Photographing the National Trust by Peter Greenway


Last Wednesday (27 February 2019) LBPC members were both informed and entertained by Peter Greenway LRPS CPAGB who described for us, with a bit of tongue in cheek, the trials, tribulations, constraints and opportunities of formally photographing for the National Trust on a voluntary basis.

Peter is an IT professional but has been interested in photography since he was a child.  He is a member of Kidlington Camera Club Photo Group and Witney Photo Group, as well as a CACC judge (although he has never previously visited LBPC).  His favourite photographic genres are night (especially fun fairs and cityscapes), historical, landscape, macro, and “quirky” – and he showed us examples of all of these.  He is also a contributor to Arcangel, a stock photography library that provides images for, among other things, book covers.

Peter has been visiting National Trust properties since he was a child and became a lifetime member way back in his 20s (some 30 years ago).  He loves history and heritage and is fascinated by historical objects.  In addition, he finds National Trust sites extremely photogenic.  And he has a passion for National Trust teashops!

So, when an advert appeared in December 2014 for a National Trust volunteer photographer, Peter’s wife persuaded him to apply.  And that is how it all started.

After two interviews, an assessment of his image portfolio and a DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) check, Peter joined the education team at Waddesdon Manor (the nearest property to where he lives in Bicester) to document children’s activities and events (such as the annual Easter Egg hunt).  He is part of the London and South East network and also covers Chastleton House and Ashdown House.  Although he is a volunteer, he is committed to one day a month of “work” and to attending all required training and workshops.

Peter regards it as his photographic challenge to amalgamate all his own photographic interests into something useful for the National Trust.  Among other things, that means contributing images to promote the National Trust’s nationally directed themes:

  • Volunteering in action;
  • Ecology;
  • Conservation in action;
  • Diversity;
  • Inspiring landscapes; and,
  • Quirky items.

It also means working within the National Trusts constraints and guidelines.  There is an 84-page Branding Guide to ensure that he takes the “right images” and covers all the different “visitor types” that the National Trust has “targeted”.  And there is a Pocket Guide of “Dos and Don’ts” which includes eight tips:

  • Check the website to ensure the picture does not already exist;
  • Be clear about the purpose of the image;
  • Check you have permission to use the image;
  • Go for a warm welcoming feel;
  • Try to connect the viewer to the place;
  • Reflect diversity;
  • Ask yourself “does it look authentic?”;
  • Show the image you’ve chosen to someone else.

The National Trust is extremely cautious about having the relevant permissions to use images.  So there is also an Image Rights & Permissions Guide.  Release forms have to be obtained for all identifiable people (property release forms for objects) in photographs.  And, since January 2018, there have also been the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) to take into account.

Once taken, images need to be uploaded to the National Trust image library.  They may be rejected by the National Trust if they do not conform with all the relevant guidance, or do not conform to the brief, or are too creative, or for some other unexpected reason (such as “direct eye engagement”).  Copyright is “donated” to the National Trust but the author retains the right to make private use of an image.

Peter showed us his images from the properties he covers.  At Waddesdon Manor, he is used for children’s events and activities and for other events – especially, more recently, by the marketing team for “promotional” material.  The images appear on social media, the Waddeston pages of the National Trust website, the National Trust Central Picture Library, the National Trust Smartphone App, roadside advertising hoardings, and National Trust printed material.

Similar use is made of Peter’s images at Chastleton House.  His images at Ashdown House have been used in the National Trust Handbook.

While all the constraints imposed by the National Trust may seem to make working for the organisation as a volunteer photographer somewhat challenging – and there was a regular cri de coeur of “sometimes they forget I’m a volunteer!” – Peter clearly had no regrets about taking on the role.  He said he had got an enormous amount out of it, including:

  • The photographic challenge;
  • The technical challenge;
  • Learning to mitigate risk;
  • Learning to work with restrictions;
  • Working to a brief (that might not be his choice of photography);
  • Sticking to a brief;
  • Working outside his comfort zone;
  • Being made to think about composition;
  • Having privileged access within National Trust properties;
  • Sometimes getting good competition images along the way;
  • Seeing his images published; and, by no means least,
  • Giving something back to an organisation that, over many years, has given him so much pleasure.

Peter’s love for all the history and heritage inherent in the National Trust and its properties shone through his presentation.  He provided so much information – easily hitting his own brief of covering the trials, tribulations, constraints and opportunities – and showed us plenty of his very professional-looking National Trust images.  This educational presentation was very much enjoyed by the assembled members.

More of Peter’s work can be found on

Flickr –

Instagram – @petergreenway

Twitter – @pez_photography