The excellent Photo Archive News has today run a piece on a proposed piece of legislation which will affect any photographers who hope to take photographs in London’s Trafalgar Square or Parliament Square Garden and upload them to a picture library such as fotoLibra.

Here’s the relevant draft legislation from The Trafalgar Square Byelaws [2012]:

5.       Acts within the Square for which written permission is required

(1)       Unless acting in accordance with permission given in writing by the Mayor, or any person authorised by the Mayor under section 380 of the Act to give such permission, no person shall within the Square —

(p)  take photographs or film or make any other recordings of visual images for the purpose of or in connection with a business, trade, profession or employment or any activity carried on by a person or body of persons, whether corporate or unincorporate;

Effectively this means it will be illegal to photograph Nelson’s Column without written permission.

This may be impossibly difficult to enforce, but nevertheless if it gets on to the statute books it will be the law. Should some pocket Hitler of a bureaucrat decide to get nasty, he will have The Law On His Side.

So it is in all our interests to prevent this baffling and unnecessary piece of legislation becoming word of law. It is hard to see who benefits from this proposed legislation. It is much easier to see another small erosion of the freedom of photographers.

The proposed byelaws have now been signed, which means they are well on their way to becoming law. There is still a faint chance they might listen to reason, because they say:

Any objection to the confirmation of the Byelaws may be made by letter addressed to Carl Schnackenberg, Department for Culture, Media and Sport, 2-4 Cockspur Street, London SW1Y 5DH, or by email to:

Please write and tell Mr Schnackenberg how you feel. The deadline is February 29th.


Leave a Reply for E Strodl


111 Responses to “Do Not Photograph Trafalgar Square”

  1. John Salmon says:

    As a Londoner, who suffered the war years and whose family members fought and died in WW2 to protect and preserve our freedom, I object most strongly to the proposed bylaws above.

    There is sufficient legislation existing already to control professional photographic activity within the Square and many other places.

    I see no need for any further restriction.

    Additionally, many amateur photographers will undoubtedly wrongly identified as professional – as is already happening – leading to the possibility (probability?) of unpleasant and unnecessary situations.

    Quote: ” ….or any activity carried on by a person or body of persons, whether corporate or unincorporate;…”

    And if an amateur having taken such a picture in the square uploads the picture to a social network? Is he to be subject of any consequential action as a result?

    At the end of the day what is being gained by the introduction of such petty and unnecessary legislation?

  2. E Strodl says:

    Which bloody idiot authorised this!
    How are police supposed to stop hundreds of thousands of different people from different ethnic groups and cultures from taking photographs….isn’t there going to be a communication problem……. Not to mention the thousands who attend to see the new year in!
    Isn’t London about tourism any more? Promoting the City….encouraging Tourism….encouraging people to spend their money………………welcome to our City but if you want some PHOTOGRAPHS YOU CAN PISS OFF

    my e-mail has duly been sent

  3. Chris Osborne says:

    Strange I thought this law was already in place years ago,in fact I feel sure a photomag 18 months ago list it , in addition it is against the law to use photos taken on London Underground for commercial use.

    It also mentioned That Buildings (some) require the equivalent of a model release. We get more like Rome Every Day.
    Keep in mind we the people ( read government) own quitea few banks ,but still do nothing to stop ludicrous bonus’s !!!

    Non Carbarundem illigittemi


  4. andy says:

    “Effectively this means it will be illegal to photograph Nelson’s Column without written permission.”

    NO it doesn’t. It means that you cannot take photos for commercial purposes in the square. In other words, exactly the same as it has been for many many years.

    Look at the rest of it, for instance where it states you cannot “operate any amplified noise equipment”. Taken at face value it would mean you cannot use your iPod whilst in the square??

    It is yet another example of badly worded bye-laws and legislation. But it is not the end of photographs of Traf Square.

  5. Lindy says:

    I happened to be in Trafalgar Square on the day the Olympic countdown timer marked 200 days, it was a lovely sunny day and there were loads of people photographing in the Square… including me!

    This is a public space so we shouldn’t be restricted in taking photos there also, I have no idea how they could even police such a law considering just how many people take photographs in this space.

  6. Alex Coppock-Bunce says:


  7. andrew says:

    this country is getting worse by the day.are they going to arest all the tourist that come to london.

  8. Tim says:

    It’s just saying that you can’t take photos for commercial use without permission. Pretty much the same rule as applies to most privately owned land/premises. Photos for personal use are fine.

    It does mean stock libraries will need model releases for Nelson and the lions. It remains to be seen whether the Mayor of London will demand any “unlicensed” stock to be removed, as the National Trust did.

    • kim says:

      I means no such thing. There’s no law, public or otherwise, that prevents you from photographing and publishing anything, privately owned or otherwise, if you do so from public property.

  9. Cliff Belton says:

    How could it possibly be enforced and if a photographer not based in the UK were to put photos of Trafalgar square into a non UK based agency how could the law be enforced. British law has no power in other sovereign states

  10. Dave says:

    That’s because the London Authority issue licenses to photograph at around £500 per hour

  11. Dave says:

    Actually it’s gone up…that was a couple of years ago…it’s now £1000 per hour. What else to you expect in this token democracy.

    • P.H.Chan says:

      I wonder if you’re allowed to take candid and documentary photos without payment.

  12. tonyk says:

    Read it carefully and you will see that it only bans the taking of visual images for commercial gain, not the subsequent use of same. This bye law is intended to prevent unlicensed photo-shoots, film and TV crews, etc. descending on TS.

  13. Paul says:

    Oh please calm down everyone, this is not armageddon for photographers or anyone else for that matter. As several people have pointed out, all this means is you cannot take photographs of Trafalgar Square for commerical purposes – i.e. you can’t take a photo and then sell it. Whether that is fair or not is a moot point, but this is common policy for just about every well known landmark in the country. The same rules apply to Stonehenge for instance, as well as every single National Trust and English Heritage property in the country. It is a worldwide trend and is not restricted to Britain. While Trafalgar Square isn’t a very good example, how would you feel if thousands of people came and took photos of your house or property and then sold the images? Would you think it was fair that the property you own and paid for generates thousands and thousands of pounds for complete strangers but not a penny for you?

    • Rolf Adlercreutz says:

      Yes, that would be fine with me. In Sweden property like a house or a dog or some other property has no rights. But if one takes a picture of the Ericsson HQ and make an advert for Nokia saying Ericssons phones suck, that would be something else. The townhall of Stockholm is used on everything a tourist could think of to buy. No permission needed!

    • Just because this is a worldwide trend it doesn’t follow that we have to restrict our hard won freedoms so easily. The National Trust and English Heritage (whoever they are) are hardly good examples to follow if this is their policy now as they claim to be in business to preserve our values not to help destroy them. Most of the properties were given free, gratis and for nothing to these bodies who now want to deny professional photographers recording them in their present form.

      Also Paul your precious little corner of England that you “own” and have paid for has already been photographed for gain by Google and Bing and there is little you can do to claim a royalty from them I’m afraid and yet you’re not worried it seems.

      • Paul says:

        Mike, some civility wouldn’t go astray.

        Do Google and Bing make millions/thousands of pounds from solely selling an image of my property and my property alone? No. Google Maps is an entirely different scenario and something that is not really within the scope of this blog entry.

        I’m assuming then you would be quite happy for me to photograph your transport artwork and then use them on souvenirs, postcards, calendars and basically anything else I could squeeze some cash from?

        Can we get a little perspective? When troops went to war winning “our hard won freedoms” I hardly think they had the legalities of photographing private property very high up on their list of priorities.

  14. I am a Londoner that also survived the Blitz . . and I also think this is really quite stupid.

    I am of course well aware that many shops and museums ban photography for a number of reasons – so that they can sell their own photos in the souvenir shop etc or to speed up the throughput of people as if all the tourists stop to take photos traffic gets jammed and the numbers going through a buildings in London are cut in half. But if applied the wording should be very different.

    But it would be a better idea if photography all over the UK should be restricted – and people should write in a pay a surcharge to the government for a photography license – this would help support the saging Pound.

  15. kim says:

    Trafalgar square isn’t, in fact, a public place, it’s owned by the Crown. That makes it private property and owners of private property have always had the right to restrict photography in any way they please and you have always, technically at least, needed permission to photograph on Crown property (see Royal Parks rules & regs). In fact, the Crown generally doesn’t worry about casual photography unless it’s disruptive – when I was younger the unspoken rule was, tripod .. get permission.

    Contrary to what Gwyn says in his article, it doesn’t mean – nor did it ever mean – that this makes it illegal to photograph Nelson’s column; there’s nothing to stop you photographing any part of the square from outside the square, on public property. In practice, there’s not really much to stop you from inside the square either.

  16. Granville says:

    I wonder if this actually refers to setting up commercial shoots-say fashion with models and lights with the square as a background? If so this is pretty much the situation anywhere in London and has been for as long as I know. It will be interesting to see if they try and extend the byelaw to library pics, and ask libraries to take down offending material. Sad to think that even London may be grubbing for every penny it can get.

  17. So let me get this straight – Trafalgar Square isn’t just a tourist trap.

    Its acreage is also used to promote corporate events; art projects and sports finishing lines (like Eddie Izzard’s marathon finale. Not to mention the Olympic countdown clock. How much revenue comes from these events or is it provided free for users to benefit from all that high-profile PR?

    But wait, they want to make the location a no-go zone to commercial photography so what would the point be to stage events there if there’s no allowance for a photographic record?

    I bet they make exceptions and it’ll suit the corporates. As it always does.

  18. vernon says:

    Deplorable indeed, but everything gets worse. Some wag said,(my favourite recent aphorism) ‘All change is bad but change for the better is the worst of all. Food for thought Vernon

  19. This ‘stalinist’ nonsense is surely a harkback to the days of Mayor Livingstone, whose lackeys have tried to carry out this policy for nearly a decade.
    It’s a transparent ploy to milk the brand ‘London’ for all it’s worth, and grab some of the honest earnings (pennies) of those who work to advertise/publicise, document, diarise, question or criticise our wonderful capital city. We will become the laughing stock of the world.
    It must be resisted.

  20. Is there a standard letter one could use to send in?

  21. Ken says:

    Being a Yank, and not a Brit, perhaps my understanding is incorrect, but as I read it, with some knowledge of laws, the statute reads “any activity carried on by a person or body of persons, whether corporate or unincorporate;”. That encompasses people such as tourists, whether intended or not, as well as photographers who are just looking for a photo for those own personal pleasure. Having already been accosted by a warder at Hampton castle (with a VERY obviously non-professional point-and-shoot camera, I should think that this is just another way for the Queen to enhance her already enormous wealth on the back of commoners (tourists included).

  22. This proposal is ridiculous. I am have lost many colleagues in recent years due to the constant cutbacks in the library service. A service which helps to educate and empower people. So when I read about projects like this that are such a waste of time and money it really frustrates me. They have a responsibility to do real work and protect and enhance peoples lives within London. Not act as if they have nothing better to do. It’s very disappointing…

  23. Edward James says:

    I am not convinced by those who say it is just aimed at those who want to photograph for commercial reasons. It says (removing the words that do not apply to me) one cannot “take photographs or film or make any other recordings of visual images for the purpose of any activity carried on by a person”. If I take a photograph as part of my hobby of photography, this is forbidden. Maybe is is badly written. Is the whole thing a hoax, anyway?

  24. neil ritchie davidson says:

    it will soon be illegal to use your eyes or be taxed for breathing next :get a grip and jump in the nearest fountain it might wake you up .

  25. Ian Hooker says:

    The legislation refers to it applying to “Trafalgar Square as defined by the Trafalgar Square Act of 1844”!! The byelaw also bans riding pedal cycles or other “foot-propelled device” (sub clause v)! My assumption is, therefore, that it refers only to the square itself.
    So, if I’m right (?) we can take photos from the surrounding pavement!!!!
    However, it is still regarded as a public place so the “thin end of the wedge” is what worries me most.

  26. Dear Mr Schnackenberg,
    I understand fresh legislation is about to be introduced banning photography in Trafalgar Square
    The Trafalgar Square Byelaws [2012]: I wonder if you would be kind enough to come back to me with the rationale for this ?
    Many thanks
    Richard Seymour,
    Commercial photographer

  27. kimsky5 says:

    A lot of people on here are getting quite indignant at their rights to photograph a Public Place removed. But if you check in Wikipedia . . . . . . .
    Trafalgar Square is owned by the Queen in Right of the Crown, and managed by the Greater London Authority, while Westminster City Council owns the roads around the square, including the pedestrianised area of the North Terrace.

    Mind you, there is a photograph of the Square to go with the article which comes from:

    Wikimedia Commons,
    a database of 12,158,041 freely usable media files to which anyone can contribute.

    Does Mr. Johnson know about this ???

  28. ian says:

    Yes we can all READ! and by being involved with Fotolibra we are all effectively ‘commercial’ photographers.
    So the slow ‘creep’ of invasive privatization of publicly viewed light reflecting off buildings and natural objects will eventually stop images created by anybody other than officially licensed people being published – Do you want that?
    The death of documentary photography has already started.

  29. Gwyn Headley says:

    Filming, Photographic Shoots and Photo calls on Trafalgar Square
    £1,000 per hour to be applied on a case-by-case basis.
    For the 2nd and subsequent full days of any let, a fee of £5,000-£10,000 can be applied on a case-by-case basis.
    £200 cancellation or postponement fee.
    Full fee will be charged if cancelled with less than 48 hours notice. Postponement fee applicable if less than 48 hours notice.

  30. Gwen, Although I had no plans to photograph Trafalgar Sq it was interesting anyway. I had a few images with London Underground signs, Alamy recently removed the due to the possibility of legal action. Anyone with anything similar should perhaps consider removing them to avoid potential legal issues.

  31. Tracy Wadey says:

    Take this .. Paste it into an email .. and send it to

    Dear Sir. I have just been informed of the blow proposed by-law which I consider to be an infringement of access to and use of a public space that is paid for and maintained by public money.

    If the below by-law is allowed to be enacted it will be the first and many others places within London, and no doubt many other places, will become no-go areas for normal law abiding citizens.
    It will allow what is effectively be a tax on photography, painting, etching and any other artistic reproductive activity as I’m sure the ‘permission given in writing by the Mayor’ will be at a substantial cost and inconvenience. Art must not be taxed nor is it right for the Mayor to effectively control or censor artistic endeavors.

    5. Acts within the Square for which written permission is required
    (1) Unless acting in accordance with permission given in writing by the Mayor, or any person authorised by the Mayor under section 380 of the Act to give such permission, no person shall within the Square —
    (p) take photographs or film or make any other recordings of visual images for the purpose of or in connection with a business, trade, profession or employment or any activity carried on by a person or body of persons, whether corporate or unincorporate;

  32. Jamie says:

    I was stopped in Trafalgar Square in the summer of 2006 by 2 Community Support Officers because I was shooting pictures thereabouts with what they described as a ‘long, professional looking’ lens (80-200 f2.8) … they called the police and a plainclothes officer eventually attended, asked me for some ID and ran my details through the police computer. He left me go on my way after about 15 minutes, but not before the police officer had reprimanded the Community Support Officers for unnecessarily seizing my camera, (despite my having already shared my innocuous images with them )… the support officers justified their stopping me because of terrorism fears rather than because I was supposedly breaking any byelaws to do with professional photography in the Square, though at the time they did make that point (about the local byelaws) and pointed to small markings set in the pavement around the Square which delimits Trafalgar Square itself from neighbouring public spaces, where professional photography is alright… I was not impressed by any of it. Quite ridiculous.

  33. Gwyn Headley says:

    Well, I’ve had a reply from Mr Schnackenburg at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. It’s a boilerplate (standardised) reply, of course, impersonal and not addressing any of our concerns. It says nothing — in the blandest possible way — and merely supplies a list of further links and references.

    I would reprint it in full here, but with the openness and love of liberty and freedom all British governments are renowned for, I am prohibited from making its contents known. I have been hereby placed on notice that any copying, publication or any other form of dissemination of his email or its contents is prohibited.

    Oh my — I think I’ve just done it.

  34. Another nail in the coffin of the Pro Photographer and potential pro photographers

  35. This is again nonsense. As many of the photos of Places of interest in London will pre date the law – again it is possible to see the reasons for caution as such photos can be used by terrorists in preparation for attacks on the city monuments . . but logically and legally it would not work.
    A similar nonsense situation arose in Hong Kong recently when some shops and shopping arcades forbid people taking photos of their shop windows – but the legal people in the tourist association got it overruled – and if you don’t want things photographed you must not put them on display. It is silly to stop people taking photos of a window which has items that can be seen in advertisements or catalogues of the brand concerned. iPhone and digital photography is changing all the rules. Even the CNN and BBC news now uses iPhone photos for their news programs without verifying where they came from.

  36. Roderick McLean says:

    This is an infringement of civil liberties.

    To hell with this law

  37. carl david booth says:

    Hi, People, I have just been watching and indeed reading that as an amateur photographer I am not legally allowed to take a photograph of our brilliant sons of yesteryear. I do find that very strange because I fail to see how I can damage or use terrorist action with my camera. And at the end of the day, I surely pay for the upkeep of the statues through my taxation. It seems London really does not like tourists money

  38. Dave Quigley says:

    You are pathetic get a life do you want to stop tourism