Question: Has there been any discussions regarding photographing children?

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Larryc001

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Hi. Being new here I am not sure if this subject has been discussed. If not, I wonder if it is a good time to talk about it. Although there doesn’t appear to be any laws here preventing taking photos including minor children, it has become a lot more risky. I think parents are more aware of possible uses of photos of kids and are very wary about it. I have read that some fathers have taken the matter to an extreme, bad for the photographer. I am even nervous about those posting pictures of their own kids and grandkids, such as one just posted in the gallery. I would like to know what others think.

Here is one story I picked up from another forum.


“The last few times I was about and taking photos of interesting children things, I have been accosted by angry parents. The last one was an assembly of kids on bikes, scooters, and skates. Some great content. Then mama 'Karen' started yelling at me from across the street. See, the thing of it was that I was on my front porch, and the kids were coming down the sidewalk on the opposite side of the road.

Now this is all "public" space. Well settled law states that there are no rights or expectation of privacy in public spaces. I had to explain that to the cops who showed up at my door 5 minutes later. This was a surprise, because one can't get them here in that time if there was an emergency...”
 

Sirius Glass

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Hi. Being new here I am not sure if this subject has been discussed. If not, I wonder if it is a good time to talk about it. Although there doesn’t appear to be any laws here preventing taking photos including minor children, it has become a lot more risky. I think parents are more aware of possible uses of photos of kids and are very wary about it. I have read that some fathers have taken the matter to an extreme, bad for the photographer. I am even nervous about those posting pictures of their own kids and grandkids, such as one just posted in the gallery. I would like to know what others think.

Here is one story I picked up from another forum.


“The last few times I was about and taking photos of interesting children things, I have been accosted by angry parents. The last one was an assembly of kids on bikes, scooters, and skates. Some great content. Then mama 'Karen' started yelling at me from across the street. See, the thing of it was that I was on my front porch, and the kids were coming down the sidewalk on the opposite side of the road.

Now this is all "public" space. Well settled law states that there are no rights or expectation of privacy in public spaces. I had to explain that to the cops who showed up at my door 5 minutes later. This was a surprise, because one can't get them here in that time if there was an emergency...”

Unfortunately photographing children other then one own has lead to problems, so just stick to photographing your children. If you do not have any, make some.
 

momus

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I have a lot bigger things to worry about that that. If you smile, make good contact w/ the parents, and don't look like Aqualung, no worries. Just be yourself and sniff out the vibes. I swear, there is this day and age, and then there is me. I only listen to my own inner voice, and can't be worrying about this and that. If I did, I'd never be able to take a single photo of anything.

It really has nothing to do w/ photographing children. What if I want to photograph someone who is dying? Or in a bad way. Or....anyone who can't rely on their own inner conscious about the ethical consequences, absolutely should be doing something else, they're definitely in the wrong game. Someone is a photographer, right? Then their job is to take photos.
 
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logan2z

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Unfortunately, this isn't the 1950s any longer and it's really not a good idea to take photos of children other than your own - no matter how pure your intentions.

A bad experience similar to yours is what drove me to start taking landscape pictures. So far, not a single tree has chased me down the street and berated me for taking its picture 😋
 

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I think this has become a tricky subject because of social media and a better awareness of consent. Children born in the past few years may have their whole lives on display without choosing so, and without knowing how that information could be used in the future. Then, there's social media and the potential misuse of someone's photograph, for example to create an embarrassing meme. This might seem trivial, but, here in France, you can indeed get sued for publishing an image that may negatively affect a person even if it was taken in a public space (people have the right to privacy in public).

So, there's a legal aspect to it and there's also a personal comfort component. I personally avoid taking pictures of people on general unless they're silhouetted or far enough that you can't make out who they are. I'd feel disrespectful, otherwise.
 

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A few years ago, I was out with a buddy cycling around, snapping a few pics and just having a nice time. We ended up in the city center at some point, had an ice cream, sat down in a square for a while. There was a fountain and kids were playing in it; this was high summer so they were wearing bikinis etc. (not sure when the fad of dressing 8-year olds in bikinis ever started, but hey, there it is). So my friend takes out his Hasselblad, puts it on the tripod and shoots one or two frames of the kids playing. I thought we'd probably be lynched and drawn and quartered right there on the spot....Guess what?
Nothing happened at all.
Nobody seemed to care.
I still don't know how that happened - or rather, didn't. Perhaps my friend looks like such a good-natured, benevolent goof that he gets away with something like this. Sure enough there were no doubtful intentions on his part as far as I can tell. I just know that I wouldn't get away with it. Which doesn't bother me at all, because I have ZERO interest in photographing kids anyway.

A few years before I was out in some inland sand dunes; on a nice day (which it was), people tend to come out, picknick, have the kids & dogs play and whathaveyou. So I set up my 4x5 to get an image of some tree roots. Sure enough, 'mom' comes at me with a worried face "hey, I'd rather not have you photograph my children". Ma'am, (1) your kids are a mile out of my angle of view and even you can tell (2) kindly keep your kids out of the frame; because I'd rather not have them mess up my shot. Sheesh!

It's not so much the fact that people don't want their kids photographed, I'm totally fine with that, I understand and I think it's ethically valid to ask it. It's the sense of entitlement that people seem to have in demanding a photographer to stop what (s)he's doing while doing it in accordance with the law in a public space. If they ask nicely, of course I'll assure them that no, I won't photograph anything they don't want, and yes, I share your concerns etc. But the ask nicely part is the essential part here.
 
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A few years ago, I was out with a buddy cycling around, snapping a few pics and just having a nice time. We ended up in the city center at some point, had an ice cream, sat down in a square for a while. There was a fountain and kids were playing in it; this was high summer so they were wearing bikinis etc. (not sure when the fad of dressing 8-year olds in bikinis ever started, but hey, there it is). So my friend takes out his Hasselblad, puts it on the tripod and shoots one or two frames of the kids playing. I thought we'd probably be lynched and drawn and quartered right there on the spot....Guess what?
Nothing happened at all.
Nobody seemed to care.
I still don't know how that happened - or rather, didn't. Perhaps my friend looks like such a good-natured, benevolent goof that he gets away with something like this. Sure enough there were no doubtful intentions on his part as far as I can tell. I just know that I wouldn't get away with it. Which doesn't bother me at all, because I have ZERO interest in photographing kids anyway.

A few years before I was out in some inland sand dunes; on a nice day (which it was), people tend to come out, picknick, have the kids & dogs play and whathaveyou. So I set up my 4x5 to get an image of some tree roots. Sure enough, 'mom' comes at me with a worried face "hey, I'd rather not have you photograph my children". Ma'am, (1) your kids are a mile out of my angle of view and even you can tell (2) kindly keep your kids out of the frame; because I'd rather not have them mess up my shot. Sheesh!

It's not so much the fact that people don't want their kids photographed, I'm totally fine with that, I understand and I think it's ethically valid to ask it. It's the sense of entitlement that people seem to have in demanding a photographer to stop what (s)he's doing while doing it in accordance with the law in a public space. If they ask nicely, of course I'll assure them that no, I won't photograph anything they don't want, and yes, I share your concerns etc. But the ask nicely part is the essential part here.

Give them some slack. They're frightened and protective and acting accordingly.
 

AgX

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There seems a tendency at several countries to restrict already taking photographs, when before there only, if at all, was a restriction at publishing photos. This restrictions especially apply at children. These tendencies may not yet have let to respective court decions or even change of legislation, but already the stand of parents or police officers may bring a photographer into bothering situations.
 
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I think a lot depends on the circumstances. This photo was taken in Central Park in NYC. A street entertainer was putting on a show for the public. I didn't feel self conscious about taking the shot. NYC is a pretty good place to take pictures as everyone is carrying cameras since the are so many tourists. Using s cell phone makes it even easier.
 

koraks

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Give them some slack. They're frightened and protective and acting accordingly.

If they're frightened and protective, all they need is kindly ask not to photograph children. Only the most obnoxious and stubborn activist-photographer wouldn't reassure them if that's what truly happened. But that's not all: there is a sense of entitlement that is unnecessary and they have no right to demand their kids not being photographed when they're out there in a public space.

Mind you, in the example I gave where I was the photographer we're talking about a situation where I set up a camera with no kids in the frame to begin with. If Mrs. Mom wants her kids to not be in the picture she can perfectly well tell her kids to keep out of it instead of asking me to guard over her kids not being photographed. What kind of assbackwards logic is that anyway? What's next, I'm expected to change their damn diapers?

I understand why they respond the way they do. That doesn't mean it's justified. I can think of lots of examples where I understand why people respond the way they do, and yet, they have no right to do so. I'm sure you're creative enough to think of a couple as well.
 

Don Heisz

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You always have to ask yourself why you're taking this picture. So don't assume other people aren't thinking the same thing. And other people tend to not know what you will be doing with the photo. They also may or may not understand how your equipment works. A 4x5 on a tripod may look more like a big video camera to a young mother.
 

koraks

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I understand all that Don, but there's a difference between asking to keep kids out of the frame and demanding it. I have no problems with people asking it because they don't understand how the equipment works, what the imagery is used for etc. If someone approaches me out of the blue making demands, then my response is to offer resistance. If someone approaches me with a request, I'm inclined to try and help them as best I can. Reciprocity.
 

Don Heisz

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I understand all that Don, but there's a difference between asking to keep kids out of the frame and demanding it. I have no problems with people asking it because they don't understand how the equipment works, what the imagery is used for etc. If someone approaches me out of the blue making demands, then my response is to offer resistance. If someone approaches me with a request, I'm inclined to try and help them as best I can. Reciprocity.

People have any number of reasons for addressing someone else the way they do. She could have been a naturally anxious and overprotective person who had difficulty getting herself to talk to you at all and just took the shortest route which would, at the same time, discourage you from wanting to interact with her further.
 

AgX

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But that's not all: there is a sense of entitlement that is unnecessary and they have no right to demand their kids not being photographed when they're out there in a public space.

It is not that simple. Over here media has trickled or even established such idea, the idea that every taking of a photo of a person needs his approval.
The recent new legislation added to the over hundred years old one did not make things easier. In a situation where even I myself who is busy with the legal side of photography since many years am meanwhile unsure in some cases, how can I then expect from a police officer called to make a right assessment?

I assume similar applies at some other countries too...
 

snusmumriken

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I find this subject really sad. Alongside other sensitivities, children are a major reason why I feel inhibited from taking the kind of social documentary photos that were possible in the last century here in the UK.

Only rarely do I find the kind of situation where I might introduce oneself to nearby parents, and ask if there is any objection to taking photos. And I never do it, because I foresee the question "What do you intend to do with the photos?", and I honestly don't know. It would depend how good they turned out to be, and I wouldn't know that until I had developed the film and pondered the result for several weeks or months. I could show them a portfolio of photos in the public domain, but is that enough to prove my respectability? What about all the photos I haven't shared? Why am I doing this if I don't have to do it? And can I realistically introduce myself to several sets of parents who are spread out and not in earshot? Would I have to promise to send them all prints or scanned images? Would they be willing to give a postal or email address? It's all Too Difficult.

And then there's the question of unaccompanied teenagers. Do I spoil the shot by asking their permission first? Should I ask for proof of identity to check whether someone is a minor or an adult? If I go ahead and take the shot, I risk confrontation, embarassment and/or having the police called. Kids today are trained at school to suspect everyone's motives. And some might just take delight in getting an adult into trouble.

From a thinking parent's perspective, taking photos on a cell phone actually seems more dodgy, since they can be stashed away or shared instantly. At least I can argue that it would be a perverse pervert who chose to pursue his objectives on black and white film, when a cell phone would be so much easier.
 
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koraks

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People have any number of reasons for addressing someone else the way they do.

So do I! My point is not to argue with you, mind you, but just to clarify: I resent the notion that the entitlement of the parents somehow trumps my own interests. I don't mean them no harm, and all I expect is that sentiment to be reciprocated. I feel that's only fair. I'll always remain outspoken on this - and yes, with full awareness of all the possible motivations why people may approach a photographer in a less than congenial or constructive way. All those things don't make it right, and I feel that needs to be said.
 

Don Heisz

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All those things don't make it right

Unfortunately, "right" and "wrong" are irrelevant in this situation. You are dealing with behaviour born out of perception and vague opinion. A person gets uncomfortable and tries to do something about it - you are not in a position to sermonize since you have no authority. You, in the eyes of the other, are untrustworthy and need to be told that you are. That is as much "right" to them as anything you happen to think is "right" to you. You don't occupy the same world.
 

koraks

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I know Don, but I'm not that despondent. Of course there's no universal ethic or morality in this. If there were, philosophers would never have existed. And yet, we negotiate about ethics all the time throughout society. This discussion we're having is part of it, and fair game if you ask me. And keep in mind that such debates do carry practical relevance. Even though a thread like this is a minuscule piece of the bigger jigsaw puzzle, in the end it's still part of the societal debate about where one person's liberties begin and someone else's stop. Being part of society will always carry the activity of negotiating that interface.

On a more positive and yet related note, there are also many examples of a more constructive way. I think we've all encountered them as well. Here's one from this weekend: I was photographing a scene on the edge of a field. Technically, I trespassed into the margin of this field, outside the area where crops grow. As I stood there, the owner walked up to me asking something like "that's a pretty tree, isn't it". So I apologized for stepping into his field unasked, to which responded "yeah, that's why I came to you; it's fine really, but I appreciate your remark and please feel free to roam". We chatted for quite some time and basically had a very pleasant encounter. It's like that 99% of the time. Let's not forget that.
Which is all the more reason, IMO, to try and extend that when it comes to people who happen to be in (or just outside of) the frame.
 
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snusmumriken

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Even though a thread like this is a minuscule piece of the bigger jigsaw puzzle, in the end it's still part of the societal debate about where one person's liberties begin and someone else's stop. Being part of society will always carry the activity of negotiating that interface.
You make that case very eloquently, but the problem is that the negotiation can be very uncomfortable, legal and moral right notwithstanding.
 

Don Heisz

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We chatted for quite some time and basically had a very pleasant encounter.

That's the point I was making, though. He decided to act in a more temperate way than the young mother did. It doesn't matter if you were in the right or wrong, the interactions that followed are actually based on the way the encounter starts. You don't get a chance to convince the young mother what you're doing is fine, because she's not interested in anything from you other than you not doing what what she doesn't want you to do. The land owner, on the other hand, didn't approach you the same way and was open to hearing what you were actually doing.

the problem is that the negotiation can be very uncomfortable, legal and moral right notwithstanding.

Exactly.
 
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I understand all that Don, but there's a difference between asking to keep kids out of the frame and demanding it. I have no problems with people asking it because they don't understand how the equipment works, what the imagery is used for etc. If someone approaches me out of the blue making demands, then my response is to offer resistance. If someone approaches me with a request, I'm inclined to try and help them as best I can. Reciprocity.

Actually, the laws regarding this are more strict in Europe. In America, I think it's less of a taboo and more legally OK, although even here, with crime up lately and children getting killed, parents are very concerned about their kids.

A lot depends on the location and what's going on. If you're shooting in a cosmopolitan city, where lots of cameras and tourists are around, there's less chance of offending someone. However, if you're in a quiet neighborhood where only locals are around, a stranger is going to get a stern and second look. A male photographer more than a female one. Take your girlfriend or wife if you want to shoot kids.
 
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