A Legal Guide to Run a Photography Business in the UAE

The UAE is an exciting place to start a photography business, and there are ample opportunities for commercial, fashion, tourism, portraiture, architectural, or news photography. However, before you start promoting yourself as a freelance photographer, you must arrange for the correct visa to ensure you have the legal right for a photography business.

Freelancer License:

  • The easiest option is to obtain a freelancer license for running your freelance photographic activities in the UAE.
  • Shams offers freelancer licenses to media professionals, such as photographers, to allow them to work independently as freelance media professionals.

Shams Media License for Freelancers:

  • Shams offers media licenses to freelancers undertaking various activities, including e-commerce, advertising, media production, and photography services. You can choose from a wide range of 1 Year Freelance Packages, such as Zero Visa Package, Zero Visa (Shared Desk), and One Visa Package.
  • Only one shareholder is permissible in a freelance package. Each package is for one activity only. For additional activities, you need to pay extra per activity.
  • The packages include only the fee for company formations (issue of License, Certificate of Formation, MOA, and AOA). Other fee for immigration card, investor visa, medical fees, employee visa fees, and fee for change of status are additionally payable. External approvals are also not included in the package. The fee for external approvals, if required, will be subject to the relevant authority.

Photographic Activities Permitted in Shams Free Zone:

Which photography license is most appropriate for you will depend on which photographic activities you plan to perform. At Shams Free Zone, you can undertake the following photographic activities:

1. Commercial And Consumer Photograph Production:

  • Portrait photography for use in passports, schools, weddings, etc.
  • Photography for commercials, fashion, real estate, tourism, or publishers
  • Aerial photography
  • Videorecording of events like weddings, meetings, etc.

2. Film Processing:

  • Developing, printing, and enlarging from negatives sourced through clients or cine films
  • Film developing and photo printing laboratories
  • One-hour photoshops
  • Mounting of slides
  • Copying and restoring or transparency retouching of photographs

3. Activities Of Photojournalists

4. Microfilming Of Documents

Setting Up a Photo Studio in the UAE:

  • If you wish to set up a studio for personal or family portraits and passport photography services, you will require a physical office space and staff to operate. If you register in a free zone, you will be limited to operating inside the free zone alone.
  • The number of extra visas granted to you will vary, depending on where and how you incorporate, the type of permit you obtain, and space you rent.

Permissions Required for Photography/Videography in Public Places:

  • Taking photos of people is a sensitive issue in UAE’s local culture. Furthermore, taking photos of women and families in the UAE in public places is forbidden.
  • If you are working on a commercial campaign, you must obtain the required permissions that will allow you to conduct a photo shoot in a public place.
  • Tourist attractions such as malls also require you to obtain permission before the visit.
  • You will also require prior approval to click images with professional cameras around most hotels.
  • As per UAE law, taking photos or videos of people without their consent is punishable. If your photo or video violates the privacy of another individual, you may face serious consequences.
  • A photographer or videographer keeping, showing, sharing, exhibiting, distributing, or publishing photos or video footage of an individual without their permission is deemed illegal in the UAE.
  • You cannot post another individual’s work (photo or video) online without consent from the individual. Also, you cannot tag someone online without their prior consent.
  • For security reasons, it is illegal to capture the footage of restricted areas, including government organisations, critical installations, political buildings, and military locations.


You need to know the laws before you plan to start your photography business in the UAE. When you decide to start your photography business, consider incorporating your business in Shams Free Zone. Shams Free Zone is one of the most cost-effective and business-friendly hubs in the UAE for all photographic activities. Visit www.shams.ae or call Shams authorities at 800 (Shams) 74267 to learn more about setting up your photography business.

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