Abdullah Ibn Masood (Radiyallaahu Anhu) narrates that the Messenger (sallallaahu alaihi wa sallam) said, “The people who will receive the worst punishment in the sight of Allah will be those who make pictures.” (Bukhari and Muslim)
Aisha (Radiyallaahu Anha) narrates that once the Messenger (sallallaahu alaihi wa sallam) entered (her house) while there was a curtain with pictures in the house. (Upon seeing it) his face changed and he removed the curtain. He then said, “The people who will receive the worst punishment on the day of judgement will be those who make these pictures.” (Bukhari)
Ibn Abbas (Radiyallaahu Anhu) narrates that he heard Messenger (sallallaahu alaihi wa sallam) saying, “Everyone who makes pictures will be in Hellfire. A creature will be created for every picture that he made. It (the creature) will then punish him in Hellfire.” (Bukhari and Muslim)
Based on the above, it is not permissible to make pictures of animate beings.
Regarding taking photos with a camera and taking videos with a camcorder, it is not permissible to do so according to the majority of the scholars, as both of these acts fall under making pictures.
Some scholars, however, deem it permissible to take photos with a digital camera provided that the photo is not printed on paper and also to take videos with a camcorder. According to these scholars, capturing an image on a digital camera and capturing video on a camcorder do not fall under making pictures, as these machines do not make/record images, they merely record digital bytes of data (in the case of digital camera) and electronic video signal (in the case of camcorder). Similarly, images and video displayed on a screen do not fall under the definition of pictures as envisaged in the ahaadith according to these scholars. However, printing the digital image on paper is not permissible even according to these scholars, as doing so falls under making pictures.
From the two views, the first view (i.e. that it is not permissible to take photos and to capture videos regardless of whether a digital camera/camcorder is used or a non-digital camera/camcorder and regardless of whether the image is printed on paper or merely displayed on screen) is the more precautionary view, especially considering the severe punishment mentioned in the ahaadith. It is also the view of the majority of the scholars of the Indo-Pak subcontinent.
The discussion above is in regards to taking pictures and videos of animate beings (humans and animals). As for taking pictures and videos of inanimate objects (such as trees, mountains, buildings, cars, etc.), it is permissible.
Mufti Faizal Riza