Tuesday, September 6, 2011

When is it okay to take photos of children you do not know?

I just read a story in our local news about a couple of people who have been taking photos of children out of the back of their SUV. Understandably, when parents heard about this, they were alarmed and called the authorities.

It made me think of one evening when we were on the beach a few weeks ago--with all of our six boys having fun playing together during a beautiful sunset. They were burying each other in the sand and playing with Ashley, my sister's family's beautiful Golden Retriever.

A woman came up to the kids and started shooting photographs of them. She looked completely harmless, and she had a nice 35-millimeter camera. She seemed to be enjoying their pure boyhood energy, and she was smiling as she took countless photos. The boys are all used to their mother shutterbugs, and they all like to pose for the camera.

It struck me as odd at the time, because I can't imagine ever taking photos of someone else's children without asking their parents. I figured she must not have been a professional photographer, or she would have known to get our permission. We were not far away, and it was clear that the boys belonged to us. My dad even went up and began talking to her.

I'm not generally the type of person to make a stink about stuff like that...so I didn't say anything. But I do think the right thing would have been to ask our permission. What do you think?


  1. I think it's okay if the children happen to be part of the environment you are photographing, and you are not invading their privacy or being intrusive (or stalking). I have taken a number of pictures with kids in them I don't know...e.g. A butterfly garden where there is a little girl reaching toward a butterfly; a Norwegian parade with a mother and child wearing the national costume; a "kid's race" at a 5K. (I actually prefer to take pictures without people in them, but you can't always manage that.) I wouldn't take pictures of a family gathering or something like that, though.

  2. Yes, I agree--I have too. Or if other children are in a group and I'm focusing my camera on my own children.

  3. I think what that woman was doing sounds a bit odd. I like to take children shots for my blog sometimes, but always try to make sure their face is not very visible.

  4. My instinctive reaction is to say that it's kind of creepy. I'll be forthcoming and say I'm very protective of my privacy which I see dwindling day by day. I don't post pictures of myself anywhere on the internet. Right now you can do face recognition on your own photos but eventually you'll be able to do it on the internet. In other words locate that person you took a picture of in the park, on the web.

    I really think that woman should have had the courtesy to ask you for your permission but I don't know the law.....would she be able to use those pictures to sell postcards? I think she might.