Is it legal to take pictures of buildings? Photography law questions and answers

Is it legal to take pictures… of industrial installations?

Is it legal to take pictures… of buildings overseas?

Is it legal to take pictures… of buildings overseas?

I’m not qualified to comment on the specifics of other countries’ law, but the question highlights the importance of checking if there are restrictions on photography when you visit another country.

Concerns about national security mean that restrictions have increased in many countries, and they are always subject to change. In some countries, ‘sensitive’ locations may include not only military installations but the civil transport system, bridges and industrial complexes.

In others, photographing people, and in particular women, without permission can get you into trouble. Travel guides and tourist offices will usually have information about photography restrictions for the country you’re visiting.

Is it legal to take pictures… of buildings and monuments and sell the images for charity?

The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 contains an exception under which copyright will not be infringed by making a photograph of a building.

It’s also not copyright infringement to make photographs of sculptures, models for buildings or works of artistic craftsmanship where these are permanently situated in a public place or in premises open to the public.

Such photographs can be sold or otherwise published without infringing any copyright. Photographs of other kinds of artistic works may infringe copyright unless the included work is incidental to the image as a whole.

If you’re taking photographs on private property, such as within a churchyard, you should seek consent because the owner can impose restrictions on photography.

It’s also worth checking whether there are any restrictions on photography (particularly commercial photography) in the public parks. The fact that the proceeds from any sales will go to charity might make consent easier to obtain.

Is it legal to take pictures… of houses?

IN A NUTSHELL: You can if the photograph is taken from a public place.

IN DETAIL: In the UK, a person does not have rights in the image of his property and a photograph of a building does not infringe any copyright in the building (Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, s.62).

So, if the image is taken from a public place, or from a place where you have permission to take photographs, it’s legal to take photographs of buildings and to sell them.

You could, however, be liable for trespass if you took the photograph from a place that you did not have the right to enter, or where the owner prohibited photography.

If a photograph of a distinctive house is used in advertising, this may infringe the CAP Code (The British Code of Advertising, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing), which urges marketeers to obtain written permission before portraying people or their identifiable possessions.


The information provided in this feature is, to the best of our knowledge, correct at the time of going to press. However, the information is for general guidance purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon. You are advised to seek professional advice in relation to any legal query or problem.

No responsibility can be accepted by Digital Camera World or Future Publishing Limited, or any distributor of Digital Camera, for any inaccuracies or errors in the information or for any loss or damage suffered by anyone who relies on it.

Further reading on photography and the law is strongly recommended and in some cases necessary to fully understand the laws surrounding the subject.  The application and impact of laws can vary widely depending on the specific facts and the specific jurisdiction involved.

PAGE 1: Building release forms
PAGE 2: Shooting courtooms
PAGE 3: Industrial and commercial buildings
PAGE 4: Overseas buildings, charity work and taking pictures of houses


10 things photographers can do to stop wasting pictures
The essential A-Z of photography slang terms
How to be a Getty contributor

  • R McKuan

    Is it an infringement of copyright to take photographic copies of buildings as Leodis

  • Sue Oldham

    I live literally across the road from the building which saw the beginning of the NHS. It is falling into wrack and ruin, vandalism, frequent attempts at arson, theft and break ins and general wear and tear. The front of the building is plainly visible from the pavement. The rear is visible from the grounds of a park, open to the public. Local and regional authorities do not seem remotely interesting in investing in the building. Would it be legal for me to post up pictures of the building in such a state, in an effort to rouse people to do something to save it? One end of it is still in use as a doctor’s surgery, the rest is abandoned. I have in mind perhaps turning it into a small local museum detailing the origins of medicine and the NHS, and perhaps the local coal and steel industries – one of which we have lost, one of which we may be losing. Would this be permissible in law? Thank you.