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Health and Safety on Location

Do not enter. Brentford Dock OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA


Essentially, as with any other profession, these days, Health and Safety Regulations around photography are mostly common sense.  That, and limiting the amount of hazards as far as practically possible, whilst taking responsibility to ensure one’s own health, safety and welfare, and that of any photo subjects whilst working.


Be mindful of trip hazards, e.g camera bags and gear, or when using tripods, and/or lighting stands outside. Carry out a mental risk assessment before starting to shoot. You can even download a template for a written risk assessment here ( Remember, it’s your responsibility if things go wrong! A keen awareness of Health and Safety will also reassure clients, subjects and members of the public that you care about creating a safe environment for them.

  • Identify hazards eg. decide if anyone is at risk.
  • Evaluate risk and put precautions in place
  • make notes if necessary about the situation for later reference

If you’re in a public place for example, be aware that a camera bag, or tripod represents a trip hazard not just to yourself, but also to passers by.  Having tripped over them myself on several occasions now, I realise the importance of this one!  N.B. Also lookout for traffic, (no matter how good the shot! …I’ve been beeped at more than once.)  Watch out for cyclists, and kerbs too (yep…tripped over those.) and especially people.  This ‘spatial’ awareness should also extend to waterways, and steep slopes. It’s a good job Tripod Carrier is also my lookout, and very practised at catching me when I’m off balance!! (a rather unfortunate effect of my ill health:( ).

Common sense would dictate that you do not obstruct the pathways, and not just because it is a legal requirement not to do so.


We often see this sign now, and although it may not be a legal requirement, it can mean that photography will be objected to. Sometimes, quite strongly!

Image found on Google

Members of the public do not need a permit to take photos in public places. TFL has rules about photography on train station platforms, as do most airports, unless for personal use.  Some Public landmarks e.g. Nelson’s Column have by-laws protecting them also. You can always check their respective websites first if you’re unsure.

You do not have to ask permission to take people’s photo’s, but it’s probably better that you do 🙂 A winning smile, and a compliment go a looong way. 🙂  If you wish to take photographs in a private place and publish them, you’ll need to obtain permission, and/or a ‘model release’ or consent form. You can obtain a copy of a model consent form from the Association of Photographers, here: (  In this day and age, it seems a little obvious to say that if you wish to take photo’s of other peoples children.  You must obtain permission from their parent or guardian.

Bear in mind also that a reaction to photography can be different in many societies and cultures. Even if there are no legal restrictions, people may object quite strongly to having their photo taken. Reactions can range from complaints and even to violence!  Recently, a woman in Richmond became quite agitated when I took a photograph of her bike as she walked away from it.  It was a really pretty retro, baby blue bike, there were bright flowers in the basket, and she’d leant it up against a yellow brick wall. The light was perfect and I took the shot. She stormed back towards me, and demanded to know why I had taken the photo!  Yikes! I explained I was a student, produced my student card and offered to show her what I’d taken. She checked my camera, and then explained that recently, her husband’s bike had been stolen… evidently, there is a gang that go around taking photo’s of bikes and then stealing them. At this point, she had calmed down and when I offered to delete the image she agreed it was okay, although she didn’t want me to put it online… just in case. So I am respecting that wish.

You must be aware that whilst you have rights to take photos, if the police regard you as a terrorist threat (a little unlikely in my middle-aged-Nanna-person) but they can stop and search you.

You cannot (and should not..) trespass to take photo’s. If you want to take photo’s on private land, ask permission. If you are friendly, polite and professional, most people will grant permission.

If you’re setting up business as a Photographer, you may decide to make a Health & Safety Policy for your business. You can download a template from

I found a really helpful article on Street Photography and the law here:

Public Liability Insurance – If you are being paid to take photographs you need to take out public liability insurance, which should cover you for any liability for damage caused to another person, or property, whilst working.


If you set up business and go on to sell your work, you’ll probably need to know the difference between commercial and editorial use. An editorial picture can be used to illustrate an article, or educational text but not to promote or sell a product. ‘Commercial use’ pictures can be used to sell, or promote something or to raise money for a cause.


Most photographers, as I now know, spend long periods of time hunched over either, a camera on a tripod, or a computer.  You can limit the potential issues of injury through back strain, by being aware of how you lift, and carry your photography equipment. Don’t overload yourself, and bend at the knees rather than bending your back.  When both editing photo’s and writing my blog, I can spend a considerable amount of time at the pc. It’s important to take regular breaks to reduce headaches, and eye strain. Rather like Goldilocks & the Three Bears story, the chair I’m sitting in, right now, dear reader, is perfect for Tripod Carrier, but causes me some discomfort, so getting up and moving around does help. You may be relieved to hear that I have an ergonomically designed wrist, and mouse pad and, a very comfy foot rest. 🙂  Be aware of screen glare, use brightness and contrast settings to reduce flicker.


Cameras are expensive items to replace. Insurance is a good idea, especially if you intend to take photos in an area where you might expect to be robbed (mmm hmm… I know… perhaps you think you wouldn’t be?) but if you are taking photo’s whilst away on a trip somewhere abroad, for instance, it may be a consideration… better safe than sorry, eh?  Don’t make a big show of your marvellous camera. Try not to ‘advertise’ your very expensive camera, don’t make it obvious! Keep it in a bag that doesn’t advertise its’ value, use a secure strap, and don’t leave your camera bag unattended.

Another good reason to be careful whilst shooting, is dropping expensive camera parts.  A while ago, when shooting at Kew Gardens with a fellow student I dropped my lens!! EEEK!! For a heart stopping moment as I picked it up, I feared the worst, but thanks to some sound advice to buy a UV filter to protect the lens, my lens was safe whilst the £6 UV filter was completely smashed… lesson heeded and learned.

So, there you have it… all the basics of ‘elf n’ safety for photographers…..




Research and resources from:

No photo’s sign from Google


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