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.


Add your comment


111 Responses to “Do Not Photograph Trafalgar Square”

  1. Deborah says:

    Oh for heaven’s sake! This is simply ridiculous since it IS still a public place — isn’t it? They began enacting these types of laws in public places in the USA a few years ago under the guise of protecting people against ‘stalkers’ or other criminal elements. And when they subsequently tried that in Melbourne, Australia, the photographers and other sympathetic folks were soon demonstrating in the streets against it. Interesting — it might take a few years to catch up, but both the British and Australian governments seem to follow whatever the Americans do like obedient little dogs. Not a nice trend to see emerging in the UK.

    • Martha says:

      You’re right that the US Congress passed a very similar law, proposed by George W Bush, that prohibited people from photographing federal (government) buildings under the guise of preventing terrorism (not stalking), but a court settlement in 2010 (as a result of a law suit by a guy arrested for taking photos of a federal courthouse) affirmed that citizens have the right to shoot still images and film of any and all federal buildings. In other words, the law was thrown out by the courts as unconstitutional.

  2. John Strain says:

    Hi Gwyn,
    Appalling: I have emailed them,.
    Thanks for letting us know about it.
    All the best,

  3. Gary says:

    Such a bylaw already exists re Trafalgar Square and has done for some time.

    It’s ridiculous but there you go.

  4. Peter says:

    I too will be emailing my views, I haven’t been down to London for years, so will not really effect me in a literal term, but will effect many other law abiding photographers going about there daily business, causing no harm to anybody, but if this practice spreads to other parts of our country, it will effect us all!.

  5. bernard howden says:

    Tell that to all the thousands of tourists!!! stupid british law, they always shoot themselves in the foot..crazy..

  6. Maybe they’ll change the name too … to Red square.

  7. Hi Gwyn,
    So if you are not in the square and photograph it only as a background, for instance to take traffic shots would that also be an offence?
    Or an aerial photograph that includes the square?
    How far does this go?


  8. Zena Blundell says:

    Boris Johnson is insane. To begin with how does he expect those policing this bye-law to tell professionals from tourists, or does the ban apply to them as well?

    Bureaucracy gone mad, bad and dangerously dictatorial.

  9. Malcolm Lee says:

    I object to the banning of taking photographs in
    Trafalgar Square under The Trafalgar Square Byelaws 2012. This seems to be an infringement
    of the rights of ordinary tourist to take pictures of famaous landmarks.

  10. With the forthcoming Olympics in London. There will be MILLIONS of tourists taking snapshots of Trafalgar Square and the Houses of Parliament and taking them back to the country they come from. Many will be published or put with ‘photo-agents’ and photo’s will be printed in their Magazines, News Papers and Travel Brochures. Why all the fuss, we NEED the Tourists, so are we going back to the days where the Police will stop and search people who photograph our tourist attractions. This is an insult to us and the Tourists who want a souvenir of their Holiday.

  11. Martin Lubikowski says:

    This is an attack on our liberty! It is both unreasonable and unnecessary. Why these officials are paid for by our taxes to spend their time thinking of ways to erode our freedoms I don’t know. This is were the cuts should be made. This should not be made law!

  12. Nick Wallace says:

    What a load of tosh! As said before, it’s a public place, and well loved by both Londoners as well as tourists : Londoner’s use/enjoy the place for cultural events, and tourists love it for Nelson’s Column & sitting on the lions. I’m in my early 40’s, but I remember sitting on the lions as a child, and how fun it was. But ‘no taking photos’? Yeah, like to see them enforce that, or even try! Idiots!!!

  13. Christopher Carr says:

    Ludicrous! And me, how on earth are you going stop tourists from taking photographs in Trafalgar Square?

  14. Nick Jenkins says:

    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;

    A few of you SEEM to have missed this?? It is NOT illegal to photograph I believe but to photograph for the purpose of commercial gain? Do tell me if I have misread.

    It is still incredible, however, and I will also be emailing to oppose this nonsense and to seek clarification as to exactly what haem/danger it poses!!

    • Gary says:

      Your interpretation is correct Nick.

      I’m surprised that people don’t realise such a bylaw already exists (brought in by Ken Livingstone if I remember correctly).

      It is a ridiculous law but I’m afraid the horse has already bolted on this one.

      The interesting thing is whether the revised bylaw schedule (which seems pretty much the same) will impact on press photographers.

      It’s previously been “understood” by the press and authorities that hard news photography is not outlawed by the bylaw.


    • Agreed but as you say is still worth protesting about; afterall it is a public space and it risks becoming the thin end of the wedge. I think that this is especially galling after the recent positive guidance on photography in public places from the BSIA see:

  15. Eric Dodds says:

    What arsehole of a jobsworth thought this one up. We could have all our goals filled with Japanese & American tourists that have photo sites. Our freedom has been eroded long enough. Why did we bother to fight wars to save others when we need to save ourselves from home bred idiots & bureaucrats. Are these not “Public places” for all to enjoy? I personally have little love left for the UK now and have actually left the country.

  16. I think we really have to ask, does this relate to the “general public/tourists” or as it states, is it “just” for business, trade, profession and employment?

    Either way, I think this is totally unacceptable.

  17. Nick Jenkins says:

    IF it is relevent, I THINK TF is owned by the Duke of Westminster?
    The ruling still baffles me and I have just emailed.

    • If this legislation goes through does it mean that all photographs taken of Trafalgar Square and Parliament Square Gardens that are already posted with various stock sites will have to be removed?

      It wouldn’t surprise me in the least.

  18. nick downey says:

    Just imagine Nelson looking down with his one eye and his one arm and seeing people being stopped from producing images in this way, and thinking – is this what is meant by ‘ england expects every man to do his duty ‘ – however it will be impossible to police as any photographer will suddenly be on their day off and photographing friends and family . You also have to ask the real reason why this ‘law’ is being enacted at all.

  19. Bill Pound says:

    Oh how grateful i am that we won the war and live in a free Country !!! Should i be surprised that the law has nothing better to do ? NO

  20. Derek Metson says:

    Last time I was in London was in the 1970s – I can’t stand the place – but I photographed Trafalgar Square, and even have some photos taken in the 1950s when pigeons were allowed and even encouraged.

    It seems Boris, Dave and their beurocratic army now want to ban people from the country’s tourist attractions as well as pigeons.

    My email has just gone.

  21. IanVisits says:

    That’s not a new policy – it has been a long standing policy that commercial photography in Trafalgar Square needed permission from the Mayor’s Office.

    It’s more a technical issue that needs to be written in to prevent a TV camera crew turning up and covering the place in cables and spotlights.

    Not ideal, but it’s hardly “new legislation”.

  22. MarkB says:

    I was asked for written permission when I was in London on Tuesday for taking this photo –

    I was told it would be ok if I took down my tripod (that known instrument of international terrorism!)

    I’ll be mailing too!

  23. Michael C A Milne says:

    This is consistent with me being pounced on by a ‘female’ police…….several years ago when I was visiting relatives graves and given a stop notice.
    My late adoptive father died in 1961 when I was 6 years and I have visited ever since and still do. Another family grave where I actually was when the…….occurred contained paternal grandparents etc. My grandfather was an Alderman !
    (I spent 26 years in the law as a Legal Executive and organised various lawful activities over the years variously.)
    My complaint was not even acknowledged.
    I live…….Merseyside on the Wirral.

  24. Len Sparrow says:

    I have sent an appropriate email. You never know but I am not holding my breath!

  25. Chuck Eckert says:

    Please stop the erosion of our liberties.

  26. James Morgan says:

    There seems to be a growing number of places that you have to fork out to be able to take pictures.
    Two which I visited were, Paranapiacaba in Brazil (a small English village) built by the Sao Paulo Railway Company in the 1800’s and archaeological sites in Mexico where you have to pay up front some US$100 to be able to walk around with a camera.

  27. Dear Sir,

    I have been informed that certain places in London are banning taking photographs. With the forthcoming Olympics in London. There will be MILLIONS of tourists taking snapshots of Trafalgar Square and the Houses of Parliament and taking them back to the country they come from. Many will be published or put with ‘photo-agents’ and photo’s will be printed in their Magazines, News Papers and Travel Brochures. Why all the fuss, we NEED the Tourists, so are we going back to the days where the Police will stop and search people who photograph our tourist attractions. This is an insult to us and the Tourists who want a souvenir of their Holiday.

    There has been a discussion by the ROYAL PHOTOGRAPHIC SOCIETY and an MP in Parliament about this ban and the outcome of this has been made THAT –

    Every person has a right to photograph in a public place.

    It is NOT against the law to photograph a police officer undertaking normal duties.

    If stopped by a police officer remain calm and polite.

    You are NOT required to give any personal details if you are arrested.

    Officers have NO POWER to DELETE images.

    PCO’s may not search without a Police Officer present.

    You must be provided with a copy of the STOP & SEARCH slip, which will include the Officers Identity.

    You can check these out with the Director General of the RPS at Fenton House. 122 Wells Road. BATH. BA2 3AH Tel 01225 325733

    Yours Sincerely

    Peter R Noble ARPS

    • B says:

      You might want to change that letter if you’ve not already sent it.
      You are obliged to give your name if arrested.
      Leaving aside, that your subject matter at the start is flawed, the fact you’re also wrong further down detracts from your non existent point.

  28. Mike Mumford says:

    To Carl Schnackenberg, Department for Culture, Media and Sport, 2-4 Cockspur Street, London SW1Y
    The Trafalgar Square Byelaws [2012]:
    Parliament Square Byelaws 2012 signed 25Jan12
    In time all Public Architecture will have “State Site Copyright”
    All Public & Private Museums photographs will be banned taking photographs from inside or near any public building.
    All Public Places with human activity, on public transport is banned from taking photographs.
    All the above SS Copyright political law will be enforced by an ASS (asset state copyright).

    I trust you get my message.

    Yours sincerely, Mike Mumford.

  29. This is nonsense – Pretty soon we will not be able to take photographs for gain in any public places – this creeping erosion of rights must be stopped sooner rather than later

  30. This type of censorship is also common in North America and Europe. The Eiffel Tower cannot be photographed at night for commercial use. The company that did the “relighting” some years ago patented its lighting style.
    You may also want to check out PACA in the USA. I believe it still lists all the American places and objects that cannot be photographed. Illuminating to say the least.

  31. Bob Raftopoulos says:

    Maybe Trafalgar Square has become a covert military installation.

    But, I betcha when it does become law, Council will set up a booth selling souvenir pictures, posters and tea towels and spoons of the square.

  32. R Seadon says:

    Dear Mr Schnackenburg,
    As an amateur photographer, I am disappointed to hear of the plans to make it necessary to have a permit to take photos in trafalgar Square. It is hard to see what the purpose it serves, especially as it is almost impossible to enforce. Unless we are going to have police or security guards posted at this and eventually all popular tourist sites with the sole purpose of preventing camera’s being used. It seems to be just another piece of legislation imposing yet more limits on personal freedom.
    Yours sincerely R Seadon

  33. Cliff Occomore says:

    This is alarmist. It merely stops commercial photography without permission:- 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;

    • Mike says:

      Cliff, Isn’t that why we are all here of fotolibra? To make a few pennies from out images.

      “I’m off to London today, Oh, how many organisations do I need to ring up/e-mail for permsision before I go?”

    • pete Huggins says:

      Actually guys and gals, it is still an act of treason to photograph any government installation or build, and I’m not sure but can’t we still be hung for treason? I came across this a few years ago when I was commissioned by HM gov to photograph many of the whitehall buildings for annual reports – it became impossible to get the necessary permits to shoot from each individual department, and as we had asked, I then had to have a very official chaperone for the entire job incase I was arrested. I was still strenuously ejected from the courtyard of the tower of london but not the hundreds of tourists around me!
      PS. Mr schnackenburg must think all photographer are incapable of reading – THIS DOES NOT EFFECT AMATEURS OR TOURISTS, only us guys trying to make a living!

  34. Paul Clark says:

    This bylaw has been in force for a number of years, it covers many things including the feeding of the birds and playing loud music, running any busines – and commercial photography. This looks as though the law is just having a bit of a makeover.

    if you read the pdf. it states clearly that the area is ‘defined by the Trafalgar Square Act of 1844’

    Stand outside of this area if you want to sell your picture and dont wish to apply for a licence. If you want to make a feature film or you are a commercial company doing a shoot in the square – get a licence – I think thats the same for many places in the world. And I am sure someone in the London area might be able to confirm this for us.

    For all you holiday makers and tourists, if the shot is not for profit, just snap away and have a great time 🙂

    Disclaimer: Not a solicitor, dont shout or sue me if I have it wrong. If its that much of an issue to you consult a legal person or ask the mayors office for clarification.

  35. craig yates says:

    Totally nuts impossible to police and enforce.

  36. Mike says:

    E-mail sent…Buck house next on the list…

  37. Antony Roe says:

    Oh heck, Stalin strikes again. Bring out the Gestapo to torture all of us who have the temerity to photgraph PUBLIC buildings and monuments that have been free to photograph for so many years that any form of copyright has long expired.Maybe the various publications of the past will now be pursued with all the vigour of our ridiculous laws to bring down terrible retribution on the hapless photographers who dared to take photos for publication. What about our Tourist Boards, are they to be punished for printing images to attract people to our famous monuments. Where would this end if allowed to continue? No pictures of my garden oak tree, my freshly blooming tulips or even my family? Stop this tyranny before it takes root and speads its poison into local authorities who are manned by petty Hitlers.

  38. ian says:

    Shall we all be as petty and ban the use of CCTV images of us – of which there are already available in Trafalgar square.

    which supposed terrorists can access any time of day from their own screens.
    Who on earth benefits from this proposal?
    Even the Police must be thinking they don’t need this extra hassle.

    Hypocrisy is rife.

    Email sent

  39. Dear Herr Karl Schicklgruber,

    Will I still be allowed to sell my prints under the New Order?

    Click on link.

    Hiel Boris, mien Fuhrer!

  40. Alex Ramsay says:

    Didn’t Groucho Marx play Carl Schnackenberg in ‘Duck Soup”?

    • I think he did Alex but out of interest why not google


      I am worried that maybe the Nazis got here after all and have got jobs in the Civil Service.

  41. Keith Erskine says:

    I will write a suitable response when I calm down!

    Keith (Westminster Rates payer)

  42. richard says:

    Surely this only applies if you’re using pictures for business , advertising or tv use. There are similar signs in London zoo and lee gardens it doesn’t mean the general public can’t take pics

  43. B says:

    I do wish people would read.
    Firstly, this has been the case for years. It’s cause no one hardship up to now, these bye laws just update the previous set, nothing more.
    Secondly, READ IT PROPERLY! What it says is you cannot photograph IN the Square, IF it is for gain, ie you are employed as a photographer.
    There is NOTHING whatsoever stopping you from photographing Nelsons Column from outside the Square.

    • If anything the bye- law that exists should be scrapped, not updated. I am in favour of copyright laws to protect artists and photographers etc but you should not be able to copyright a location be it Trafalgar Square, Niagra Falls or Mount Everest. It makes sense to restrict photography of sensitive defence establishments and the like for all but if a tourist takes a particularly good shot of Nelsons Column then decides it is good enough to market where will he stand regarding this updating of this present law?

  44. Ted Edwards says:

    Hi Gwyn,
    Will this law, if it is passed, apply retrospectively ?

    I have lots of shots of Trafalgar Square taken over the years and now in Libraries.

    I think that there is a law `of sorts` in existence applying to T.Square, but that doesn`t seem to have stopped anyone as far as
    I know, including me !


  45. Peter Wheeler says:

    The Mother of Parliament will belong to it`s children no more.How ironic that the statue of Churchill and the like in Parliament Square will no longer be freely available to photograph.Freedom was what Churchill stood for,freedom from tyranny of any kind.Boris Johnson during the riots last year felt more at home on holiday,why would he feel that Parliament Square one of the most photographed places in the world need to curb the freedom to capture it`s grandeur and splendour.What would Barrie and Pugin think?As for Lord Nelson in Trafalgar Square I will surely feel like Villneuve blockaded in Cadiz and unable to move freely.I most truly object to this restrictive ruling.

  46. Julia says:

    There is a large and smelly rat in here – your link does not link – a message appears telling me that it can’t open the shop…. so, online go into the London government site, wherein the original piece is placed, same invite to email Schnackenberg – exactly the same result. Has anyone actually managed to email this guy? Either its a hoax – and the name is weird enough, or its altogether too convenient that emails can’t be sent so that the perpetrators can say “No-one objected, looook, no emails”. If the matter is true then someone needs his brains awakening via a swift kick in the pants – as the police have discovered re: perceptions of terrorism and photography in public places. And its going to be impossible to actually police, another idea that someone needs to haul home and of course it will put a crimp in earning from tourism…. no pictures equals no adverts eventually equals no income.

    • Deborah says:

      This is a response to Julia..
      I did manage to send a letter of protest to the address indicated. BUT, it wouldn’t go through from my normal gmail window. I had to open up the MAIL program in my Macbook Pro for it to go through. I too received the there-is-no-such-address message on the first attempt through gmail. So perhaps they are trying to block a flood of email from the free providers such as gmail, hotmail, and yahoo that rather a lot of us use nowadays.

  47. Martin says:

    Well what do you know – another step towards a full police state. Oh! And we’ll be the laughing stock of the world… How in god’s name will it be policed? Will the square’s boundary be marked with cones or worse? Will photographing from outside the boundary be ok?

    Questions of the sanity of the London lawmakers is undoubtably up for debate, but hey if all it takes is to submit a letter to get Boris’ written consent access how’s about thousands of us continually writing letters – how’ll they cope with that? Poor old Boris will get pig sick…

  48. george tarnowski says:

    Pure NONSENS!!!

  49. Angela says:

    Does this mean we can’t photograph the pigeons? They are in but are NOT trafalgar square are they? Like most laws, this one is stupid and reflects the fascist country we are becoming. Its probably another fundraising method for the government. Those seen taking pictures will be caught on camera and fined. The National Trust and English Heritage have been pretty nifty at raising money by making us have property releases, its spreading like a bad virus. Money first, people second.

  50. Hugh Miller says:

    I don’t understand why this is “news”. The particular clause has been in the Trafalgar Square bylaws for a good number of years. All the Royal Parks and Parliament Square have the same or similar and you only need permission for commercial photography, but its been that way for years.

    I’m not sure why people are up in arms about it now?