[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 :)