Photography Restrictions in Foreign Countries

BY Beth Williams

No photo imageWhat you video or photograph in some foreign countries could land you in trouble. Some countries other than the U.S. have stricter rules about what you may photograph or film than we do. This is especially true when it comes to taking photographs of certain government buildings.  It appears that most of the problems arise when the destination you are visiting is having an internal security issue. If you are caught taking photographs/video of certain locations you could be detained, fined, and have your camera equipment and film confiscated. Some of the locations travelers have run into trouble taking photos and/or video include:

Border areas
Scene of a civil disorder or other public disturbance
Police and or military personnel or installations
Industrial structures including harbor, rail, airport facilities

Considerations Before You Go

  1. Equipment transportation – What do you need to do to protect your camera and equipment?
  2. Customs consideration – It may be helpful to register your equipment with U.S. Customs before leaving the country. You will receive a receipt verifying that you owned the equipment before departing. Ask at the check-in counter at the airport.
  3. Batteries – Do you have spare batteries? Will you need a power converter for your battery charger? Do you have the correct type of plug for the electrical supply?
  4. Videotapes – Do you have plenty of tape? Will you need to protect your tapes in transit with a lead-shielding bag?
  5. Security – What special consideration must you give regarding the security of your equipment?
  6. Cultural Differences – How will the people in the country react to being videotaped? Will you need to ask permission or “pay” to shoot video? Are certain items restricted from being videotaped?
  7. Language – Do you know the basic language to communicate with people when you want to videotape?


One thing you definitely need to take into consideration is the inspection process of at airports post-September 11.  Hand-inspection — which averts the risks X-rays pose — may not be available at some airports.