Photography etiquette guide: 8 essential tips for taking images in public spaces

First published:
August 17, 2023
January 30, 2024

Photography etiquette guide: 8 essential tips for taking images in public spaces

First published:
August 17, 2023
January 30, 2024

Taking pictures in public spaces can offer plenty of opportunity for fantastic shots, but there's some etiquette that should be followed

Capturing photos in public spaces is an exciting venture when first getting acquainted with the camera, and even for seasoned pros, some of the best shots come from public places.

However, it's essential to adhere to etiquette while doing so. This article outlines essential guidelines to ensure a respectful and enjoyable experience for you and others:

1 Respect people's privacy

When taking images in public spaces, it's essential to respect the privacy of individuals you encounter.

Always seek permission before photographing people up close, especially if you intend to have them as the main subject of your shot. A polite request can go a long way in establishing a positive rapport and ensuring that your subjects feel comfortable.

Photo by Genaro Servín

2 Be mindful of cultural sensitivities

Be aware of cultural sensitivities and customs when photographing in public places. Different cultures may have varying attitudes towards photography, so always exercise discretion and sensitivity.

It’s worth doing a bit of research beforehand if you can., But if you're still uncertain, it's better to err on the side of caution and refrain from taking photos that could be deemed disrespectful or offensive or simply ask!

3 Observe local laws and regulations

Before you start shooting, take the time to familiarise yourself with any local laws and regulations about photography in public spaces. Some areas restrict certain types of photography or equipment, such as tripods or drones. Complying with these rules shows respect for the law and helps maintain a positive image for the photography community.

Local laws and regulations can vary significantly from country-to-country, and within that, differ between towns, streets and squares and even within the vicinity of certain buildings. Again, it’s worth doing research in advance for any photographic shoots you have at specific locations.

Photo by Elena Saharova

4 Mind your surroundings

Be mindful of your surroundings as you focus on capturing the perfect shot. Avoid obstructing walkways, entrances, or other areas where your presence could inconvenience others. Additionally, be cautious of blocking the view of people trying to enjoy the scene without a camera in hand; again, this will help reinforce a positive image for the photographer community.

5 Use discreet equipment

While carrying big bulky camera gear can help you elevate your photos, it can also attract unnecessary attention. A compact camera or smartphone can help beginners blend into surroundings more quickly and reduce any discomfort your subjects might feel.

Photo by Samson Katt

6 Practice patience

Public spaces are often bustling with activity, and waiting for the right moment can lead to exceptional photographs. Exercise patience and allow scenes to unfold naturally. This approach enhances your chances of capturing authentic moments and demonstrates respect for the environment you photograph.

Photo by Alexander Kovalev

7 Leave no trace

When photographing in public places, remember to leave no trace of your presence. Avoid littering or causing any damage to the environment or property. By upholding good environmental practices, you contribute to the preservation of the spaces that inspire your photography.

Photo by Ryutaro Tsukata

8 Seek learning opportunities

As a beginner photographer, you're on a continuous journey of improvement. Embrace the chance to learn from experienced photographers and fellow enthusiasts. Engage in meaningful conversations, attend workshops, and join photography groups to exchange insights and grow your skills.


Navigating the realm of photography in public spaces requires a balance of artistic expression and considerate conduct. By adhering to these etiquette guidelines, you can enhance your experience as a photographer and contribute positively to the communities and environments you capture through your lens.

As you embark on this creative adventure, remember that respect, mindfulness, and a genuine passion for photography will guide you towards memorable and respectful interactions with both your subjects and the world around you.

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