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Where can I not take pictures?

I am a huge picture taker, so I was wondering where in Europe that people have encountered that they were not allowed to take pictures?

Posted by
421 posts

Hi Billie I too am an advid photographer.
In my experience it depends where you are.
In paris there is some law about not using a tripod as it implies you are professional. I took a monopod to a chateau in the loire valley and I was made to check it at coat check. I never have had any problems but I have seen security stop a person outside of the louvre with a tripod.

many churches and museumes will not allow photography. But oddly the only place in Paris where I know you can not take photos is Sacre Cour. Everywhere else seems to allow it but without flash, which makes sense.
but outside mostly everything is fair game.

Posted by
131 posts

As noted already, not in most museums and many churches (to protect the work and respect the privacy of those worshipping)- that said, even in the Vatican museums other tourists were whipping out a camera with flash. It makes me angry. WHY do this? Gazing upward at Michelangelo's masterpiece, my long-awaited "moment", and being surrounded by flashes and clicks is frustrating. Don't get me wrong, I love to take photographs, too, that document my own impressions of what I see. Something that catches my own eye or imagination- like the photo of an old bike chained to a fence on a bridge in Amsterdam with a typical canal scene in back- takes me right back to that moment. Or my family all lined up with gelato cones by the gondolas in Venice...but why snap a photograph of a painting which you can easily purchase in the museum giftshop for your scrapbook, later? Arghhh...

Posted by
389 posts

I'm with Karen. Be respectful and thoughtful. If there is a great piece of art, there will be postcard with a better shot than you can get. I love the info in RS Europe through the back door. He encourages the unusual and the personal. Ask strangers if you can take their pictures, not them take yours. Look at things from a new perspective (he says clock tower through the horses legs?) And buy the postcard. Linda

Posted by
808 posts

Be cautious when taking pictures of Military control towers/Bases/vehicles. I encountered this in Northern Ireland. I was asked a few questions about why I was taking the pictures by a Millitary Police Officer. I managed to satisfy his questioning but it made me uncomfortable just the same. He suggested that it might be better to ask permission first next time I want to pose with an armoured vehicle, especially in the Shankill Rd area of Belfast. (This is the Catholic/Protestant zone.) This happened in the recent past.
I later that day asked for permission and they were pleased to oblige and even posed with me. I guess if you ask first, they know you aren't up to something.

Posted by
49 posts

If I were in a smallish church that did not have giant NO PHOTOS ALLOWED signs I would still ask whoever looked to be in charge if taking a picture is OK. You must be very respectful of the people who are in their own neighborhood churches to pray.

I agree, postcards is the way to go. Most churches sell them.

The Swiss Guards will not allow you to jump in and be photograhed with them though it's OK to take a picture of them alone!

Posted by
80 posts

Greek churches and monasteries do not like, and many do not allow photography, with or without a flash. In Athens they were pretty easy going about it, but in the countryside and on the islands we found the personnel to be very diligent and did not allow pictures. We did what the other posters suggested and purchased post cards.

Posted by
215 posts

My wife loves taking pictures which has produced a wide variety of responses. Some places strictly forbid any photos such as the Sistine Chapel, but the rude click away anyway making it a less enjoyable experience for everyone. Others places seem in flux. In 2004 the British Museum forbid photography in the Egyptian area
but in 2006 it was full of folks snapping away and no
officials seemed to mind. Many places in Europe charge
an extra fee to take photos on top of the entrance fee,
St. Marys on the Square in Krakow comes to mind.

Posted by
705 posts

Generally I have found that it is preferred you don't take photos in some of the more important churches. Usually there will be a large sign saying this. However in my experience this has never stopped anyone. I was in the Sistine Chapel 3 months ago and 80% of the people were madly taking photos even though the attendants were loudly saying every 5 minutes that photos were not allowed. I suppose it comes down to respecting where you are. If you don't use flash in churches and are fairly low key you probably won't have any problems.

Posted by
17 posts

Thank you everyone for your replies. I will definitely keep an eye out for the signs.

And I will have to remember the idea about postcards.

Posted by
192 posts

The reason most museums don't allow photos is because the constant flashing eventually damages the paintings.

When we were in Italy last year, we were stunned at how many people just kept on flashing, in spite of signs and announcements every few minutes.

But, most of the jerks ended up losing their cameras, ha ha, because there were MANY museum guards, 1 or 2 per room, and they didn't warn, they just went over and took the cameras away. I don't know if the people got them back or not.

Buying postcards of what you saw is great because most of the time it's a much better photo. I also usually end up buying the book about whatever museum I've been in.

I agree with the poster who mentioned the Sistine Chapel...we were amazed at the level of noise in there, despite the frequent announcements--in several languages--that this IS a chapel, please be quiet.

Posted by
12040 posts

Here are some of the places I have encountered that prohibit in-door photography:
Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau;
Many of the chateaux in the Loire Valley;
British Crown Jewels at the Tower of London;
The incinerators at Auschwitz;
The Old Library at Trinity College, Dublin (home of the Book of Kells);
Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Sofia;
Flash photography is almost universally banned during religious services at the larger churches. And in Russia, many of the museums allow photography if you purchase a special pass for a nominal fee.

Posted by
17 posts

Is it obvious where one can take non-flash photography compared to no photography at all?

Posted by
473 posts

If non-flash photography is allowed, there will be a sign that has a camera with a flash attached. The flash will have the circle with a slash logo over it. When in doubt, just ask an attendant. Every attendant we have encountered understands "Photo OK?" and "No flash."

Posted by
191 posts

I found most places have signs for whether you can take photos, and with or without flash, some places are more strict than others. I found that you can't take photos at Westminster Abby, Sacre Clour in Paris, Doge's Palace in Venice, Most of the museums in Amsterdam including the Anne Frank House and Van Gough. Most of these places where pretty strict and made people walking around to make sure you were not talking photos. You can take photos throughout the Vatican, but the one thing I was suprised about was the sistine chapel, while there are guards constantly telling people not to take photos many are, even with a flash! I think it's fine if you take a photo as long as it does not have a flash, as many know, many flashes over time can ruin the art. Also if you know a little about cameras my ditigal canon has manuel settings, I would often reduce the shutter speed or change the aperature to get a good photo without the flash.

Posted by
7 posts

So many people say that flash photography damages art, that I am starting to wonder. A single flash strobe is roughly equivalent to about 30 seconds of "normal" light. OK, that adds up, if 1,200 people per day flash at a picture, that will add one extra day of light damage, which is meaningless compared with the damage inflicted by perspiration, CO2, changes of temperature and extra ventilation for that many visitors... For the less famous picture, which gets maybe a visitor per hour, the amount of damage that conventional flash photography would produce is totally beneath anything ever measurable. I would be glad if someone more knowledgeable could point at some evidence to the contrary, but, as a photographer and Astronomy teacher, I believe I know what light impact means. Now, as Karen and others point out, "it breaks the spell", and that is deserving of respect. The very concentrated amount of light in a flash, even if it lasts less than a tenth of thousanth of a second does hurt the eyes, and is simply "gauche" when sharing a place with others. As to the main question, I also want to know as much about this, to avoid visiting places that forbid even flash-less photography, and favor with my entry fees and support those that understand the advantages of free advertising they get from happy visitors that take pictures home, and/or the fact that they are merely guardians of the heritage that belongs to us all. BTW, anything earlier that 1929 is not covered by copyright, and not necessarily all that came later is. But I am learning to avoid trying to reason with curators - my impression is that they cherish the power they have to forbid something. Plenty other places where people are more welcoming. Thanks to all that share here! OTOH, I have found places where there is a "no pictures" sign, but asking gets you the permission, but again, I'd rather just go somewhere else.

Posted by
4684 posts

Lone men should be very cautious about taking photos in the UK anywhere there are children. There's still extreme hysteria about pedophilia in some circles and you might get jumped by vigilantes.

Posted by
61 posts

I've always wondered about the flash thing too- although I err on the side of caution and don't use it. I know this rule began back in the days of flashbulbs (which I am barely old enough to remember :) ) because they would produce a gas that could ruin the art. With modern flashes though, is this an issue anymore? And yes, to repeat what the others have said, you will definitely be told if you are taking pictures in a place that photography is not allowed. I was in Sacre Coeur and I thought that would be a nice place to review the pictures I had taken because it was dark and I could see the screen. In about two seconds someone came over and told me to put the camera away.

Posted by
32265 posts

Sydney, I am old enough to remember Flash Bulbs, but I don't remember them giving off much gas? The older "flash powder" was a different story. Flash Bulbs typically used Magnesium or Zirconium inside a glass bulb (sometimes with plastic coating to provide specific type of light) and were of course a "one use" device. I've had a few burned fingers removing them from the holder. I don't recall any instances of them "breaking", but of course that was a long time ago and my memory has faded a bit. Cheers!

Posted by
1986 posts

A number of churches (including St Chappelle) allow photography for a fee (fund raising!). But I dont remmebr noticing that in Museums and art galleries. One reason to ban flash is that they are obtrusive on other people- particularly in a church

Posted by
2193 posts

Someone mentioned taking photos of military stuff...reminded me of the photos we snapped while at the Eiffel Tower. We asked if it would be okay first and then snapped a couple of shots with us and two military guys patrolling the grounds. It was funny looking back at the photos later, because these guys were pretty small and looked to be about 14 years old. And their berets were like twice the normal size. At any rate, I'm sure they would have been quite effective if called into action (their automatic weapons looked impressive anyway), but I just didn't get the same sense of the confident macho army guy that one might get when thinking about their US counterparts. At any rate, the point is that you should probably ask first before taking photos of things military, and it's probably a polite thing to ask before taking any photos of any person anywhere.

Posted by
61 posts

Ken, It has been a long time since I've seen a flash bulb, so I guess I was thinking that the powder was some kind of smoke or gas. I did think that that was what ruined the art, not just the light from the bulb. Could be wrong though!

Posted by
110 posts

Billie, The others covered your question pretty well. However, when I go to Munich there are areas that will allow nude sunbathing in some really picturesque places. I found myself snapping away not even thinking that it might look like I was some perv American taking pictures of the naked people. I had to be careful of that.
Bob