Friday, 10 April 2015

Photographing kids

Lewis having fun
My wife and I took our two grandchildren to Hobbledown farm this week. It is set up very well for young children, and they both had a great time. They were totally worn out by the end of the day (and so was I, by lunch time). There was one small incident where the cafe served toast on mouldy bread and then had a "couldn't give a shit" attitude, but the site management were horrified and gave us a ticket to come back - for which Sandra has vowed to bring a picnic! However, it was a fun day.

As I do not get the chance to have a day out with the grandchildren often, I took my camera.

Now, I know that taking photographs is not a crime, and that (in general) taking photographs in public, of the public, and even of children, is not illegal. I was, however, keen to avoid any issues with paranoid parents. As private land they can make rules on such things as a condition of entry, but seem to have no restrictions, and even seem to encourage photos and video in competitions, which is good.

I suspect that I am the one being paranoid here. I get the impression from news stories that the public, and some of those in authority, think of photographers as some sort of terrorists or pedophiles, and to be treated with suspicion. It is a tad ironic that I am far more concerned about backlash against my using a camera than I am about either terrorists or pedophiles ever being an issue for any of my family.

I had no hassle. I saw one other parent with a good camera (well, a Nikon, but you get the idea :-) ).

Bobby taking pictures on a DS
Even so, it is a tad ironic (am I using that word correctly here?) that if parents are concerned over some random person taking pictures of their kids, they might look at those of us with a good camera. With a typical phone camera you will have a wide angle shot with a small aperture (especially as it wass sunny) and get loads of other kids in sharp focus. With a good camera I think I managed to only take shots which have no other children clearly visible (either zoomed in to one subject or shallow depth of field to blur background).

One possible factor was my jacket. I have a high visibility jacket which I use when cycling, and I was mistaken for someone "official" a few times (e.g. asking directions). That said, I did wonder what one would have printed on a hi-vi jacket to warrant taking photographs and the best I could come up with was "FORENSICS", but my wife won't let me put that on my jacket, sadly. It almost certainly helps that I was not seeming to be taking pictures of random kids.

So, maybe people are not as paranoid about photography as I thought. I hope that is the case.


  1. My wife grew up in another country and for a few years after moving here she wasn't aware of the hysteria surrounding this. A few years after moving here we were on holiday in Jersey, and sat in a playground for a spot of lunch.
    She saw some very photogenic children playing beautifully with each other, we both commented on it as such, and then she took her camera out and started casually taking a couple of photos of them.

    It's a shame I had to educate her as to possible outcomes of these actions from any parents that may notice this behaviour (then or in the future), as the intent was obviously pure. :(

  2. I never understood the idea of photos of fully clothed kids being paedo-fodder. For one thing it isn't exactly hard to get hold of photos of kids, legally, and without a camera. For another, if the parents are that paranoid, why are they allowing their kids out in public at all?

  3. I take the "it's legal to take photos in public places so mind your own business" attitude, though I have only been challenged a couple of times. As someone above said, what issue are photos of fully clothed children? And if they are paedo material, then mail order clothing catalogues and online sales of similar are going to be in trouble.

    And as RevK says, someone with a phone can quietly take dozens of photos and barely be noticed (careful choice of background in a selfie?). No-one doing dodgy things would use a decent camera if they were sensible, it makes you far too obvious. (I use an Olympus EM-10 mirrorless Micro Four Thirds SLR style camera for those who are interested.)

  4. Some friends invited me to help celebrate their daughter's 2nd birthday last weekend. They wanted to meet for a picnic at the childrens' play area in Regents Park. So that's what we did.
    I didn't take my camera and, when I arrived on time, but 15 minutes before anyone else, I still felt really insecure lurking around the play area looking for my friends and trying to call them on my phone. In the end I wandered a few hundred yards off and pretended to be interested in the map of the park.

    In the end, nothing problematic happened but it's a sad state of affairs when "normal" people feel anxious and modify their behaviour because of a perceived threat from what must be a very rare scenario.

    Also, some of the other adults did bring cameras, especially the uncles, and no one seemed to have any problems with anything which was nice.

  5. I've been harassed for taking pictures of a newly inaugurated building from the street. My interest was actually in testing my new camera, and didn't care about the building at all.

    The management of the building called the police and said that I was infringing the 'copyright' for the building's design and making 'illegal copies' of it. I, of course, politely fought back and pointed out the stupidity of the matter.

    But after a heated discussion I was almost arrested and had to call my company's lawyer, who then had to explain to the officers that further action against me would get them in trouble, and that some copyright documents management presented to them were for an entirely different purpose.

    It all felt like a Terry Gilliam film.

  6. A re-elected Tory government will pass a law banning any British bought camera to take any picture of anyone without a valid credit card worldwide. The only efficient way to protect children. Fact.

  7. Incidentally, saying "forensics" on your jacket would be dubious, as it could well be argued you were impersonating the police (Just because it doesn't say 'police' on it doesn't mean you'd get away with it). How about one saying "Network Security" ? :)