Have you ever taken a picture on a busy Australian street? Chances are you have. Everybody takes pictures these days since they have multiple cameras on their phones as well as multiple social media accounts to fill with amazing images. We’re all street photographers to some extent and, as such, you need to be aware of your rights as well as the laws governing this everyday activity. In some cases, just because you can take a picture doesn’t mean you have the right to do so.

Street Photographer Rights And Criminal Law In Australia

Can you photograph people in public places?

There is no law prohibiting taking pictures in public places, such as streets, parks or beaches, even if those photos include the people being there. This sounds a bit tricky considering privacy acts, but, as a matter of fact, there is no law protecting people from being photographed while in a public place. There is no breach of privacy. You’re perfectly within your rights to take a picture of the crowd in front of a tourist attraction and publish it on social media.

However, selling such pictures for commercial purposes without the consent of the people involved might result in criminal charges being brought against you.

Can you take pictures of children?

This is a sensitive issue and many innocent street photographers in Australia have found themselves in hot waters for taking pictures of children they saw in a public place. If you spend too much time around a play area photographing the kids you can expect to hear complaints from concerned citizens. There’s always the fear you might be a pedophile stalking the parks, even if you just want to capture the beauty of the moment and mean no harm.

To prevent unpleasant situations, the best course is to approach the parents, explain your purpose and ask permission before taking your camera out.

As for taking pictures of naked children at the beach, don’t even think about it. Technically, it’s not against the law, but you can find yourself immediately reported to the police and you’ll have a hard time explaining what you’re doing is art.

Can you take pictures on a private property?

This depends on the means of obtaining such pictures. If you’re on public land overlooking a private property, you can take pictures since the views are accessible to members of the public.
Making your way inside a private property without being invited is called trespassing and it can result in criminal charges brought against you. You don’t want that on your criminal record or on a nationally coordinated criminal history check (ncchc).

Keep in mind that places like museums, sports arenas, or even beaches might have different rules about photographs. While they are public places, they are run by the local council and they have the right to impose their own rules on the issue. If in doubt, best talk to a member of the personnel before starting to take pictures.

Can you get in trouble with the police as a street photographer?

If there is a complaint against you, the police might intervene and ask what you’re doing.

As a general rule, you don’t have to answer any question and you should ask why they’ve stopped you. In case you’re placed under arrest, you’d better go quietly to the station. Resisting arrest is a criminal offence and can end up on your criminal record, even if you did not commit any crime while taking pictures.

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