Today, almost everyone has a smartphone with a high-resolution camera, consequently transforming the best of us into amateur photographers. So when can you legally take photos in a public place? Below, we set out some considerations you should bear in mind before sharing your snaps.    

The General Rule

In Australia, there is no general right to privacy, and you can usually take a picture in a public place. Justice John Dowd best summarised the position when he said a “person, in our society, does not have a right not to be photographed (R v Sotheren [2001] NSWSC 204 at [25]). 

Photos Taken From a Public Place

There is no restriction on taking photos from a public place of subjects that are on private property. However, in this situation, you should be wary.  Under the common law, you can be found liable for nuisance or interfering with a person’s right to use and enjoy their land (see Bathurst City Council v Saban (1985) 2 NSWLR 704). “Snooping” into someone’s private property can interfere with their right of use and peaceful enjoyment.


Notably, although you may be able to take photos in a public place, you cannot grossly intrude on someone’s privacy. Each Australian state and territory regulates any gross violation of privacy. For example, it is a criminal offence to take a photo of someone without permission, where the person is doing a “private act” and the person can reasonably expect privacy. Private acts can include things such as using the toilet, showering, or having sex in private. Penalties can be up to two years in jail. 

Photos for Commercial Use

Photos taken for commercial use are sometimes treated differently than when you are taking pictures for private use. So, if you are taking photos for an advertising campaign or a music festival, you should obtain a “model release form” or “location release form” signed by the subjects you are photographing.

A model release form typically includes an assignment of intellectual property rights (i.e. the subject of the photo gives the photographer the right to use, publish and share their photo). A release form will also likely state the purposes for which the photographer will use the image, including for commercial use (e.g. a street style blog). Failing to obtain a release form may incur liability for breach of council regulations or damages for trespass.

Private property owners or public entities such as local councils, educational institutions or museums may permit photography in certain situations under terms of entry. You should be aware of these terms before entering the premises.

Key Takeaways

Although the starting position is that you can take photos in public, you should always be respectful of others – you wouldn’t want someone with a camera lens in your face or intruding your personal space. You should also consider asking your subjects to sign a release form if you are taking photos in a commercial capacity. If you have any questions about taking photos in public or need assistance drafting a model release form, get in touch with our intellectual property team on 1300 544 755.  

COVID-19 Business Survey
LegalVision is conducting a survey on the impact of COVID-19 for businesses across Australia. The survey takes 2 minutes to complete and all responses are anonymous. We would appreciate your input. Take the survey now.

About LegalVision: LegalVision is a tech-driven, full-service commercial law firm that uses technology to deliver a faster, better quality and more cost-effective client experience.

The majority of our clients are LVConnect members. By becoming a member, you can stay ahead of legal issues while staying on top of costs. For just $199 per month, membership unlocks unlimited lawyer consultations, faster turnaround times, free legal templates and members-only discounts.

Learn more about LVConnect

Esther Mistarz
Need Legal Help? Get a Free Fixed-Fee Quote

If you would like to receive a free fixed-fee quote or get in touch with our team, fill out the form below.

  • By submitting this form, you agree to receive emails from LegalVision and can unsubscribe at any time. See our full Privacy Policy.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
Our Awards
  • 2019 Top 25 Startups - LinkedIn 2019 Top 25 Startups - LinkedIn
  • 2019 NewLaw Firm of the Year - Australian Law Awards 2019 NewLaw Firm of the Year - Australian Law Awards
  • 2020 Fastest Growing Law Firm - Financial Times APAC 500 2020 Fastest Growing Law Firm - Financial Times APAC 500
  • 2020 AFR Fast 100 List - Australian Financial Review 2020 AFR Fast 100 List - Australian Financial Review
  • 2020 Law Firm of the Year Finalist - Australasian Law Awards 2020 Law Firm of the Year Finalist - Australasian Law Awards
  • Most Innovative Law Firm - 2019 Australasian Lawyer 2019 Most Innovative Firm - Australasian Lawyer
Privacy Policy Snapshot

We collect and store information about you. Let us explain why we do this.

What information do you collect?

We collect a range of data about you, including your contact details, legal issues and data on how you use our website.

How do you collect information?

We collect information over the phone, by email and through our website.

What do you do with this information?

We store and use your information to deliver you better legal services. This mostly involves communicating with you, marketing to you and occasionally sharing your information with our partners.

How do I contact you?

You can always see what data you’ve stored with us.

Questions, comments or complaints? Reach out on 1300 544 755 or email us at

View Privacy Policy