Guidance on filming and photographing people on campus

Did you know that a photograph or moving image of a person is part of their personal data? We all have a right to control our personal data, including pictures of us. So we need to take care when taking pictures or filming at our campuses.

The basics

The key thing is that people aren’t filmed or photographed without knowing it. They need to be aware that they are being filmed, know how to avoid it, know how to have their image removed if they don’t want it used, and understand how their image might be used. 

You might get that message across through posters or notices, public announcements, email or other means. They key thing is that you tell people - how you tell them depends on your situation.

If making people aware of filming and giving them the ability to refuse it is too complicated then you should consider using volunteers to pose for pictures.

Examples and scenarios

Portraits and pieces to camera. If you are doing a piece to camera or taking portrait shots of an individual then your focus is on them. Hopefully people can see you have a camera and they can choose to give the area a wide berth, and if they are just walking by in the background that isn’t a problem.

Scenic shots. If you are doing scenic shots, where your focus is on the buildings and landscapes, and there just happen to be people in it then it would be best if the camera and operator were clearly visible/identifiable to give people the option to move out of shot. If you’re moving in to take closer shots of group or individuals then just ask them if they are OK with that. If you’ve got a tripod or a camera with a big chunky lens people will guess that you’re at least semi-official. It becomes harder if you’re just roaming about with a mobile phone, because the assumption will be that you’re just taking shots for your own use. 

Drones. If you're filming with drones it's harder for people to see that you are filming, or where your camera is pointing. You need to take extra care to make sure people know that filming is taking place, and who they need to contact to have their image removed. Drones must not be used to capture footage of spaces where people would not normally expect to be overlooked, e.g. through windows of the upper storeys of buildings. Your use of the drone must comply with the University's guidance on Unmamed Aircraft Systems.

Indoors. If you’re in a space where people can’t really avoid being filmed at close quarters (perhaps a food outlet or an office space) then you need to make sure that everyone is comfortable with that. That will include clear signage at entrances. It could include having members of staff posted to catch people who come in without noticing signs and alerting them. The photographer needs to be obvious, and to be able to explain if asked what they are doing, how the pictures might be used, and who to contact if they don’t want their pictures to be used. 

Events. At events it would be useful to have something where you advertise the event and on the entrances to the event explaining that there will be filming. If it’s the kind of event that has a speaker or someone making opening announcements then make sure they tell the audience that there will be filming. 

Staff  pictures. Staff (and students) have a right not to have their pictures displayed. If you want to use staff or student pictures on your notice board or web page you must ask their permission.

Your own pictures. If you are taking pictures for your own personal use then these rules don't apply - but please use common sense and courtesy.

Private spaces

Make sure that you take extra care in places where people might expect extra levels of privacy (e.g. changing rooms, waiting areas for student support services). Do also think about what kind of activity you're taking pictures at: people who might not mind being pictured at football match might feel differently about being pictured at an LGBT event. 

Things to avoid

You must not:

  • use long lens cameras to capture recognisable images of individuals
  • take pictures of any individual who is drunk, unwell or visibly distressed

You must not film in the following locations without getting permission first:

  • the grounds of the Vice-Chancellor's house or Nursery
  • in close vicinity of Wivenhoe House Hotel

Still need help?

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