Nov 222013

Italian Law & Street Photography

What are you allowed to shoot?

by Andrea Monti

Italian Law Street Photography by Andrea Monti.  image by Adam Marelli

Italian Law Street Photography by Andrea Monti. image by Adam Marelli

Note from Adam:

A few weeks back a reader of the website said he wrote an article on the legality of street photography in Italy.  Andrea Monti, who is a Italian lawyer with a growing interest in photography put together the following article on his website: 

With the growing number of photographers, or at least camera users around the globe, we will definitely see more attention devoted to the legal limits of photographing people in public.  This is something I recently discussed on NPR when we looked at the “Ethics of Street Photography.” (the link is at the bottom of the article) Who knows, some day it may be entirely restricted in some countries (not that it already is…North Korea, we are looking at you.)

Anyway, whether you photograph for fun or on assignment, Italy has a lot to offer visually.  Its interesting to see what is legally on the table and what is not allowed.  I would like to thank Andrea for putting this entry together.




As there are few texts in English dealing with (street) photography and Italian laws, I’ve decided to put my lawyer‘s hat and sketch some toughts on the two main topics involving the Street-Photography: shooting candid and publishing them online.

To cut a long story short, Italian law follows a similar approach to other Western jurisdictions and – in particular – of Articles 8 and 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights:

  • unsolicited photographs taken in public places are permitted where they are not for profit profit, for artistic and cultural purposes, do not infringe public safety, public morality or human dignity,
  • (online) publishing is allowed with the same limitation.

The  Street-Photography in Italy should be a pretty straightforward activity, but actually is not since there is a widespread negative attitude towards those photographers that, being mere mortals, do not belong to the “Olympus” inhabited by Cartier-Bresson, Capa, Frank, Maier and other of their peers. In other words, it would be easy for the likes of HCB, if caught in “the moment”, to explain who he is, and why is he taking a picture. On the contrary, it would be a lot harder for an unknown photographer, when confronted by an angry passer-by, to provide evidence of “cultural” or “artistic” interest in his hip-shooting.

The clash between the right to take pictures in public places, on the one hand, and, on the other, the (often mistaken) right to ownership of the personal image together with the (even more mistaken) right to “privacy” is not peculiar to Italy, but Italian law does have certain peculiarities of which a casual street photographer should be aware when traveling around this country. But please – reader – take into account that what follows is a general account, and as such it may need to be adapted to the specific circumstances related to the time, space and place of the photography in question.


Photography, as such,  is protected by the Italian Constitution.

As a form of art, under Sect. 33 first paragraph that reads:

Art and Science are free and free is its teaching

As a form of free-speech, under  Sect. 21 that reads:

Everybody has the right of freely express his own ideas by way of words, writings and with any other means

As a form of business, under  Sect. 41 that reads

The private entrepreneurship is free.
It cannot be carried contrary to the social needs o in such a way to damage safety, freedom and human dignity.



The infringement of personal privacy is the usual “leverage” – club – that the portrayed person uses to prevent the photography or ask for its deletion. Although this is a fairly common situation, not only in Italy, there is very limited power under the protection of privacy to stop casual street photography.

First it is important to understand that privacy as such is not protected by a specific section of the Constitution, but such protection can be claimed by combining a few constitutional provisions: the first is Sect. 14 that protects the inviolability of the private home and that is connected to Sect. 615 and 615bis of the Criminal Code (in short, an “anti-illegal searches” in private homes, and an “anti-paparazzi”provision).The second is Sect. 15 that protects the inviolability of both the personal correspondence and the communications.

Under these combined sections, thus, a photographer cannot “peeps” into private houses through windows or from high-ground, skipping fences and walls  as the typical paparazzi would. Thus, on the contrary, what is in the public space does not generally give raise to a reasonable privacy expectation, as the Corte di cassazione (Italian Supreme Court) ruled back in 2008 with the decision 40577/2008:

A third party violates privacy and is a crime under Sect 615-bis Criminal Code, if the object of the photograph is conduct hidden from normal visibility , since the protection of the private space is granted only to what is done in such conditions that are not visible to the general public. Thus, if an event happens in a private place but can be freely seen without particular means (telephoto, for instance – n.d.a.) the owner of the private space cannot reasonably expect his privacy to be respected.



The infringement of personal privacy is the usual “leverage” – club – that the portrayed person uses to prevent the photography or ask for its deletion. Although this is a fairly common situation, not only in Italy, there is very limited power under the protection of privacy to stop casual street photography.

First it is important to understand that privacy as such is not protected by a specific section of the Constitution, but such protection can be claimed by combining a few constitutional provisions: the first is Sect. 14 that protects the inviolability of the private home and that is connected to Sect. 615 and 615bis of the Criminal Code (in short, an “anti-illegal searches” in private homes, and an “anti-paparazzi”provision).The second is Sect. 15 that protects the inviolability of both the personal correspondence and the communications.

Under these combined sections, thus, a photographer cannot “peeps” into private houses through windows or from high-ground, skipping fences and walls  as the typical paparazzi would. Thus, on the contrary, what is in the public space does not generally give raise to a reasonable privacy expectation, as the Corte di cassazione (Italian Supreme Court) ruled back in 2008 with the decision 40577/2008:

A third party violates privacy and is a crime under Sect 615-bis Criminal Code, if the object of the photograph is conduct hidden from normal visibility , since the protection of the private space is granted only to what is done in such conditions that are not visible to the general public. Thus, if an event happens in a private place but can be freely seen without particular means (telephoto, for instance – n.d.a.) the owner of the private space cannot reasonably expect his privacy to be respected.

Furthermore, the Corte di cassazione’s decision 47165/2010 stated that

It is necessary to balance the privacy need (rooted into the Constitution as expression of the individual personality and as protection of private space …) and the natural compression of this right is derived from the specific factual situation or, furthermore, the tacit – while non equivocal – withdrawal of this right, as happens in the case of a person that, while using a private space, locates himself in a position that renders him visible to a plurality of persons.

By quoting Prof. Raymond Wacks’ book Privacy. A very short introduction:

Having attention focused upon you or being subjected to uninvited intrusions upon your solitude are objectionable in their own right, but our concern for the individual’s privacy in these circumstances is strongest when he or she is engaged in activities which we would normally consider private. The Peeping Tom is more likely to affront our conception of what is ‘private’ than someone who follows us in public.

Thus, to summarize the point: as soon as somebody is in a public space and the photography “sees” what the eye does, there is no reasonable privacy expectation.


Should we stop here, indeed, no profit Street-Photography would look like a perfectly legal activity in Italy; but now comes the tricky part: what about data protection rights? Again, the question is not peculiar to Italy, but the answer actually does.

The Italian Data Protection Act (Legislative Decree 196/03)  is the source of a lot of problems – not only to photographers – because being mistakenly labelled as “privacy act” led people into drafting two false conclusions:

  • the first is that data protection “means” privacy. This not true because, as is apparent from reading the relevant EU directives and and theinterpretation given by the Court of Milan back in 1999,  when we look at the data protection provisions, we must bear in mind that we’re not talking about privacy as an absolute right, but of a “lesser” right aimed at granting a fair handling of personal data on a “need-to-know basis”. It comes from above that the “lesser” rights granted by the Data Protection Act cannot overrule the Constitutional rights. Thus the Data Protection Act cannot be invoked to prevent a photographer to exercise his constitutional prerogatives.
  • the second is that IDPA’s provisions are “absolute” and supersedes all of the other rights granted by the Constitution. This would be wrong even if data protection were clearly set among the Constitutional Rights, because every single right – including the protection of human life – has to be balanced against the others. Thus it would have been impossible to configure an intrinsic and absolute superiority of privacy – let alone data protection – over the set of the remaining constitutional rights.  But this is a fortiori a mistake since the right to data protection it is not recognized by the the Constitution, and thus cannot prevail over what the Constitution says.

The problem when moving from legal theory to real life, is that the mistaken meaning of the IDPA and the approach of the Italian DP Commissioner is clearly aimed at enforcing the IDPA well beyond its original scope. While being aware of the legal subtleties of the topic, the DP Authority tries to push as far as it can the limit of its jurisdiction by releasing public statements that corresponds to its “personal” view instead of what the law actually provides.

To better understand the point let’s have a look at my unofficial IDPA FAQ:

Q. Does photography falls within the scope of the IDPA?
 The Data Protection Commissioner think so, thus a photography is supposed to be “personal data”.

Q. Is a photographer subjected to the IDPA?

Q. Is there any exception?
Yes. If the photographer handles third party personal data for personal use he’s not bound by the IDPA

Q. Is a photographer required to get a prior consent before shooting candid pictures?
Complex answer. If the photographer shoots for personal use, no, otherwise – accordingly to a strict and (incorrect) interpretation of the IDPA – yes.

Q. What about constitutional rights, freedom of expression, etc. etc.?
That’s the point. If data protection is a “lesser right” then it cannot be enforced so as to undermine a constitutional right, and the IDPA can’t be used to stop public place-casual photography. But since there is no specific case law on the topic, there is no way to be sure of being on a safe ground until a court expresses its opinion.

Q. Has the DP Commissioner issued an official statement on shooting people in public spaces?
A. Yes. 
The Data Protection Commissioner said (my translation) that:

As a general principle, images depicting people in public space can be published without the consent of the portrayed person as long as it does not damage his dignity … but the photographer must disclose his identity and his activity and restrain from using “tricks” and undue pressure to achieve his goals. …
In this case, too, the journalist must nevertheless make an assessment on a per-case basis, taking into account the journalistic context and the subject of the news.
For instance, the publication of a picture of an elderly person, clearly identifiable, shot in a street market while purchasing goods, might not be appropraite if the purpose is to illustrate the point of the elderly individual’s loneliness, and thereby infringes his dignity.
The position is otherwise if the aim of the article containing the picture is to celebrate his longevity!
Furthermore, when documenting with pictures news occurring in public spaces the journalist and/or the photographer must assess the way they frame the news, avoiding a focus on a specific person or on specific details if its sharing is not relevant to the article.

Q. Is the DP Commissioner right?
 I don’t think so. The DPA doesn’t clarify its position on the act of shooting but it can be deduced by its statement that if it is possible to publish a picture without a consent, a fortiori is possible to shoot it. Anyway, this official DP Authority statement clearly explains the point I’ve mentioned so far about the odd interpretation of the IDPA made by the body that should only enforce it:

  • First: the DP Authority has no jurisdiction to declare how a photo should be taken. Both the Constitution and the Criminal Code already set these (reasonable) limits so and, as long as a crime is not committed, a photographer is free to use whatever technique he likes, even “undercover”.
  • Second: for the very same reason just explained, the DP Authority has no jurisdiction to tell a photo journalist how he should present his pictures.
  • Third: it seems that the DP Authority wants to allow the freedom to shoot pictures to photojournalists only, but photojournalists aren’t the only persons who take pictures, since the Constitution grants this right to “WHOEVER” wants to use a camera.

Q. What about the non-journalist?
. Again, non professional photographers are not subjected to the IDPA. Professionals non-photojournalists should be granted the same (apparent) “freedom” reserved for photojournalists.

Q. Why, then, Google Street-View blurred car’s plates and people’s faces?
You’d better ask Google. My opinion is that instead of facing the risk of trials, questionable verdicts and bad media coverage – with all its implications – Google just opted for a pragmatic alternative. At the end of the day, Google is a company and not a civil rights NGO, isn’t it?


The Italian Copyright Act (L. 633/41) contains a legal definition for the word “photography” and regulates its taking, handling and exploiting.

Under this law, as odds as it may seems, a photography can be “artistic” (thus entitled to full protection under Sect. 2, Para 1 n.7 of the Copyright law) or a simple reproduction of things, documents, writings, technical blueprints et similia.

Sect. 87 says that a photography falls within the scope of the Copyright law if depicts:

  • people’s images,
  • social and naturals aspects, elements or facts

While the law doesn’t clearly defines that notion of “portrait” -  to be possibly interpreted as “whatever depiction of a recognizable human being” – Sect. 96generally forbids the exhibition, duplication and selling of a portrait without the consent of the model. But the rigidity of the provision is made less strict  by the following Sect. 97 that sets a list of exemptions. Thus, if  it doesn’t infringe the reputation, the honour or the dignity of the portrayed person, a picture can be freely reproduced when:

  • the portrayed subject is a civil servant or publicly known,
  • there are justice or police needs,
  • scientific, cultural and teaching purposes are pursued,
  • is related to facts, events and celebration of public interest or taking place in public,
  • no economic gain is obtained by way of publishing the picture.

There are, anyway, two very old and rather odd decisions (Tribunal of Milan, 1954 and Pretura of Rome, 1977) that stand for a dissenting opinion: if the portrayed person is mainly in foreground so that everything else disappear (like often happens in street-photography, my remark) then the publication is not anymore allowed.


Nobody but a public prosecutor can order a photographer to consign his camera. If the order comes from a bodyguard or any other private security professional, it must not be obeyed and if they try to get the camera by way of the use of force, this is a robbery and is punished as such (see Corte di cassazione sezione II sentenza 12 settembre 2013, n. 37407)

Since there are six different law enforcement agencies (of which two are local, reporting to the mayor or to the president of the province) in Italy, sometimes it can be difficult to understand who – and under whose authority – is questioning you, so let’s start with the list of the police forces currently on duty.

At national level the police forces are:

At local level, every  town has its local police (polizia municipale and polizia provinciale) that mainly deals with administrative issues (traffic fines, business authorization check and so on). Usually, a local policeman is not granted the legal status of “public security officer”. This means that wearing the uniform (and sometimes a gun) doesn’t necessary gives him the power to question a citizen for allegedly having committed a “photo-crime”.

Law enforcement agents, in Italy, are largely unfit to handle constitutional issues on their own and on the street, so arrogance  is often ignorance’s companion. You have to understand that, to a street-policeman, you – a photographer – do mean big troubles. He doesn’t know the relevant statutes, he’s under public scrutiny and surely doesn’t want to look goofy, he’s aware that if he does a mistake by treating you as a criminal without motive, he’s risking to face disciplinary and criminal charges. Thus your first approach should be to help the policeman to escape from the tangled web he’s fallen into. So get ready to provide reasonable explanations (and evidences) like:

  • sono un fotografo dilettante/professionista (I’m an amateur/professional photographer),
  • sto lavorando a un reportage (I’m working on a reportage),
  • faccio parte di un collettivo fotografico e sto collaborando a un progetto relativo a … (I’m part of a photographic collective and I’m working o a prokect involving …),

In case you’re spotted shooting your candid and confronted by a law enforcement representative  you must, therefore, expect to be asked:

  • for your ID,
  • for your permit-to-stay (if you come from outisde the Schengen-Agreement EU Countries)
  • about the motive that drives you,
  • to provide access to your shots,
  • to delete “unappropriate” pictures

Unless you’re committing a criminal offense or involved in some actual suspicious activity (e.g. shooting at military premises, that is forbidden) none of these request are legitimate (but if you come from outside the Schengen circle, you must show your passport and the permit-to-stay or the visa). Please bear in mind that if you choose to stand for your rights, you must expect to be taken in temporary custody and led to a police station where you may rest for a whole day (not in jail, anyway), waiting to be questioned.

If you stay calm and polite, nobody can touch or seize either you or the camera so, no matter what the law enforcement officer says, you can take the camera with you and you cannot be forced to give access to the pictures. The only allowed to issue this order is the public prosecutor. The prosecutor and nobody else. If somebody’s trying to force you, then tell him “per favore, chiamate il pubblico ministero di turno” (please call the public prosecutor currently on duty.)

If you are taken to a police station just because the agent is not able to sort out  your position on the spot,  you’re not “charged” or “arrested” so you don’t have the “right to place a call”; nevertheless is a good idea to have at hand the phone number either of the local journalist association or just of the local chapter of the FIAF (Federazione Italiana Associazioni Fotografiche) a nation-wide amateur photographer association that might provide some help.

Once in front of the officer that is going to question you, if you don’t speak Italian it is better to state it clearly from the beginning: “non parlo Italiano” (I don’t speak Italian), “non capisco quello che dite” (I don’t understand what you’re saying), “non so perché mi avete portato qui” (I don’t know why you’ve taken me here), “chiamate l’ambasciata” (call the embassy.) And even if you’re able to manage yourself with the language, it is strongly advisable not to try to stand on your own.

In any case, the first thing to look for, when the interrogation starts, is whether the officer is transcribing your statements as he should, because he’s required by laws to do so. It is likely to happens that, as soon as the police understands that you’re not a criminal, you will be released without further formality and your presence in the station might never be noted so, for the record, nothing happened. Thus, if the officer just questions you without noting your answers, your first statement should be: “per favore, può verbalizzare le sue domande e le mie dichiarazioni come vuole la legge?” (Can you please put your questions and my answers in writing, as required by law?… it will be a police’s problem to look for an interpreter and justify a potential illegal arrest.)

There are some questions you have to ask and be sure that are put in writing (no matter if the officer doesn’t answer) like:

  • Come si chiama l’agente che mi ha fermato? (What’s the name of the agent that arrested me?)
  • L’agente che mi ha fermato è ufficiale di polizia giudiziaria o di pubblica sicurezza? (Have I been arrested by an officer with the legal power to do what he did?)
  • Sono in stato di arresto? (Am I under arrest?)
  • Per quali fatti? (For having done what, exactly?)
  • Per quale reato? (For which criminal offense?)
  • Voglio essere interrogato dal magistrato di turno (I want to be interrogate by the public prosecutor currently on duty)

Be sure to have all put into the official transcript and get a copy, because, just in case, this will be the main evidence for building a case against the municipality or the police authority involved.


At the end of this long and tiring legal journey, is therefore possible to conclude that:

  • shooting and publishing candid pictures is legal under Italian laws as soon as they are taken in public spaces,  non for profit, without damaging the dignity of a person or endangering public safety and moral,
  • as soon as the above requisites are met, there are no privacy-related issues to be feared
  • the IDPA, on the contrary and until case law says something different, can be interpreted so that is possible to prevent a photographer to do his job, while leaving the “amateur” free from any legal encumbrance.

But the real problem with this legal approach is when it comes to real-life.

Italians might become very touchy when shot candidly, no matter what the laws say, so will (largely untrained for this purposes) policemen asked to intervene. These latter will on first instance back the people’s claim by trying to blame the photographer. And since a trial, in Italy, takes years to reach its conclusion, the option of being investigated in this country is largely to be avoided.

Briefly, therefore, the law stands fairly enough by the photographer’s side, but too many of those who are entitled to enforce it, fail to do so.

* All the English translations of the statutes and the court decisions mentioned in this post are made by me and – therefore – cannot be considered “official”.


  22 Responses to “Italian Law & Street Photography”

  1. Article is much appreciated, Adam. Traveling to France and Italy soon with my Leica M9 to work on photography. All advice in the laws of photographing in public is appreciated.

    Looking forward to future workshops in SoHo.


    • Hi Steve,

      Hope the article allows you to feel more comfortable while shooting in Italy. If not…just offer to pay for dinner. That never hurts.


  2. I’m a street amateur photographer and I’m italian. This is one of the most valuable piece of content ever found online. Thank you so much for it!

  3. Hey Adam,
    I was born and raised in Ravenna, but I live and work in Vienna, Austria.
    I travel a lot and I always have my camera with me. Street photography is a very relevant part of my life. I never got into serious troubles because I developed social skills that help a lot. I usually take very close shots of strangers but then I smile and if they want to interact I keep on chatting with them and I give them my cards and contacts. As soon as they are not afraid they enjoy the photographic experience.

  4. I am currently on assignment from work in Torino for all of February and I have time off work to venture into the city during the morning hours with my camera. I’ve been shooting the streets for almost a month now each day intensively and these are my experiences:

    Most people here don’t seem to care or don’t notice me. Many times, I am right in their face so to speak, shooting with a M3 and zone focusing from in between 2 to 4 meters away depending on the frame orientation.

    I snapped an image of an older woman and she cursed silently while walking away.

    At a local market (the biggest one in Torino) I shot the booths of the vendors and an Arab vendor saw the camera and instantly got very angry, shouting at me, picking up a pear and threatening to throw that at me – which is within my expectation with many members of that social/cultural group where men are dominant and aggression is a means to conflict resolution.

    On the other hand, I got positive moments like these:

    While shooting with my Mat 124G (“big” dual lens reflex, medium format camera), I got stopped twice by two older Italian gentlemen and got complimented on it. When I heard the word “Leica” mentioned in between their stream of Italian words, I pulled out my M3 to win them over completely. ;)

    I took a scene of an elderly lady in many of the beautiful galleries that edge the streets in Torino. She came over to me and (this is what I made of it without really understanding Italian) tried to convince me in a very friendly way to go to restaurant up the street. She was very friendly.

    In the end, I am prepared to face hostile reactions. It’s worth it in the end as long as I get the results I am after and nobody gets hurt and the cameras don’t get damaged. :) No pain, no gain. A camera takes a picture, nothing more, nothing less. How someone thinks they can escalate a situation from that where physical harm is justified, is beyond me.

    Torino is an amazing city with beautiful and interesting people and amazing food. The restaurant scene here is excellent and very decent in terms of what you get for your money. I enjoy my time here every day and will certainly return through work in summer, happy to have another shot at framing the streets.

    • Hi Tobias,

      Thanks for sharing both of your stories…I came across a similar situation in a market in Padua. There is an issue with people who’s legal paperwork is not in order being photographed. I had a friend who dealt with this too when he was shooting restaurant kitchens in Miami. Who knows, maybe the guy you shot was just an a**hole, but immigration stuff can cause people a lot of concern. I’ve seen it too in Chinatown in NYC.

      But for all of those incidents, there are usually ten like the woman you met.

      Glad to hear you had a wonderful time in Torino. I have not been yet, but look forward to making it over there at some point.


  5. I take ambient videos, extended clips – duration more than 5 minutes – of wildlife, plants and landscape. But in my portfolio I have also street life (in Sweden and the US). Camcorder on a tripod. Check my website to get the idea …

    I feel that I will get in much trouble in southern Europe when taking videos of markets, busy streets etc.

    I hope to sell a lot of these videos in the future.

    I´ll be happy for any advice.

    Best regards

    • Sverker,

      My advice would be to get the permission from the people in the market. If you show up and start filming, YES…people will most likely object. If you get to know a few of them, explain what you are doing, then they will often give the ok. Depends on how well you speak about your work. i.e. if they dont get the concept it will be harder for them to agree.

      But what you are doing is no different than a feature film collecting B roll. I dont mean that to downplay your work, I mean that its ambient, free of specific actors or actresses. Film crews get permission all the time. They know how to apply for the proper permits ect.

      Not every place will say yes, but if you win over the people you are filming, get city approval where possible many doors will open.

      But if you try and film strictly for yourself, then turn around and sell it without any interaction with the people, while it may be perfectly legal, it will not make you many friends.


  6. Hi Adam,

    Firstly thank you for taking the time to create this article which has answered many of my questions already.

    I wondered if you might know the answer to a few others. I am hoping to arrange a shoot in Marina Di Massa, Tuscany and neighbouring Forte di Marmi and the Island of Elba. The shoot will involve two models and possibly up to 4 photographers some of whom may be using flash. It will be of an editorial / fashion style however I was also hoping to go over to Elba to do some Art Nude over there in one of the coves considered OK for Nudity. What are you thoughts on the legality of this? We would not be shooting topless or nude on a public beach or around anyone else and will not want other people in our shots. The shots will all be of a tasteful nature (not Erotica or Porn).

    Do I need permits to shoot over there? Are we ok to shoot in the cove with the Nude model (Still tasteful Artistic Nude)

    Thanks in advance for your help,

    Dean Ireland

    • Dean,

      I would check with someone in Elba…its very site specific.

      The last thing you need is someone breaking up a big shoot that could have been arranged in advance.


  7. Hi,

    Thanks for this. I am planning on doing a shoot on the streets of Rome in the summer. I’m a fitness photographer from the UK and am hoping to go to Rome with a hand full of bodybuilders and shoot at landmarks etc. I did something like that with just one bodybuilder, this past summer, in London and it went really well.

    I was wondering what the law is with regards to shooting on the streets, and considering, they will mostly be wearing shorts! :-) Am I asking for trouble. Of course, nothing rude is going to happen, it’s just cool stuff like this.

    Any advice would be great. Thanks

    • Hi Rahim,

      I looked at your link…this would fall more into a category of “Commercial Photography” because you are shooting a model. Some locations require that permits are obtained for commercial shoots.

      Its not really street photography, so the legalities of it would be different. Street photography, as described up above, implies shooting people without their consent in public spaces.

      Rome might have decency practices about people with shirts off ect.

      You might want to start with low key spots before going to major tourist attractions.


  8. Dear Adam

    Thank you very much for all the above insights.

    I would like to know what would the legal situation be in case the public street photographs with people in them were meant for a book to be published with profit or an exhibition of prints with profits in or out of Italy. How would the legal intervention change? considering there is no intellectual humiliation/manipulation towards the subjects. Just photographs and locations. Thank you again


  9. Are there any restrictions on tripods in Italy? Police stopped me in Rome this morning and told me “it is illegal to use a tripod in Italy”. I packed up meekly, but I am pretty certain it isn’t illegal. I have used one here innumerable times, most recently yesterday within sight of police stationed outside an Embassy.

    I have previously been told I cannot film the military in the course of their duties, when on one occasion some soldiers were within shot (guarding the Pantheon, which was my subject not them). Perhaps that also applies to police forces. But the camera was not aimed at them this morning.

    I would be grateful for your thoughts.

    • Hi Chris,

      You are correct, tripods are not illegal in Italy. However photographing near or towards a police building or embassy is not a good idea. Keep in mind, as a visitor, you run a risk of getting arrest just to “teach you a lesson.” If the shot is really worth it, best to avoid plunking down a tripod.

      When it comes to photographing even around police or military you’d be best to really know what you are doing in advance. Especially if you are there on holiday. Nothing like three days locked up on paperwork and a minor trumped up fine to make you really wonder “Did I NEED that shot?

      On the flip side, I’ve asked carabinieri for photos in Florence and they happily oblige. It really depends on how you play it.

      Hope you made it out ok.

  10. Yes, thank you – I didn’t make an issue of it, I packed up quietly. But I haven’t stopped using the tripod of course. Police and military watched me shoot with it this morning and made not the slightest interference. I never point the camera at them.

    Thanks again, Chris

    • Hi Chris,

      Sounds like a good plan. It is usually easier to negotiate things if you are can speak Italian. If not, best to steer clear unless you are eyeing up the shot of a lifetime…at which rate you may shoot first and ask for forgiveness later.


  11. Hi, i live down in puglia most of the time. Do a bit of street photography now and again. The people down here are worlds apart form the northern folk (not to say they are bad people up north, just different). I find attitude makes a MAJOR difference to how people react to you, also, wandering around with tonnes of gear, standing out like a sore thumb, tends to put people off. I take my dog pretty much everywhere with me, and as he’s super friendly, it’s generally a good conversation starter. In 5 years i’ve had one or two people huff and puff at me, and after causing a commotion in the street, a few under breath dialect profanities (from them AND me) are muttered, then each goes our own way. Most though (due to an ingrained Mediterranean vanity) actually enjoy it, and with a bit of explaining what your doing are perfectly fine. All my photos at the minute are purely for practice and learning my craft, will be starting a bit more full time as such, come the springtime. One thing i WILL keep to hand are a few dozen business cards with a couple of bits of info, instagram name, and email and my little logo. The main thing with the folks down here is they want to know WHY? Once that is out of the way most come back for a second shot :) It’s not as tedious, or terrifying as made to believe, just be cool with it, and there shouldn’t be any issues.

  12. Appreciated this, thank you. I live in Italy most of the time, and took a photograph people loved. I was searching for how the privacy laws would work if I tried selling it :-) I think I’m almost convinced I shouldn’t sell it …

  13. Salve, non so se le capita ancora di passare da queste parti per rispondere ai commenti, però io ci provo.
    Ho letto con interesse l’articolo poiché mi trovo ora in una situazione particolare. Ho scattato una foto “street” in Toscana, dove si vede chiaramente in faccia un signore che passava in strada. Si tratta di un campo medio, e non è in una situazione compromettente (cammina e parla al telefono). La foto penso si possa considerare “artistica” per il particolare gioco di ombre e luci, anche in relazione al suddetto signore. Ora mi piacerebbe partecipare ad un concorso fotografico con questa foto, i cui premi includono una mostra, la pubblicazione sul libro/catalogo e nel migliore dei casi (cioè quello del vincitore assoluto) una borsa di studio di $2500. Nella remota possibilità che venga premiata, verrebbe considerata “for profit” e quindi diventerei legalmente perseguibile?

      Hi, I do not know if it still happens to pass this way to respond to comments, but I try.
      I read with interest the article because I am now in a particular situation. I took a picture “street” in Tuscany, where it is clearly seen in his face a man who was passing in the street. It is a mean field, and is not in a compromising situation (walking and talking on the phone). The picture I think it can be considered “artistic” for the particular game of shadow and light, even in relation to the said lord. Now I’d like to participate in a photo contest with this photo, whose prizes include an exhibition, publication on the book / catalog and in the best case (that is the overall winner) a scholarship of $ 2500. In the remote chance of being awarded, it would be considered “for profit” and thus shall become liable for prosecution?
      Thank you,

      Hi Sabrina,
      Let’s see if you win the contest first. But even if you do, as he was on the street, it is unlikely that you would have to pay any modeling fees.
      If you are very concerned, after you win the competition, have a chat with an Italian lawyer, but I am yet to hear of any award winners needing to share award compensation with anyone in the photos. It is more when the pictures are taken and then used by a company in a large scale advertising campaign that things become an issue. Good luck with the award!

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