Sorry, NO camera’s allowed!

After reading Sfiso’s article on ‘The Unwelcome Camera‘, I wanted to write a follow on from a slightly different perspective. I experienced something unusual while having breakfast at a popular coffee shop. Those who know me, know that I capture my days in pictures. I do this so I can have something to help me remember what used to make me tick when I was young and did more than read the paper on a Sunday.

I had the manager of this said coffee shop approach me and question my intentions. I got asked why I was photographing my cup of coffee and my breakfast. It is apparently seen as somewhat threatening due to competition and likes. I had never experienced this and quietly put my camera away, gulped the coffee and shovelled the sandwich I had ordered just to get out there. I wanted to suggest a sign that said “Please do not photograph our food”.

I then went on the Gautrain and I asked if I could take photo’s. I was told only once on the train and with my Mobile Phone. I snuck a few DSLR snaps in though. So I ask the question, what makes a DSLR different to a Mobile Phone camera? My partner visited one of his manufacturing plants, he was asked if he had a camera, his response was; “yes, my phone has one”. That was not a problem. After much thought, I understood this sense of reasoning less and less. I understand that from a security perspective, images of entrances and exits put the place at risk, etc. I have also read that the quality is better of a DSLR and the images can be sold. I beg to differ, I have seen some amazing photographs taken with an iPhone. But that is a different debate.

I am not a technical person, but I do know that exif data is stored in the photo file, the phones these days are smart enough to store GPS co-ordinates too. I can look as though I am typing a text message, but really be taking a photo of something I shouldn’t be and then sending it on to someone. If I take a photo with my DSLR, I have to get home and upload the images, if I shoot in raw, I have to process them and the list of activities go on (This is assuming I don’t carry around a laptop and internet connection). I am aware that you can get a GPS receiver for SLR’s, but there are still a few more activities that need to happen before you can publish or send it out. So why the fuss when you see someone carrying a SLR when almost everyone is armed with a Mobile phone?

What scares me even more is that you can take images with your phone and upload the image along with your facebook status saying, “Home all alone, snuggled up warm with red wine and a movie”, the image you uploaded from your phone contains the GPS co-ordinates of exactly where you are and it’s almost a live feed for any potential predator out there. Scary isn’t it?

I read up a few basic laws surrounding photography, there are not that many that apply specifically to photography, which still leaves all this a little grey for me. I just took one or two main points from what I found:

And I quote:


• “Privacy law allows for photographer to take pictures in any public space. You have the right to take photos of anyone or anything if it can be seen from a public area.”

• “Any work to be used commercially must have a model release signed even if they are a celebrity or public figure and they were photographed in a public place.”

TRESPASS LAW: (I suppose this would apply to the Gautrain and the Coffee Shop)

• “Once we leave public domain and enter private property we are subject to their rights of admission”

• “Most shopping centres for example have “no photography’ signage posted at all their entrances and they have the right to revoke access. Many places seem like public areas but are in fact privately owned like the Cape Town Water Front or Melrose Arch.”

• “These centres and their security guards are well within their right to prevent you from shooting within these spaces, and if they wish they are entitled to ask you to leave the premise. They may not however confiscate equipment, destroy images or detain you in any way whatsoever.”

• “The act of taking the image is legal the act of trespass is not. This is true for shopping centres, private residence, hotels, businesses, shops and inside a building’s lobby” • “Many photographers get upset when security allows many people access to events with personal cameras and cell phone cameras, but intervene when you try bringing in a DSLR camera or they spot a tripod. As soon as they see any kit that is slightly better than your average compact they deny access”

• “There are also Trademark issues and laws that come into play, especially at sporting events.”

So the next time to want to start snapping, take the above into consideration and remember there is a fine line and best to ask before crossing it.

9 thoughts on “Sorry, NO camera’s allowed!”

  1. Yea I’ve been chased from the parking lot of a office block while taking picture of a tree (!) because I had a ‘big’ camera. It really makes no sense, for you can get pretty decent pictures out of a smartphone these days, let alone small ‘mirrorless’ cameras.

  2. I must admit I tend to stay clear of taking pic’s of people, have been turned down far too many times. Do feel that it is necessary to ask permission if in a shop etc. no matter what the subject matter is to be. However have been on the Gautrain quiet a few times and have had no problem with taking photo’s or video’s. So it makes me feel that it just depends sometimes who is on duty and what authority they which to display.

  3. Globally this is a debate that is gaining more and more momentum. Sadly many people try and apply the same argument they have read about in other countries to their local experiences and that cannot always work. For example, I was having a discussion about privacy with an advocate even before Candice’s article who said that unlike many other countries, our Constitution being still young, has boundaries that will still need to be tested. For example the argument can be made that the Right to Privacy would protect an individual from having their photograph taken even in public space. Until there are sufficient precedents set in terms of constitutional court rulings on such matters the debates will rage without further guidances. Not that I am a legalese speaker or anything.

    This article has created a lot of discussion. What other things would you like to have debated backwards and forwards?

  4. My take on this subject is that its all about money
    Very interesting indeed, I wanted to take photos at Gold Reef city and thought its the right thing to do by phoning their marketing manager and ask if its possible to take photos of the mining section, i had to fill in a form and send it of to them explaining what i want to photograph. After a week i received a response from them, i have copied it from my e-mail i replaced contact details with *******
    All i wanted to do was taking photos of a mine shaft and the Gold Pour process, about 3 photos. And this was the responce i got from them

    Hi Jaco
    I just got a response from the G.M. For the photo shoot we will have to charge you R5000 + 14%.
    Please respond if you agree to send you an invoice asap.


    Tel: **********| Fax: ************Mobile: ***********| Email: ********************Private Bag 1890, Gold Reef City 2159 | Shaft 14, Northern Parkway, Ormonde,
    Johannesburg 2159

    On the other hand i phoned the theme park and asked them how much will it cost to do the mine tour, the response was R150 entrance at the main gate per person, and R80 per person to enter the mine.I then asked the lady if I’m allowed to take photos inside the mine and of the gold pour process and she said that I’m more than welcome.

    I also found that if you walk at the V&A or any other shopping centre with your DSLR tripod and big lens then you attracts the attention of many security guards, if they approach

  5. As a canine photographer I was photographing a lady with her Dachshunds in front of an entry gate to a townhouse complex in Thornhill (Modderfontein). Present was the husband and the lady, owners of the dogs and about 5 or 6 dogs. The area, has rather nice gardens in front of the gates. I was approached by a lady who told me to leave and not to take photos there unless I had written permission from the management. The End.

  6. Yup, I had the same problem at Gateway shopping centre in Umhlanga. When I approached management to get permission, it took over three weeks to obtain and I had to detail exactly what I wanted to do with the shots.. When I pointed out that I could have used an i-phone or advanced cel phone to get the same shots (albeit with a little less quality) they shrugged their shoulders.

    I’m sure that if anybody wished to take photos for competitive purposes, they could get most of the required detail on a celphone camera, so go figure.

    If I go to a restaurant and take photos of their food/coffee etc and the owners get upset, then I start wondering what they are trying to hide; as most restaurants are only too happy to let one take a few photos, generally thay look at it as advertising, even if only on a small scale.


  7. Hey Candice,
    Great article. Well done, and thanks for the insight and sharing your experiences.
    Cell phone Cameras Compacts DSLRs ??? They can all produce an image of the the EXACT SAME SUBJECT. And as you said the image via the Cell Phone has spread halfway around the world by the time you pack your DSLR or Compact away.

  8. Interesting post Candice.
    I wonder about the interpretation of the law that says you can take pictures of anything that can be seen from a public space. There have been a number of suits successfully defended in the United states concerning this, where the photographer has been vindicated. However, we have recently had a case in SA where a photographer was convicted of taking photos of aircraft at ORTIA from a public area (outside the airport).
    So I wonder where the line can be drawn?
    The law is one thing, but we have a number of enforcers of said law who are, how shall we put it, overenthusiastic.
    General principles… ask first (although the answer will in all likelihood be no), and *never* take photos of people in uniform. Unless you live somewhere where the rule of law and respect for the rights of individuals reigns supreme (not in SA)

  9. Great article Candice,I was trying to take pics of the big wheel just inside the V&A waterfront in Cape Town with my Canon G11 on a tripod,got chased away by some security guards who claimed I was using a ‘large’ camera?Went back a week later,same G11,no tripod & took pictures to my hearts content,from exactly the same spot as the previous week!(makes one think)regards rossG

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