“Unauthorised” Photography

In this age of post-9/11 heightened security and “be alert, not alarmed” suspicion, there are a few people in positions of some authority who unfortunately do not have a full grasp of the rights and responsibilities connected with “protecting” some places against people armed with nothing more dangerous than a camera.

I’ve worked in the security game and can fully understand the considerations from that perspective, but having also been a private investigator and knowing a little about how to conduct covert surveillance operations, I know that those who want to take pics of a potential target generally do not stand out in the open in broad daylight with a digital SLR and a very conspicuous 55-200mm lens attached to it.

I have recently been lightly hassled by security for taking photos at two different locations.

Given that I was told they were forbidden shots, and because they in fact are not so in the eyes of the law, I present them below.

The first two, snapped in Luna Park a couple of weeks back, led me to being told that I was “not allowed to use a camera like that” in the park environs.

I was not sure whether he meant that I was not allowed to use a camera of that type, or that I was not allowed to use a camera in that manner.


I had a feeling that I was well within my rights to be able to take photos in Luna Park (unless it’s suddenly become a possible terrorist target, which I doubt), but rather than argue the point I just stowed my camera and left.

A little bit of online research when I got home revealed some interesting websites. One was a discussion forum on dpreview.com started by someone who had suffered a similar fate. Other posts in the forum seem to suggest that their implementation of the policy was inconsistent to say the least.

It turns out that photography is allowed, but not for commercial purposes (meaning you can’t use images of Luna Park to sell, promote or endorse a product or event).

These next two shots were taken at Museum Station in Sydney today.


After standing in plain view for about a minute with my camera out and taking about 8 or 9 shots, a CityRail employee yelled at me that I was not allowed to take photos there because “it’s government property”.

In fact, it’s public property, and as I discovered by reading this very interesting article written by a lawyer who is also into photography, taking photos on trains and within train stations is a perfectly legal activity within NSW (at the moment).

Again, I did not argue the point, but simply left. I didn’t want the rest of my day ruined, and I’d already gotten the shots I wanted.

Photographers everywhere would do well to inform themselves of their rights, as well as the rights of others affected by their activities. That way we won’t tread on any toes, nor will we get shafted by people on a power trip.

I now have a printout of the NSW Photo Rights summary sheet (here, 60k PDF) stowed in my bag, just in case.

In closing, I’ll let this vid from the Chaser boys speak for itself…

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