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I have some photographs of vehicles that will be used on a website. I was previously planning to only blur out the registration numbers on vehicles not owned by the company, but it recently came to my attention that they'll be changing these vehicles and there's a possibility the old vehicles will be sold to a new owner.

I'm not really worried about any legal ramifications. I just want some sensible advice.

I can think of three options:

  1. Blur the vehicle registration numbers.

  2. Blank the registration plates to their background colour.

  3. Leave it and don't worry.

If you know of more options please suggest them. Altering the numbers/letters on the license plates for each and every photograph would be too much work.

What should I do about genuine license plates in a photograph?

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    If you're not worried about legal issues, then I assume you're asking what would look best? I imagine leaving them as-is would be the best option visually. – DA01 Feb 21 '15 at 2:38
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Often it's easy to just remove a character or add one, thus making it an inaccurate plate that can't be found. I'll also shuffled the characters in addition to removing/adding one if I need the plate to still look like a plate. (no such thing as a 5 or 8 digit non-persoanlized plate)

Blurring or blanking works, but can often be a magnet for the eye since it's out of the "norm". It really depends upon usage.


That being posted, plates are registered to the current owner of the vehicle. When a vehicle is sold you should remove the plates if they are yours. Chances are if the vehicles are to be sold, they won't have the same plates for the new owner.

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    in many states the plates stay with the vehicle drivinglaws.aaa.com/laws/transfer-of-plates – jqning Jun 5 '15 at 18:50
  • Guess I've always lived in states where they are to be removed. – Scott Jun 5 '15 at 18:56
  • Changing a letter is a pretty good option I think. Not too time-consuming, and does the job. The only problem is it might be more difficult at some angles. Also, as James Keuning pointed out, vehicles are usually sold with their license plates in the UK. – Dom Jun 5 '15 at 22:03
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I prefer to add some detail to the site by removing what is there and using Photoshop to:

  • put the company logo in the license plate
  • Tag line or company phrase
  • website URL

Just putting solid colors and blurring out the plate can be an eye sore on the design but adding subtle details related to the company adds extra value and shows you paid some attention to the images.

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    If large enough I do this as well. If smaller then I generally take the time to make it a blank state plate from wherever it was from originally (for National publications) or wherever it will be displayed (if regional publication). – Ryan Jun 5 '15 at 15:56
  • Great answer, I don't suppose you could share a real-life example? – user56reinstatemonica8 Jun 5 '15 at 16:20
  • @user568458 an example of mine or one pulled from a site? If you want an example of mine I do not want to post my work. – DᴀʀᴛʜVᴀᴅᴇʀ Jun 5 '15 at 16:21
  • I was hoping for an example of yours but a 3rd party is fine too, I'm just curious to see it in action. But it's not essential at all, I'm just being nosey :-) – user56reinstatemonica8 Jun 5 '15 at 16:29
  • @user568458 I posted an example in another answer since you asked for one. I'm pretty much always editing license plates out of photos. – Ryan Jun 5 '15 at 17:39
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Either blur them or blank them, whichever is easier, but either way, make the characters unreadable. If they aren't custom to the company (like ECTO-1 or something), then they don't need to be on the website.

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I generally edit it to look like an empty state plate if its a still image. For video work I just use a blur. Here's an example I happen to have open at the moment.

Nevada License

If possible and its going in a regional publication I'll try to change it out for a plate from that state. So if I were using the above photo in an advertisement going out in a Texas publication I'd try to replace the license plate with that of the Lonestar State. (And of course account for the decorate Las Vegas / Fletcher Jones somehow as well for consistency)

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  • Upvoted as a decent US specific option, but UK plates are quite different and leaving them blank would result in an empty white or yellow rectangle. I did try it at the time of posting this, and it didn't look very good (stood out too much). – Dom Jun 5 '15 at 22:01
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Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer. If you want legal advice then hire one.

In the UK (I presume you mean the UK because you said "vehicle registration plate") there is no law that requires you to blur out number plates. If a vehicle is publicly visible, either from or in a public place, then you can legally take a photo of it, and publish it, without anyone's permission, and no one can stop you. The same goes for people, and celebrities, etc. That's why the paps get away with it.

Luckily, we have some pretty useful laws which allow us the freedom to take photos of anything/anyone, in any public place (unless you act like a stalker or harass people).

Car number plates are designed to be seen publicly, and legally they can't be hidden on a vehicle - so if there is one in your photo, you are certainly not doing anything wrong by not blurring it out. Anyone can see that car number plate when it drives past or when it's parked on the street.

Those who do blur out number plates do so for various other reasons however. The press perhaps do so because they want to cover their backs, or want to appear to be behaving ethically. Others may blur it out because of privacy concerns, or out of fear of contravening European data protection laws (like google streetview).

I'd say the choice is entirely up to you. If you think someone will object, then just blur it out. It's perhaps best to avoid any confrontations.

As to the ugliness of a blank space - perhaps you could just add some random letters or a word.

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