Alley in Pisa, Italy

by Lars Kotthoff

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I'm from Ukraine, and I know where I can shoot here and when. I had few trips to USA where I know it's very difficult to shoot on the street, without encroaching on someone else's private life.

I plan a travel to some of the European countries soon, but I don't know what I can shoot, and what can I not?

Is there any proper information (e.g. government website or article) about photography rules in European countries? Is there any difference between photography rules in, for example, Germany and the Czech Republic?

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I always thought the laws in the USA were relatively simple: if you're on a public street, you can photograph anything (provided it's not military etc). –  ElendilTheTall May 19 '11 at 11:46
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Could this, perhaps, be reworded to apply worldwide and then made to community wiki, so that there would be one country per answer? CW would be great as more people could add the bits of info they know. –  koiyu May 19 '11 at 12:05
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See also: photo.stackexchange.com/questions/1008/… which is related question, though it asks for resources and this question could be turned to a resource. –  koiyu May 19 '11 at 12:06
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fotorecht.de looks like a useful compendium for German if you speak German (I don't). –  fmark May 19 '11 at 12:36
    
Also, I believe @che is from the Czech Republic, he may be able to give you a detailed answer about the situation there. –  fmark May 19 '11 at 12:42

4 Answers 4

up vote 5 down vote accepted

I live in the Czech Republic, and travelled a little bit around neighouring countries. As for the legal situation, I know we have a freedom of panorama. Practically, I don't remember having any issues with protographing stuff around me, even though there are some private and publicly accessible spaces (like shopping centers), where photography is forbidden, in which case it's probably better not to fight local security when they want you to stop taking pictures.

As a tourist I've recently been to Austria, Germany, Italy, and the UK, and it was completely fine everywhere except for the UK, where some local security guard didn't like me taking the following photo of security-camera-loaded train station. (I didn't quite understand what he was exactly saying, but he let me be after I said sorry and put the camera away.)

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The Wikipedia entry you pointed to suggests both that it is OK to photograph in public indoors in the UK, but the local security guard had a reasonable suspicion that you are a terrorist. How nice! (Well if you spent half an hour photographing just the security cameras, it could be seen a bit suspicious.) @Rowland links to some good info relevant for the UK. –  koiyu May 21 '11 at 12:05
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@koiyu: Freedom of panorama deals only with copyright, so it does not have much to do with actual on-site nagging that results from anti-terrorism laws and reasonable suspicion. While there is freedom of panorama both in UK and the Czech Republic, Central Europe in much less afraid of terrorists with 70-200s than the UK. –  che May 21 '11 at 12:22
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Ought to fix Wikipedia then, as the mention of anti-terror laws in the context of Panoramafreiheit is seemingly confusing. On another note, whoa, Wikimedia Commons has a fairly thorough explanation by country on the subject. –  koiyu May 21 '11 at 13:40
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UK has gotten extremely paranoid about street photography in the last several years, and more than a few people have spent time on police stations and had their cameras confiscated and either wiped or damages/destroyed before being eventually released. –  jwenting May 23 '11 at 7:08
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"UK has gotten extremely paranoid about street photography" - unluckily not only about street photography, as I heard. I am lucky, that in Central Europe we have different situation. –  Juhele Jun 23 '11 at 5:55

All laws will vary by jurisdiction, and you'd be best advised to speak to a qualified lawyer if you intend to sell or publish your pictures; but in general, if you're in a public place, then you can take a photo of whatever you like (as long as you're not breaking other laws, such as those dealing with public nudity). Be aware that some seemingly public places aren't, and they can place restrictions as they wish - for example, shopping centres are private property, and although they allow you to treat them as a public place, they often impose restrictions on photography.

Government guidance is often hard to come by, but various lawyers have published their interpretation of the laws for a particular territory; Personally, I carry several copies of the UK Photographers Rights information sheet.

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Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, so don't take this as legal advice

In Sweden, the rules are very simple: if you're on public property (i.e. the street, a park) you can take photos of anything that isn't considered a "secure compound" (these are clearly marked by signs). If you're on private property (this includes e.g. at least the indoors parts of train stations, shops, gardens, and so on) the owner has every right to ask you to stop taking photographs and asking you to leave. They do not have the right to have photos deleted, and they do not have the right to forcibly remove you from the premises. They may however call the police, and they are allowed to forcibly remove you (but as far as I know, not can't ask you to delete photos either).

Additionally, in Sweden we have the freedom to roam, giving a person the right to access, walk, cycle, ride, ski, and camp on any land, with the exception of private gardens, the immediate vicinity of a dwelling house and land under cultivation. Restrictions apply for nature reserves and other protected areas. As long as you don't climb any fences, you're fine.

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thanks for the tips –  celalo Jul 14 '11 at 22:35

in all countries I visit, I prefer following tactics "first ask, then shoot". Although I mostly prefer nature photography, which also has less restrictions :-D (did not encounter a deer complaining about taking a photo of him :-D ), on holiday I also shoot in cities etc.

For example, I was positively surprised, that in Moscow (Russia), where I expected more strict rules, after asking a security guard in GUM store (some my photos are here), he answered, that it is allowed to take photos there (while in similar stores in Czech Republic, taking photos is mostly prohibited). As I wanted to take a photo of one beautiful metro station in Moscow, I asked a nearby policeman. He said (with smile) something like "Ok, take quickly a photo and go.".

I also think, that it is a good idea to prevent taking photos of places with too many people in uniforms (like police stations etc.). But for example, as we visited Israel, things were quite different. Our colleagues asked some armed soldiers patrolling on a square, whether they can have a photo together with them - no problem! Taking photos in Jerusalem - streets, market places etc. also no problem (avoided obvious taking photos of particular people). The same in Bethlehem (same guidelines).

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