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Tips for photographing in Museums and Private Property

Chinese man taking a picture of a photograph at the Marc Riboud Retrospective Photograph Exhibition - Shanghai Art Museum
Delphotos / Alamy Stock Photo

With the school summer break kicking off here in the UK it’s a very popular time of year to visit museums and art galleries, either to keep the kids entertained or simply to pass the time on a day off. As an Alamy contributor you’ll no doubt be taking your camera (or at minimum your smartphone) along with you to document your day, and might think about submitting these to Alamy/Stockimo when you get home. But what if you’re not sure if you can do this? We covered some tips for photographing private property back in 2015, so my aim with this post is to expand on that and provide some more information on what policies can restrict you from photographing at these properties. As well as this I’ve put together some tips on what you can do before and during your trip to make sure you stay the right side of any policy in place and prevent any potential legal issues arising with the property you’re visiting.

There are no clear-cut guidelines on what you can and can’t do with the images you take at museums and galleries as it varies from property to property, but most will have a photography policy which will detail any photographic restrictions that are in place.

From our experience many properties will usually restrict the usage of images to personal use only, in order to protect the copyright of any featured artists and also for the preservation of their collection. Additional permissions would therefore be required from the property to be able to sell the images for commercial gain. This will refer to any use that would provide you as the photographer monetary gain from the images you’ve taken (submitting your images to Alamy would fall within the commercial use part of any photography policy).

This obviously differs from the commercial use we refer to within the stock photography world and unfortunately means that restricting your images for editorial use will still mean you are in breach of the properties policy. This is a key point to be aware of if you intend on submitting imagery taken within private properties.

We’ve found that checking some of the following points before or during the course of your visit will help best inform you on any restrictions in place or take the correct steps in obtaining permission to sell your images on Alamy.

 

No photography sign
B Christopher / Alamy Stock Photo

Check on the museum/ gallery or properties website before you visit

Many museums and galleries have a copy of their photography policy available on their website (usually found in the plan your visit, FAQ or copyright sections) which will allow you to view the policy before you set off for the day and check if any extra permission is required to sell the images you plan on taking.

Check the properties entrance signage

Entrance signage at museums and galleries and other private properties are a key point that visitors will walk past and many properties will communicate their terms and conditions of entry here. They will usually include details of any photographic policy that’s in place, so take a couple of minutes to check through this and make sure you’re allowed to sell the photographs you take.

Check the terms of entry on your ticket if applicable

Similar to the point above regarding entrance signage, if you’ve paid to get in, the ticket or receipt will usually have the terms and conditions of entry printed on it. So if you didn’t see anything on the sign when you came in you may find it here.

 Ask a member of staff

Whether you’re at the desk purchasing your ticket or you’ve already entered the property, look for a member of staff and ask them whether you can take photos to submit to stock libraries. The staff are best placed to answer your questions or put you in touch with someone that will know. The key point to get across when you do ask is that you would be looking to sell the images you take. As I said before many properties don’t mind you taking pictures for personal use so it’s important you mention that you would be selling the images so you get the correct answer.

 

Tourists crowding around the tiny painting known as the Mona Lisa in the Louvre Museum in Paris
Manor Photography / Alamy Stock Photo

With the above tips in mind, the main advice we would give is to tread on the side of caution and not to assume its OK to submit images taken within museums and art galleries. It’s more than likely there will be a photography policy in place and it’s always worth checking to see if any additional permissions are required in order to sell your images. Ultimately asking the question will protect yourself from any potential legal issues that may arise down the line from selling the images without permission.

  • mortgoth

    Most of my art gallery photos, at the AGO for example, were taken during advance press conferences and viewings, where the gallery understands that any photos taken are meant to be published for editorial purposes. They prefer that you include people viewing the images (usually other journalists in this case), or frame it within the context of the general exhibit, and not photograph any individual works of art head on, which could be later copied. On occasion, such as the travelling Bowie exhibit, there will be specific works one is not allowed to photograph for copyright reasons. One advantage of getting media accreditation for exhibits is that you can use a tripod, which are prohibited to the general public. A docent will accompany you if it is not during a press conference, which can arranged in advance through their publicity department. No flash is allowed.

  • KrisG

    *property’s* singular possessive, if you are referring to a single entity
    or
    *properties’* plural possessive
    You ought to go with the former.

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