[Video] Photographer Vs. Security: The Ultimate Showdown

How would you react if security officers told you that you were breaking the law by photographing a building from public property? One British photographer was faced with just that question, and here is how he reacted.

Our protagonist, a photographer using the alias 'Hamst' to write about his experiences on a blog called Visit Scunthorpe had said that he had enough of being hassled over snapping innocent photos at events such as local sporting events. Hamst goes on to say:

"A couple of years ago I was challenged whilst taking photos at a local under 14’s football match in which my son was taking part. I’d taken photos at numerous matches over the years and posted them to the football teams web page on Facebook, something which had caused no bother and the players loved tagging themselves and using them as profile pictures, both my sons team and the opposition. However, after this challenge and thinking I had gone some way to reassure the parent that there was no malice intended I thought I should look deeper into the law and photography within the UK than I previously had."

Armed with his newly-acquired knowledge, Hamst had gone months without incident, until late last year when he was wandering around his town snapping photographs. Almost immediately after arriving at this location to take photos, security guards at this Golden Wonder plant (a UK manufacturer of snacks) were approaching Hamst and trying to get him to leave. The guards cited non-existent laws and attempted to bully and intimidate him into leaving. After viewing the video, how would you have reacted? Did the photographer act appropriately, or was he overstepping his bounds and looking for trouble? What are your thoughts on how the security officers handled this?

Via r/photography

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David Martin's picture

I wonder how the company management would respond to their front-line staff swearing at members of the public?

Y in de ELL would ee want to take Pho-toes of that bloody UG-ly building in the first place?.... 

Mike Kelley's picture

I won't lie, by the end I was laughing quite a bit every time someone said PHO-TOES

Sean Shimmel's picture

Yet... how would someone feel if a photographer were photographing a bedroom window of a private home? Even if from public property, it becomes a bit more complex. 

Too easy to pick on the guards because they fumbled over the lack of legal sepcificity.

Phil Pemberton's picture

The term you're looking for is "expectation of privacy".

In general, photography is fairly unrestricted unless there's a "reasonable expectation of privacy" in a given location.

Public street -- no expectation of privacy. Fairly good chance you can take a photo legally here.
Pub/club/bar -- depends on the owners (it's a private business after all) though most are fairly OK about it. "People go out, get drunk, have fun and take pictures to remember the things they did on their crazy night out". Obvious exceptions of course (and anyone with an ounce of sense will know what these are)
Your bedroom, bathroom or other part of your house -- fairly clear cut expectation of privacy. Highly likely to be illegal in most jurisdictions. If not illegal, certainly immoral. Nobody likes a peeping tom.

Basically, add common sense and stir until done.

Sean Shimmel's picture

Thank you Phil.

Would have been best for them to simply call for a police officer for a suspicious person and then let it be handled more confidently and diplomatically. 

Even so, it's all too easy to snicker. But we live in an age of anxious suspicion.

PS... I still side with the guards. 

Marcin's picture

Why do you think person taking photos of a building is a suspicious person??? Are you really into this "terrorist" propaganda?

The key (& very powerful) word here is the "law".. Photographers wouln't stand a chance in countries with illusive definitions & implementations of laws.

Jennifer Mackenzie's picture

The photographer is right, there is NO law against taking photos of any property from a public space, in that situation it is a moral issue. I would have stood my ground to but not for that long.

I need to practice my British accent for my next encounter with the police. For me, it's been about 6 months... I was taking a photo of the train tracks as the sun set. The light was perfect, shinning off the tracks as they went off into the distance, the sun exactly between the tracks. It turns out that the rail road owns about 20' feet on either side of the tracks. The cop was a Union Pacific cop... some bizarre holdover from the 1880's where companies have their own police force with the authority to arrest you and hand you over to the sheriff.  Wow. I had no clue. The charge was trespassing, the cop let me off after taking my ID info from my drivers license.  Next time I will stand in the cross walk to photograph the tracks.

If he's on public property, the guards can go ahead and shove it. Good on him.

Saw this on Pixiq yesterday. This video is hilarious. The stupidity, the accents, the mundane company (Golden Wonder make crisps) being defended like there's some illegal operation going down.

Good on the guy.

http://www.sirimo.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/ukphotographersrights... - just thought Id add a link about UK's Law towards photography. This photographer was completely in the right to stand his ground.. But god didnt she go one, specially with all the lies about saying I spoke to someone.

Also I am a UK photographer, this is reason why I have checked my rights.

The only real issues I've ever heard of photographing buildings is when it's related to government/security types. They are usually unmarked, but if you try to take photos will be asked in no uncertain terms to delete them and move on, but because it's related to nation security etc.
I've met plenty of people like this, and you can see them getting pissed that they can't do anything, although the photog was being a bit more stubborn than the usual person to make a point I think.

Is there anything in the law about using private buildings etc for commercial use without permission? I'd assume that's the only leg they'd have to stand on.

I had similar case on movie set. I was taking pictures for fun but with 70-200L so I was "asked" to do not take pictures of the set. Finally police was called to remove me from public property. Police officer approached me and asked me about my gear and photography in general :)

Nick Shek's picture

LOL this is so fucking stupid. Highly questionable conduct by the security staff. I think the guy is raising valid points but perhaps the goading is unnecessary. 

You guys should check out this video. It shows similar situations (UK) and also the response from the police on the few times they were contacted. Stand Your Ground: http://youtu.be/FJH9F7Hcluo

Yeah I love that video, especially the down-to-earth attitude of the police offers when they arrive, as compared to the highly stressed out security personnel :)

Here are some links to help clarify this issue in the United States.  I've printed these documents out and carry them with me in my bag.


And this web site has a collection of articles on this very subject.


Thanks a lot. I remember getting a citation by a cop in Pittsburgh for taking picture of a bridge.

In conclusion the judge asked the officer to apologize to me. Wish I had these documents at that time. Would have saved me money and time. Thanks a lot

Seshan's picture

No your not, yes I am, no your not, yes i am, no your not, yes I am. Sounds like a bunch of kids.

Benicio Murray's picture

Good on him. Stand up to ignorance and bullying.

God I LOVE this video! :)

It's a funny funny video BUT ... just put yourself on the shoes of those poor "guardians":
If the owner decides to fire them because they weren't "persuasive" enough, it was worth so stuborn behavior?
You, as the owner, are trying to protect your "secrets" from the competitors (at least an external view can give some tips about your productivity ... delivery trucks ... fences that weren't block any view from your patio, etc). How do you feel having a pain-in-the-neck throwing the knowledge of law about public spaces over you?
OR even
Someone act like a CAT (yep, like the animal ... when caught in a corner comes from a kitty to a lion) over you, because you caught the mofo taking pictures of your wife/children INSIDE of your property without fences, etc ... you got the picture I'm sure.

We debate A LOT about the freedom we have to preserve about our rights to take pictures, but we never ask WHY the other side is saying "NO". 

In a fashion show several years ago, I was taking pictures to my boss from his both.
An italian, who THOUGHT I was taking from his also (to copy his products) came very polite to me and asked to see the images. I said, unfortunately that camera was FILM and not digital ... he keeping his modes, asked me to reveal the film. I said WHY? I DIDN'T TAKE pictures of YOUR both. "SO" he continues "give the film, I will develop it and IF doesn't have anything of mine, I send it back to you". Smart huh?
Long story short, the situation became so messy around the small boths that I decided just open the camera and burn what I had shot.
The moods calmed down, he came AGAIN to tell me, if I didn't do that, he will take it using force - he was big ... I mean ... BIG!
I answered: REALLY?
And he ... REALLY you, american "fag".
Well ... until now I'm looking for someone who can fix a completely broken F100 with a 50mm f1/2 and wash the blood from the nose of that "pompinara" .  

Benicio Murray's picture

very weak arguments there Carlos when the law is VERY clear on this matter

Albin's picture

I was confronted by actual police, for taking photos of a derelict local utility station that had a lot of interesting junk piled around it.  It was closer to 9/11 and I took it to be paranoia about anyone who by any long stretch of imagination might be "scouting" public buildings for nefarious purposes.  The police pulled up and waved me away, and I just packed up, but it certainly irked me.  Kudos for persistence.

Although this guy is right in every way and the business owners obviously don't understand the law I don't think we need to go around provoking people into hating us even more than they already do.  If he got his shot cool, just move on.  Sticking around just to see how pissed off you can make someone doesn't really help anyone.  Maybe we could try and spread the word, and the law, in a nice way so that these types of encounters don't happen because they are just a big pain in the ass.  Spread the love not the hate. =)

Spot Puff's picture


This blog logs a lot of different incidents.  But yes, authority figures make things up all the time to try to stop people from exercising rights whether it be protesting or photographing or whatever.

Brilliant! this is absolutely typical of english small town mentality. scunthorpe is a fucking shithole and i wouldn't inflict living there on my worst enemy.

Tune !t's picture

haha thats funny. Yes he won. Fu**ing security ..

I wish amateur photographers in the uk didn't react like this and post it online. It doesn't do anyone any good. Many photographers know the law about photographing from public property but you don't need to confront security like this. Laws can be changed and idiots like this (photographer) will surely not help.

It seems he was waiting for security just to argue. Why didn't he snap whatever (probably blurry) wide he needed then walked off to get a longer shot from further away before security came over. 

Yes legally he is right but have a bit of common sense otherwise publication of videos like this will end up in a change in the law ruining right for professional photographers working in the uk