Please note that the information on this website regarding photographers' rights and UK law must not be regarded as authoritative. It is written in general terms with a view to increasing general everyday understanding. However it is neither intended to provide authoritative advice nor to be used as guidance in specific cases. Anyone seeking authoritative advice regarding such matters, or anyone involved in a particular legal case, must seek the advice of a suitably qualified solicitor.
UK law does not enshrine a set of rights for photographer - or anyone else for that matter! Rather, it incorporates a list of legal restrictions, some of which have particular relevance to the activities of photographers..
UK law is generally tolerant regarding photography. Although numerous exceptions exist, the general rule is that photographers are free to photograph whatever and whoever they wish provided the photography takes place in a public place (and the subject is also in a public place). Such photographs can be used for personal or commercial purposes without seeking permission. On private property, permission to take photographs is generally required. However, it is important to be aware of the legal exceptions to this rather sweeping statement, and also of the practical implications of sticking to your legal rights. In particular, the photographer must not harass or obstruct the subject, and must not trespass. Neither must the photographer infringe the anti-terrorism laws or The Official Secrets Act 1911.
Taking photographs from a public highway of someone in a private house or garden, perhaps using a long telephoto lens, may be regarded as an infringement of their rights to privacy. Taking photographs in a similar manner of a military establishment or equipment might lead to some misunderstanding with police or military authorities. Taking photographs of children in a public park without seeking the permission of their parents would be at least unwise in today's highly protective environment. Taking photographs of homeless people, street walkers, drug dealers etc is unlikely to be welcomed whatever the circumstances. Even if your actions are within the law, you may well end up with a broken camera - or worse.
In summary, photographers must work within the law but also use their common sense.