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Camera Restricta: Should a Camera Decide What Photos You Can Take?

By Alicia D'Amico on September 15th 2015

Imagine taking your camera out to photograph the Eiffel Tower after traveling 4,000 miles, only to have it tell you that you can’t take the photo because the object you want to photograph has already been captured too many times to be considered original subject matter. That is precisely what Philipp Schmitt is intending to do with his concept device, “Camera Restricta.” This camera idea uses a smartphone and GPS to locate you and search the Internet for images that have been geotagged in the nearby vicinity. If it determines that the scene you want to photograph has been shot too many times, it retracts the shutter, making it impossible for you to to take the picture.

Image taken from video screenshot

Image from video screenshot

Camera Restricta – A Tool For Censorship?

Philipp Schmitt believes that censorship of imagery is soon to be our reality and feels that a device such as Camera Restricta will simply help streamline that process. On his website post about this, he writes:

The European Parliament recently voted against a controversial proposal that threatened to restrict the photography of copyrighted buildings and sculptures from public places. The camera could be funded or subsidized by public and private sector institutions with an interest in regulating photography in certain places.

It’s censorship that doesn’t happen after, but before a picture was taken. Think of it like trying to scan a bank note with your flatbed scanner at home: it doesn’t work, software prevents it. Shouldn’t this be just a tool?

Camera Restricta

Image from video screenshot

My Thoughts on Camera Restricta

My first thought upon reading this news was, “Wow, really?” In my mind, I didn’t want to grasp a concept that would forbid me to take pictures, that while cliche to some would be original to myself. What I find most problematic is that the technology disables the shutter if part of the scene is familiar. Even if you figure out a way to photograph a popular attraction like the Washington Monument in a way that nobody else has, the shutter would disallow you from doing so because the object has already been photographed too many times. I feel that part of what we should be doing when taking pictures is challenging ourselves to see the scene in a way that others most often don’t. I personally would like to be rewarded for finding a unique angle or different composition by being able to click the shutter and have it render an image for my efforts.

I’m just imagining moms all over the world demanding their money back when they miss the shot of their sweet child taking their first steps because, you guessed it, Camera Restricta has decided that no more images of that child can be taken ever again. Sorry Grandma and Grandpa, you should have been there when the moment happened because technology just isn’t what it used to be.

Image taken from video screenshot

Image taken from video screenshot

On the other hand, there is something exciting about being the first or last person to take an image of a particular place or object. Camera Restricta allowing you to take a picture would entertain a certain sense of gratification and make oneself feel unique. This, in and of itself, could feel rewarding to some. But again, that is only in theory. All other cameras will not cease to exist which will allow people to continue photographing those locations or objects. Not to mention, not every image is geotagged which adds another layer of complexity to the realism of buying into this censorship based concept.

Image taken from video screenshot

Image from video screenshot

Image taken from video screenshot

Image from video screenshot

Would I Use Camera Restricta?

At the end of the day, if someone sent me a Camera Restricta free of charge, I might pack it in my bag for sheer entertainment purposes. It would indeed be fascinating to see what it does or does not allow, to try and outsmart it with clever manipulation or perhaps even to be beaten by it. That last sentence is quite revealing in that I do not see this as something that I personally would consider a serious camera but instead as a game to challenge myself to beat its design.

Would you buy Camera Restricta? Should a camera decide what photos you can take? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

[Via Wired]

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Alicia D’Amico is a Portrait, Fashion, Underwater and Wedding photographer based out of Tampa, Florida. She and her partner attract clients from far and wide that want a unique photographic experience. Her work has been featured on numerous magazine covers and featured editorial spreads. Alicia loves to travel the world, teach others, cuddle on the couch with her puppy and enjoys fun game nights with her closest friends.

To see more of her work or find out about her mentoring, visit her website, workshops, Facebook and Instagram.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. robert garfinkle

    Can you imagine, this device, telling you can’t take a picture of the Super / Blood moon because either there are already too many pictures of the moon or some B.S. claim that N.A.S.A. has rights over it…

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  2. Ralph Hightower

    I think as people that we want to be able to hold a tangible memory of where we were. As a photographer, “I freeze time!”, that is my super power. I finally checked off a 30 year old bucket list item witnessing and photographing the final Space Shuttle launch. Has the Space Shuttle been over photographed? Probably, NASA takes thousands of photographs for each launch and that doesn’t include the news media. But each launch was history.
    Since I checked off the only item on my “bucket list”, I had to think of another. Got it! The Aurora! I’ve never seen the aurora, but I want to see it. Has it been overphotographed? Probably, but it’s always changing.

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  3. Kyle Young

    Why on earth would it matter if people want to take their own version of a LANDMARK that has been photographed a million times? This has to be one of the dumbest ideas, somewhere near the smart water bottle. Can’t imagine anybody wanting to spend money on this crap.

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  4. Aidan Morgan

    I think there should be an option that will let you take the picture, but a small hand would emerge from the side of the camera and slap you.

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  5. Simon Grimley

    I like the concept as a tool to tell me that I’m not being as original in my shot as I think and forcing me to reconsider my composition.

    However blocking me from taking it is another matter and one I completely disagree with.

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  6. Paul Empson

    OK.. everyone has pretty much sumed up what a bonkers idea this is.. however the rebel in me is intrigued to see if I could be creative / sneaky enough to trick it into shooting a subject it bars me from taking.. hmmm

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    • Dave Haynie

      You could always put a tinfoil hat on the thing and mess up its GPS and internet connection. The only question at that point — is the “disable” opt-in or opt-out? I mean, image for a moment if, by default, the camera wouldn’t take a photo at all — it had to get permission. Then imagine all of the places that would make it useless.

      I didn’t like this idea from the start. The more I think about it, the stupider and less practical, even less possible it seems.

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    • Paul Empson

      The idea is like ‘doing a Ratner’ almost too stupid to believe they’d fund it’s creation..

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    • Alicia D’Amico

      It actually will not take photos if it cannot locate your GPS signal so it cannot be tricked that way.

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  7. Drew Pluta

    You mean I’ll never have to look at some hack photograph of an over/under dressed girl posing on train tracks ever again? You should have to get one of these before you’re allowed to by a pro DSLR.

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  8. Tom Marvel

    What’s next?
    Self driving Google cars that won’t take you somewhere because too many people have been there already?

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  9. Tom Marvel

    Contemplate the bright side:
    No more selfies of Kim Kardashian’s backside

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  10. Barry Cunningham

    It will probably be popular for gifting on April 1st, and regifting on every other day of the year.
    Think of it as maybe-not-so-constructive criticism.

    I hope they make a $250,000 platinum moon rock edition for Kim Kardashian.

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  11. Jay Rider

    I’m perfectly comfortable with saying this idea is a crock of crap. Lets say the wife and i visit paris and i want a picture of her with the Eiffel Tower in the background. I give absolute zero damns about how many millions of photos of the eiffel tower are on the internet. I want this photo for me and me alone. We can even take having a loved one in the photo out of the equation. What if i just plain like a photo of the NYC skyline that i want to take and hang up on the wall for myself?? It’ll be a cold day in hell before i own a piece of equipment that tells me that i can’t do that.


    bollocks the lot of it.

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    • Alicia D’Amico

      I absolutely agree. As I said in the article, what may be overshot or cliche to some is unique to me and my own experiences. If I want to photograph my family on a vacation I paid $$$ for and document the historic sites we visited, no camera is going to stop me from doing so. Or like you said, photographing a skyline. Should I have to purchase someone else’s skyline image that 100,000 other people have bought or should I be able to take it and process it the way I want it? I have a shot of the Miami Skyline that does not exist on any internet search because of the weather I shot it in and the way I processed it. It hangs in my living room, 6 ft in width.

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  12. Ben Perrin

    What a great idea, a camera that doesn’t take photos. What will these geniuses think of next?

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  13. robert garfinkle

    I’m with dave, yet this does anger me…

    This world is turning inside out, and it’s unlikable. Censorship, uh, where are we, Germany back in the day’s of Hitler? NEVER AGAIN!!!

    Corporations – Too Bad. Government, for those who live in areas which have a constitution / freedom (supposed to anyway) uh, you are PAID / ELECTED to protect our freedoms, not sequester them.

    If a person, corporation does not like people taking pictures, I’m sure there are plenty of countries that ban such behavior, live there. Move, get out…

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  14. Dave Haynie

    I think this is a stupid idea in itself, and a really bad policy to possible be working into law. Sure, amateurs are going to snap the same “me here” photos over and over again, but even those hold value for the individuals involved, and they’re not generally away of the others. It’s also flawed, because not only does a GPS use lots of juice (undoubtedly why the camera illustrated was larger than a couple 5Ds… huge batteries), but unless you’re moving, it can’t tell direction. So I whip my camera out and shoot… unless the camera has an even larger battery and a world-wide high speed cellular modem, there’s no way the system even knows what I’m shooting…. is it the Eiffel tower, or am I facing the other way, shooting the crowd or something?

    And the idea of images in a public space — building, etc — being copyrightable, that’s nonsense. The whole point of a public space is that it’s public… don’t want people to see and photograph your thing, build it elsewhere. As for private spaces like amusement parks, private museums, music festivals, sporting events, etc… they can and do limit the cameras allowed into the venue, if they think that’s important. No need to ruin the camera itself for normal uses… either let it in or don’t.

    I have a better idea… how about, rather than restricting those photos, since you’re accessing some vast repository of images, send the camera all kinds of data about the image. When you see with your eyes, you’re really seeing with your brain, and sometimes what you actually experience is a combination of what’s in front of you and your memories of that locale. So take that vast database of “already shot” photos and let me compose my own image, but intelligently apply what’s known about that too-often-photographed scene. Let me delete the crowd, or shoot in different light or weather, but fundamentally control my own composition. Not that I’m all THAT interested in the feature, but if you have that technology, that seems to apply it to good instead of evil.

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  15. Barry Cunningham

    I suppose you could only ever take one selfie with it.
    But, seriously, bricks are cheaper and have pretty much the same functionality.

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  16. Richie Schwartz

    I’m sure someone already hacked the system and is posted on Pirate Bay or somewhere lol

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  17. Brian Stricker

    “Oh look, there is Mickey and is the first and only time we will be able to take a family trip to see Disney, lets get a picture” DENIED…….Overshot subject…..Draw the kid a picture and move on.

    Using the argument that it blocks over shot scenes or objects is the most ridiculous. As the photographer that is my decision, not the cameras or the designer of the algorithm.

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  19. Cristian Rojas

    When I saw this post I remembered a video which many of you may have seen, it shows how we all take the same photographs over and over again. And come on, don´t deny it, you have done it too.

    We don´t like being told what we think is not special. But fact is, it rarely is. Being creative is not an easy process because it forces you to be hard on yourself, constantly critiquing your own ideas, images, and work.

    The way I see it, this is a tool to help in that process, this camera is exercise for your inner photographer, the one that at some point dreamed of capturing a truly unique image. Restrictions are many times the means to do great things, and what a greater thing for a photographer than to force himself to view the world in a different way.

    I for once, would love this camera!!

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    • Alicia D’Amico

      I am curious if you would feel that this camera alone would be sufficient though? I definitely like the idea of challenging myself to create unique imagery. I am in that constant pursuit on a daily basis as is. But imagine a camera telling you that you’ve taken too many images of your child or that you cannot take images of your family on your trip to Europe because everywhere has already been photographed. It works as a tool to challenge ourselves but not as a stand alone camera. It would, in my opinion, be a more effective tool if it allowed you to photograph something that has already been photographed provided that you’re the only person to have shot it that way.

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    • Dustin Baugh

      I think too many people here are missing the point of this. She’s not making a camera in hopes we all use it or that the functionality make it’s way into all Canikons. The camera itself is her art piece that is showing physically the same thing the Vemodalen video showed us on youtube.

      For that reason I would like it. Although I would prefer it as a phone app I could play with. It’s not going to stop me from taking a picture but it’s a fascinating reminder of what other people are shooting around me.

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  20. Paddy McDougall

    I find it hard to be polite about this product and I deleted my rant as its pointless. Who would buy such a product?

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