Photography and filming in school: when the Data Protection Act applies


In the modern age, cameras have become an integral part of our lives. From smartphones to professional gear, capturing moments through photography and filming has become second nature for many. In educational institutions like schools, capturing events such as sports days, graduation ceremonies, plays, or school trips is a common practice. However, under certain circumstances, taking photographs and recording videos in schools may fall under the purview of the Data Protection Act (DPA). This article delves into understanding when the DPA applies to photography and filming in schools.

Understanding the Data Protection Act

The Data Protection Act (DPA) is a law designed to protect individuals’ privacy by regulating how personal data is collected, stored, used, and accessed. Personal data refers to any information relating to an identifiable living individual, including their name, address, telephone number, or even photographs or videos that can identify them.

When Does the DPA Apply?

In most situations concerning photographs and filming within schools, the DPA will come into effect when:

1. The purpose of capturing a photograph or video is for official school use,

2. The images are stored electronically (digital format) and can be used to identify individuals,

3. Individuals captured in the images have not provided their explicit consent.

For example, taking school portraits might fall under the scope of the DPA if they are used without consent for official documentation such as student identification cards or electronic records.

DPA Exceptions for Schools

There are certain exceptions where DPA does not apply to photography or filming within schools:

1. If the photos or videos are intended solely for personal use, such as by family members capturing special moments,

2. If material captured is part of a journalism project undertaken by students,

3. If images are not stored electronically but rather as physical prints only.

In these cases, obtaining consent from individuals before capturing their image is still considered best practice.

Consent and Safeguarding

When it comes to collecting and using personal data, schools have a duty to be transparent and obtain consent from those involved. Consent must be:

1. Freely given – the individual must not be subject to coercion or pressure,

2. Informed – the purpose for capturing or using the images must be clearly explained,

3. Unambiguous – an individual should clearly indicate their agreement through a positive act (either written or oral).

It is important for schools to have a clear photography and filming policy in place that outlines how personal data in the form of images will be processed, handled, stored, and used.


In summary, the Data Protection Act applies to photography and filming activities when personal data is being captured, stored, or used electronically within schools without explicit consent. Schools must ensure they have a robust consent process in place to safeguard students and staff’s privacy while also fostering an environment that allows valuable memories to be captured responsibly.

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