Can I take photographs of British Library material myself?

See the tools and techniques you should use when you photograph our collection items.

Find out what you can photograph in our Reading Rooms.

Yes, you are allowed to use your compact camera, tablet and or mobile phone to photograph some of our collections. Please ask a member of staff if you need any guidance.

Not all items are available to photograph and preservation restrictions still apply. Photographs taken in the Reading Rooms are still subject to copyright, privacy and data protection legislation. The photographs must only be used for personal reference purposes, not for commercial purposes.

General guidelines

You can use a compact camera, tablet or camera phone but no tripods or additional camera lenses and no handheld scanners are allowed.

Please turn off your camera flash and any audible sound or alerts.
To minimise disruption to others, try sitting down when you use or photograph the collection. If you have to stand, you may be directed to a designated area within the Reading Room.

Some categories of material may only be photographed at designated desks within the Reading Rooms. Staff will advise if this is the case.

There are some items you can't photograph

Some material is excluded from self-service photography. This includes:

  • items that have not yet been assessed as appropriate for photography
  • restricted or special access material
  • items where their format, size or condition means they are at risk of damage
  • items that are clearly marked ‘no copying’
  • items where there may be data protection, privacy or third party rights issues.

Photography of people or collection items other people are using is not permitted. We also don’t allow any audio or video recording.

Because of licence restrictions that apply to some of our electronic resources, photography of computer screens is not permitted.

Copyright and privacy laws

Please adhere to copyright, data protection and privacy laws.

If an item is still in copyright you can only copy a certain amount. We therefore recommend that you only copy a book chapter, an article, or no more than 5% of an incopyright work for your own private study or non-commercial research purposes.

If you have the permission or a licence from the person or company that controls the copyright, you may copy more.

You may also copy more than 5% if copyright has expired, and where the condition of the item allows.

The Data Protection Act 1998 as well as other privacy laws may apply to the use of any information obtained from our collections.

If you wish to publish copies made, you are advised to contact the Intellectual Property Office or for information or advice.

You are responsible for any copies made which infringe copyright, data protection, privacy, or other laws.

Please handle the collection with care

Handle all collection items with care as all use increases wear and tear.

Although self-service photography may be convenient, it is not always the most suitable option. It’s good for capturing small detail but if you want to refer to whole pages you may get a better result by scanning the item using the self-service scanners in the Reading Rooms, if that option is available.

The Library offers a wide range of imaging services including digital images, scanned or paper copies and photographic prints.

Hold your device firmly with both hands to avoid dropping it on the collection items. If your device has a hand or neck strap please use it.

Book supports and weights are available in the Reading Room which will, in some cases, make it easier to photograph an item. Please don’t manipulate or distort items to get a better image.