Open City Manchester

Manchester aspires to be a photography-friendly city, which is open and accessible for people wanting to take pictures.

There are some legal restrictions on the right to take a photograph. CityCo has put together some simple guidelines to help ensure safe and enjoyable photography of the city.

People, privacy and children

There’s nothing stopping you taking pictures of people in public places within reason, but if you are too obtrusive or follow them, the subject could naturally object and you could possibly face a legal charge of harassment or breach of the peace.

Harassment is defined as a ‘course of conduct’ (so it has to happen at least twice) that causes another person ‘alarm or distress’, but paparazzi activity would suggest that prosecutions are few and far between. However, it is advisable to use common-sense and respect a person’s personal space and privacy.

The law relating to harassment, invasion of privacy and data protection applies in the same way to children as to adults, but a child does not have the legal capacity to consent and a parent or guardian must consent on his behalf. It is a criminal offence to take an indecent photograph of a child under the age of 18.

Photographers are free to use their photographs of people taken in public places as they wish – including for commercial gain.

Photographing buildings

Property owners have no legal right to stop people taking photos of their buildings, so long as the photographer is standing in a public place (e.g. the road outside).

However, if you’re standing on private property and the landowner/occupier objects, then they have every right to request that you stop immediately and ask you to leave if you refuse.

Many museums, art galleries, football grounds, concert venues and similar places prohibit photography as a condition of entry which they have the right to do.

The same applies to all private property open to the public in general – e.g. offices, train stations, airports, shopping centres etc – with the owner or occupier having the right to ask you to stop taking photos.

Obstruction, trespass and breach of the peace

Under UK law, it’s a criminal offence to obstruct the free passage on the highway and this includes footways, bike paths and roads.

If you’re standing on a thoroughfare to take a photograph and you’re not impeding the movement of traffic or people to any degree, then you’re absolutely within the law. However, it is advisable to move if asked.

Taking photographs is unlikely to amount to a ‘breach of the peace’ or be seen as ‘conduct likely to cause a breach of the peace’, but if you’re stuck in the middle of a demonstration, you’ll have to be careful that the police don’t confuse you with the participants and treat you accordingly.

Deleting images

Your photos are your work, and you’re entitled to protect them.

Security guards do not have stop and search powers or the right to seize your equipment or delete images or confiscate film under any circumstances.

In some circumstances, the police may confiscate your film or memory cards but they are still not authorised to delete any images. If you’ve committed an offence the images would act as evidence, and if you haven’t broken the law, the images are innocent.

Recovering deleted images

If you are forced to delete your photos, take the card out of the camera immediately. Whatever you do, do not take any new pictures as these will reduce your chances of recovering the deleted images. If you want to keep on taking pictures, use a fresh card.

When you get home, you can use a file recovery program to get your images back. These often have a high success rate.