    Some RAF stations are even introducing photographer ‘meet and greets’ with RAF police. So long as you’re not stopping them from doing their job, or illegally entering the premesis, you are usually allowed to photograph. In fact, some stations even tell you when aircraft are moving so that you know where to be and when. Very friendly service!

    Just don’t get past the fence and you should be able to photograph most airports. Of course, don’t photograph any of the security equipment, but signs are present for that.

  34. Martin says:

    I took a few pictures today while waiting for a train at Clapham Junction, London. Some member of staff came up to me and told me that I could not take photos inside the station without a permit; apparently this was a simple matter – just answering a couple of simple questions seemed to be enough from what he said, but I didn’t have the time to test it. He was also somewhat unclear as to whether it was photographing or publishing the photos that needed permitting. He also asked to see the pictures I had taken, which I let him – I didn’t mind, and didn’t want an argument.

  35. sohailnazish says:

    Would you please add UAE to your map, there are many places that photography is not allowed, Dubai photographers have and continue to be haressed by the police, security persons. some time its really bad

  36. Tristan says:

    Having been stopped in the past previously by private security guards (which have all been on private land eg, Gunwharf Quays, Portsmouth and West Quay, Southampton) I have taken the time to look up my rights, but the other day I was taking pictures near Aldershot Barracks (on public land) and was ‘informed’ on by a nosy dog walker to two army men. It wasnt really a problem as they were polite and I was back to them, and showed them my pictures, when they asked, although I was a little embaressed by my rubbish pictures of squirrels from testing my new lens.
    Do military personel have the same rights to stop photographers as the police do?

  37. Mr Powell says:

    I was stopped trying to take a picture of the QE2 in dartford

  38. Andrew Fildes says:

    I have been hassled while taking photographs of the huge bolts that hold up the Sydney Harbour Bridge – the security guard (who looked Lebanese – but that would be ethnic profiling on my part) was clearly bored witless and utterly unable to comprehend why I would be taking such a shot. I got what I wanted but had to move on.
    More recently, I was almost thrown out of the Tate Modern last July. They had a very nice exhibition of candid, covert and surveillance photography at the time. I read the rationale at the entrance to the exhibition, which discussed the concept of privacy, and decided that anyone who had walked past it into the exhibit had accepted that candid photography was reasonable. So I began to photograph the patrons. Got a couple of shots without objections before the security guards pounced. The Tate M. allows photography but not on the 4th floor. The staff were extremely polite and even got a member of the curatorial staff down for a chat. She and I agreed that the irony was overwhelming but she told me that it is one of the guarantees that they offer other galleries when they lend the exhibits – the key is insurance.
    But they were all a bit puzzled as to why I was photographing the patrons, not the exhibits. I invited them to take a look at the walls.
    I did write a letter to The Times but they did not print it. Damn.

  39. Pete Spooner says:

    Carrying my DSLR in the MillGate shopping centre in Bury (Lancashire, UK) I got stopped and told you can’t take photos.
    I said why not but no explanation… escalated to the point where the security manager became involved.
    Before these shopping centres were built there were public streets/roads and the councils have sold out to the big companies who make their own rules and are not interested in the right/freedoms of the public

  40. macduff says:

    I have just been visited by 2 police officers because I took an italian military surgeon (who I taught English too) to a famous town with an RAF base near by and he took a photo of the base probably because it had a jet at the entrance, he was a passenger in my car and they got my car registration number, should I be worried?

  41. Munkster says:

    I got stopped by the Met a few meters down from the American embassy a few years back, they didn’t tell me to stop but did say it would be worth moving on as the American armed officers get ‘jumpy’ when they see photographers hanging around at 3am in the morning dressed in black.

    I took my photo and left.

  42. gary says:

    I am an early riser, and have been watching the sunrise over the last few days, and thinking if a photo opportunity would be available on Saturday, I would go out for a sunrise photo. I got up this morning and bingo, almost perfect conditions. Now for sometime I have been interested in urban landscapes, so having looked around my local area, and studied Google earth, I had my shot planed. Living on the western edge of the west Midlands and the sun rising in the east, the places are limited, but I had identified a spot overlooking Merry hill shopping centre.

    I set up on a grassy bank at least, 200m from the nearest building and quite away from any car park, I could have sited myself on the pavement of a public road but I though I would cause an obstruction.

    After a few minutes, I saw the Westfield security van stop at the bottom of the bank and knew what was coming. I let the security man walk all the way up, and waited for the inevitable corporate blurb.

    “sorry sir, we don’t allow photography at the centre” “I am not at the centre I said” “how many shots have you taken” “ not enough I replied, I tell you what, I will take three steps back onto the pavement and then I am on public property”, oh I will have to speak to my boss about that.”
    By the time he had walked back to the van, I had my shots, and walked back to the car, I was half expecting to get challenged on the way back, and I did see another van heading I my direction as I left the car park.

    The thing that really bugs me, the centre owners are quite happy to host retailers that sell photographic equipment and the half a dozen shops selling camera phones, but then have over the top photographic policy’s and blame it on, you have guest it anti terrorism.

    Gary

  43. John Hall says:

    This morning, I strolled across the road into my local park. I get a wonderful view across London and was keen to photograph the skyline at sunrise. I was immediately stopped by a security guard, who informed me that the use of a tripod was against the law.

    Had I tried to take the same shot, an hour later without the tripod that would have been O.K.

  44. Shivendra says:

    FYI… All Indian airports are Indian Air Force (IAF) managed and hence illegal to do photography as per statutory orders. This is also clearly displayed as warnings and warned by air crew while boarding the plane. Though I was allowed to photograph at Zurich Airport (Switzerland) while I was about to board the flight.

  45. Confused says:

    Why do the police stop and search photographers under terrorism acts anyway – surely if they TRULY thought you might be a terrorist, it would be more prudent to pretend they’ve not spotted you, and follow you back to your ‘terrorist base’.

  46. nilesh says:

    India is bull shit. corrupted polluted. populated. full of crime .

  47. nilesh says:

    I can prove what I mean

  48. nilesh says:

    today only I had an argument with indian army men . he told me that he can kill me if he wants and me being a civilian can’t do any thing.

  49. nilesh says:

    bastards u deserve one more …….

  50. Dave says:

    Just been ejected from The Overgate Shopping centre in Dundee for photographing a stall.

    Private company (nothing posted) but it is also a public right of way (built with 24hr access laws).

  51. clark campbell says:

    One of the reasons they ask you not to take photographs in the Cairo museum is that thousands of intense little flashes per day will bleach those delicate 3000 year old colours. It’s the same reason many libraries with rare parchments don’t allow (flash) photography.

    If you have any respect for the artefacts – don’t take flash photos.

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