Visual Marketing Blog

003 - Creating an in-store photo policy


I have been tossed out of more stores than I care to admit because they noticed I was carrying a suspicious and pernicious device. A device so controversial that I was forced to choose -- to stay in the store or to put away this controversial thing -- my camera. a store that is your right. But is it your policy? That's where things always get murky. Let's talk about having a photo policy, what should it contain, and how you enforce it. 

Focal points

Why do you need a policy?

  • So you enforce either denying or allowing photography consistently
  • So you encourage or discourage a desired action
  • So employees know what to do
  • So your staff can explain your decision to customers

Should you allow in-store photographs?

Flickr photo by George Thomas.

Flickr photo by George Thomas.

  • Would it create a security issue?
  • Does it create a problem with the way your business will be represented?
  • Does it create a safety issue?
  • Is there the potential of infringing on your intellectual property rights?
  • Would it violate a reasonable expectation of privacy?

Why would you? 

  • Make it a business objective, marketing or sales strategy.
  • Helps you build a community.
  • Harness the photo sharing that already occurs.
  • Promote your best customers & give them the opportunity to share the love.
  • Improve your SEO and link backs.
  • Feed your Instagram, Flickr, Pinterest sites.
  • Market research on what customers like best.

What elements should your policy include?

  • Is photography allowed?
  • Under what conditions?
  • If yes, how do we encourage you to use them?
  • If no, why not?
  • When might permission be revoked and by whom?
  • What happens if you refuse to comply? (With an employee or another customer?)
  • Who is the enforcing authority on site?
  • What is the appeals/complaints process?
  • What equipment does it cover?

Other issues

  • You can manage the process by creating areas favorable to photography -- better light and presentation opportunities.
  • What is your flash photography policy? 
  • Advertise your photo op policy and preferred locations in store - "We smile for photographs"
  • Don't tell them what to photograph. Many photographers don't want to be a part of your propaganda machine. They shoot what they want.
  • Can you re-use photos with permission?
  • How does the policy differ for professional photographers?
Flickr photo by Viewminder.

Flickr photo by Viewminder.

Call to action

Do you need a photo policy? Use the questions above to begin the conversation and a first draft. Let me know what you create.


What are the two things more important to your success than natural talent? Decisions and effort.


Flickr discussion: Help us define Starbucks in-store photo policy

New York Times: Restaurants turn camera shy

Busboys and Poets: Media FAQs

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I'd love to hear from you. If you have a question about branding with photography or a topic you would like me to address on an upcoming episode, email me.

Are you taking smart pictures to communicate your business or organization? Share them with me. Tweet them or post them on Instagram with the hashtag #smartpictures. I'd love to feature examples of your great work.

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