Posted on 58 Comments

Using kids photos without consent – cool, or not ?

On twitter today, I have been called names because I don’t think that its right to post photos of other people’s children online in recognisable photos on the public internet without asking their parents if its ok to do so.

It’s simple for me, but not for all.

I told what I think is a pretty innocent tweeter that I didn’t think it was cool to post. She had taken pictures of two children in a shop that she didn’t know, and who didn’t know they were being photographed, and posted the picture online to talk about how obese they were to raise awareness of a very real problem affecting many children nowadays.

I don’t think that is proper, but I can see how others might not think about it until someone else mentioned it.    I don’t think its enough justification for the two photographers who jumped on the tweets to start calling me names over it.

I’m not going to go into it all, but they were a couple of photographers that seem to think there are no consequences in this world, and don’t care about anyone elses feelings.   As far as they are concerned, they are going to take pictures of anyone, anywhere, and do whatever they want with them, including anybody’s kids that they take pictures of.  As far as they are concerned, people like me who would like to be asked before their kids pics were put on the internet are idiots.

Do all photographers think like that, or is it just the male kind?

In my view, the least anyone can do morally and ethically is to ask permission of parents of children that you are taking pictures of, if it is ok to use them in a public online place.   Many many people have valid reasons for NOT wanting recognisable pictures of their children posted online.  I don’t think it’s an unreasonable expectation to want to be asked  before for such an intrusion.

One told me that just because I “shat” out kids, I didn’t have the right to take the moral high ground.

The other told me that we shouldn’t go out in public if we don’t want to be photographed !!

Debate, right or wrong, what do you think?


For those asking to see the tweets/conversation.

My original tweet in response to seeing the pictures of two children and being talked about due to their size was to reply to the person who took them and say that I would delete them if I were her as posting pics of kids she had no permission to was not cool.

She was trying to show the potential dangers of chidren who are overweight in this world to highlight where adults are damaging their kids by leting them get overweight, but using very recognisable pictures of children she had taken in a supermarket.

I have a couple of tweets in my favourites, and I can’t for the life of me locate my favourites on the new twitter web.  I also have no idea how to lift conversations from twitter to post here, or I would have.

Two photographers who were not the ones who took the pictures decided to take it to a whole new level of discussion as they proceeded to call me all sorts for having an opinion that is not the same as theirs.  They were determined to nastily defend the right to use a picture in any way they see fit.

We can have differences of opinions and ideas, and if we don’t like what someone else has to say, we can challenge it.  Where it becomes not acceptable in my view is when people decide to get personal and call us names.

A nice photographer came on later and debated the issue, and apologised for the abuse I had received.  I did not give the two who were nasty any abuse back, rather I tried to discuss it with them, but they were not prepared to discuss, only to call names.

The original photographer who posted the pictures apologised for causing such offence and said she would remove them.

It seems to be that photography students might be being told the legal side which is that pictures in a public place are fair game, and that it is up to their own code of ethics and morality what they do with them.

I don’t know what the definition of public and private place is.

I am also glad of the support of the mum bloggers who have the same opinion as I do that random children should not be used for the sake of someone else’s idea of art.

To me, if they have to ignore the potential subjects feelings to portray what the photographer wants to, then there is something wrong with using or taking the picture.

That is my opinion, and I am open to discussing others opinions on the subject which seems to be a huge emotive debate.

Am I defender of those two children that I don’t know, yes, I guess in a way I am.  If someone did that to my children I would be furious, and I would hope that if anyone saw pictures of my children on the internet without consent, that someone would stand up for them.




58 thoughts on “Using kids photos without consent – cool, or not ?

  1. I totally agree and would also be furious if someone posted pics of my kids without my permission.
    It’s shameful that some photographers feel that they can publish anything they like without thinking about the people they might be harming.

    1. And then feel like they are above those of us who are the parents. It is a scary subject for most parents.

  2. I’m so reassured to see the almost universal lambasting of taking photographs without permission. I had a horrible experience in a park in Fife last year with my two year old and baby when a man on his own sat on the bench at the entrance to the play area and I suddenly became aware he was taking photographs of my children on his phone. I almost literally threw my daughter back into the double buggy and ran down the hill – he was at the entrance to the park so i didn’t want to take any chances. When I got home i phoned the police who took it very seriously and came round to take a statement. I was very impressed with how they handled it but was shaken up for a few days afterwards.

    I think photographers – professional and otherwise – would do well to think how their actions might be interpreted. What is one person’s innocent photo of a cute child is another persons ordeal.

    1. It sounds like that was an absolutely awful ordeal for you to go through. It just shows how seriously all of us parents feel about it. I can’t understand the people who think it is ok, but them we are all parents, and I suspect that they either weren’t, or didn’t care.

  3. I have to admit, that it doesn’t really bother me, and I do put photos on Facebook that have other family members on (although my security settings are for friends only to see). My husband’s much more worried about doing that, though. However, I am much more careful about putting photos of other kids on, particularly since learning that some adopted children at church can’t have photos of them shown in public, and I try to make sure now that I seek parents’ permission before posting their kids’ photos. After all, there could be child protection issues that I know nothing about.

    On the other hand, I do consider that putting negative comments with a photo of children you don’t know is completely unacceptable!

    1. Thank you. It’s a strong subject for many of us.

  4. I totally have to agree with you on this one – I am a keen photographer, and one of the things I enjoy most is candid/street photography – but I wouldn’t dream of taking pics of kids and then posting them online without permission. I even ask permission of fellow Mums before putting pics up on Facebook (in private albums) if their kids are recognisable in them. Most parents are pretty relaxed about it, but they all say how much they appreciate being asked.

    I used to put a lot of pics of my own son up on my Flickr stream, but I’ve stopped doing that now too. I used to get a lot of random people – with no photos up themselves – favouriting them, and it started freaking me out a bit. Apparently there is a craze in some South American countries – Brazil in particular – to create fake profiles on social networking sites using pictures of kids and babies. Teenage girls do it and compete to see who can create the cutest baby profile. All very odd.

    Anyway, that’s a big off-the-point ramble, but I wanted to say I wholeheartedly agree with you!

    1. That would freak me out as well, I would have to say.

  5. Professional photographers have to adhere to strict codes of conduct, so I find their attitudes troubling.

    I never publish pix of children if they can be recognised without permission. Schools, clubs etc have to ask permission, so I figure it’s best to play it safe.

    It’s different with crowd shots, but I still try to ensure that you wouldn’t be able to recognise a child.

    As far as I’m concerned, it’s common sense – and I’d hope others would do the same when it came to my children. If I found photos that I hadn’t given permission for, I’d ask for them to be removed.


    1. Thats what I would have thought. My eyes have been opened though this week to how some people on the other end of the camera must feel.

  6. Quite how anyone thinks it’s OK to publish random photos of children they don’t know (or do know for that matter) without any permission is beyond me, but for them to be used in such a negative manner is way out of line.

    1. Thanks. It is obvious to some of us, but obviously not to everyone. Is a sad world that we have to think that way as well.

  7. A massive problem with the digital era is that people like visual comparisons and there is a lot of pressure to provide that. We never used to be precious about taking photos of other people’s children but the only people that would see them would be those we handed the actual photo (or photo album) to in our own house. I despise the “tag everyone” culture there is on Facebook. I’m guilty of uploading lots of photos to Facebook but the majority of my albums are on lockdown and can be viewed by only my friends.

    BTW – Favourites – go to your own profile on Twitter web and click the new tab that says “favourites” (under the “edit your profile” bit).

    To get a direct link to someones tweet, click the date stamp on the tweet.

    1. Thanks, the pressure to make money in most cases, or be taken seriously as an artist must sway many photographers. Yes, I think you have hit the nail on the head about pictures nowadays being able to be circulated so widely, and not just for the taker to see. Thanks for the tweet and fav info. I think I am a bit closer to getting that right.

  8. I’m an amateur photographer myself and I agree with your views entirely here. No-one should be specifically photographing children without the permission of the parents under any circumstances; let along publishing the image in the public domain.

    You’ll also find that any large organisations will side with the parents on this one; at the museum where I work we take a very serious view on the matter. So if you happen to be taking your kids out at a tourist attraction and you have this situation, just grab a steward if the photographers being difficult about it.

  9. Firstly to answer your technical question – go to profile on new twitter, it will bring up a list of ur tweets along with several tabs. click on the favourites – took me a while to find it too.

    I am aware that if you go to a professional photographers the photos are then owned by them and can be used in publicity. Whenever the news agencies want to show obsese children for instance you only ever see their bodies, not their faces.

    I remember feeling quite outraged that I had been to a party and within hours my kids photos had been put on Facebook by my brother! And when its done with their names I think that’s even worse. My sister gets really cross if her own photo is put on FB by someone. I think in a new age of digital media there are new rules to be defined.

  10. I have to admit, I haven’t really thought about this. Does this apply to say taking pictures of your 2 year old’s birthday party & putting them on Facebook (with security settings)? I agree I’d think it weird a stranger taking pics in the park but I do post party pics on my fb page. Do other mums not like this?

    1. I wouldn’t do it, and when I plan to take pictures that might have other kids in them at parties etc, I ask the mums when I am taking the pictures if it is ok to share them. I would have loved to take a picture of some kids jumping into a heavy sea a coupe of weeks ago, but I didn’t because I didn’t have the right to.

      I think my legacy of doing it all the time is because of clubs / school things where everyone has to give the consent or nobody can take any pictures at all, so I just do it everywhere.

  11. I think you are absolutely correct. I do not even put pictures of my own children up on such media. (I use the word ‘children’ loosely as they are both now in their late teens). They may choose to upload photos of themselves but then they have set whatever protection they wish on their own social media accounts and, at that age, the decision is their’s. So to post photos of younger children without parental consent is appalling behaviour.

  12. It is completely unacceptable in my view and I would be livid to see a photographer I didn’t know taking a photo of my children no matter what the intention.

    Although I do wonder what you said to the tweeter? I noticed you used examples of what the photographers said to you but didn’t do the same for your side of the conversation x

    1. Hi there. I’ve updated the post with more information.

  13. As a foster carer who has to deal with many child protection issues I find the attitude of the photographers frightening. What if that child was a child in care?

    1. As far as they are concerned, its not their problem. I asked that type of question. Answer was “don’t go out in public”.

  14. I think what they did is totally unethical and it should not have happened. Firstly they should not have been photographed without consent and secondly they should not have been published on the web, let alone the comments that were put along with the photo

    The way that the photographers responded to you is just downright rude and totally unprofessional. They obviously don’t have a clue what they are talking about. I think you should name and shame, that’d teach them!

    1. I totally agree with what you say. It is easy to find them if you are following me on twitter, just check my tweet stream.

  15. Hell, I even asked OH if he didn’t mind me publishing pix on my blog! I published a pic of his family recently and I felt well odd doing it.

    I would never publish photos with other people’s kids in without one of their parent’s permission. I have occasionally put photos that include other’s kids on my facebook but that is pretty tightly locked down and generally, the child is not really recognisable from it. Doing that is really not fair on anyone.

    If she had really wanted to discuss the obesity aspect, she could have easily taken a photo that cut off or obscured their faces, or photoshopped it out.

    1. That way still leaves the issue of taking the picture with the intention of using it negatively. Its a fine line isn’t it? Scary stuff though, I have to admit.

  16. Totally agree with you, in fact I though there were child protection laws which prevented people from taking pictures of other peoples kids (i’m probably wrong). I work in a child friendly visitor attraction and we have to get all sorts of paperwork signed before we are allowed to take pictures of kids.
    I would be livid if I saw my kids had been put on-line by a stranger who hadn’t asked and didnt know us. If I saw it happening I would have no hesitation in suggesting that I might call the police unless the images were deleted….
    The photographers in question should be RT by you so we know who they are!!

    1. I thought there were as well, and I hope the police would take it seriously if it happened to someone and they reported it.

  17. I can’t believe these two photographers are in business if that’s the way they conduct themselves. They are a disgrace. As you know, I publish photos of Amy on my blog – she’s my daughter, I’m allowed to, and as she doesn’t object, I go ahead and do it. But I would be furious if I found out a total stranger had published a picture of my daughter on the internet, especially in a derogatory way, without my permission. In fact, I would go so far as to take legal action against them. I find this absolutely incredible that people can stoop so low to get a photograph of a child. If you are able to name and shame, do it. I think we could all do with knowing who these photographers are so that we can avoid them at all costs.

    CJ xx

    1. They have certainly got different moral and ethical values to most of us parents.

  18. I agree – absolutely appalling. I’m sure the photographer could have got across the message about child obesity without printing photos of the children. Did the photographer not think about the taunting the children will get from other children? Quite sad really.

    1. i suspect she didn’t think about it, but offered to withdraw the pictures. Other photographers, however are adamant they’ll do what they like.

  19. I suppose it comes down to what you would feel comfortable with if it were your child a stranger was taking photos of. I don’t have children but I wouldn’t like it. I am an amateur photographer and to be honest I feel funny even taking pictures of ADULTS I don’t know. In the same respect it’s difficult to say to everyone that may be in a photo “by the way I’m taking a photo of you” but in that situation it would be best NOT to take the photo. Contentious issue indeed!

    1. Glad to hear the point of view of a male adult without children. Thank you very much.

  20. Appalling. Absolutely appalling. In school we have to ask for parental consent to publish photos in publicity material or on line. I thought that was universal, certainly a moral or ethical issue. To not do so is immoral.

    As I understand it, if in a public place then you can take photos of anyone or anything, but if on private ground you need permission. Surely if those girls were in a shop, they were on private ground? There’s also a massive moral issue, using this photo to demonstrate obesity is going to haunt them for a long-time & judges the parenting that they are receiving. Human rights? Libel?

    I put photos up of my son, but he’s *my* son. Any photos of other children I ask permission first.

    1. I guess we need to find out what is private and what is public so that we know what we are talking about. The moral and ethical issues are huge.

  21. There are consequences to all our actions and imagine if those children grow up and then discover that they are on the WWW branded as fat children by some stranger who they didnt even know. In my eyes this is unacceptable.

    1. Thats exactly my point. Anyone who knows them could have seen it and told them what was going on and it would have made them feel awful.

  22. Not only is it completely unethical I’m sure you could get into serious trouble for doing something like that. When I worked in social care all the companies/organisations we were involved with asked for written consent to take photographs/use photographs of the lads in our care for media purposes…
    Surely you should ask and in this instance it’s especially not nice as these children sound like they were being held up as an example of something negative in society?
    Not nice x

    1. Thats what I thought. This has given me quite a shock, but there is just no good reason for taking pictures of other peoples random children nowadays I think.

  23. Absolutely agree with you on this one.

    Somebody else announced our little boy’s birth on Facebook – complete with photo of new baby and newly epiduraled mamma.

    Have since been paranoid beyond belief and not put any pictures of little lad anywhere.

    If we send emailed pictures, I ask people not to publish them online through facebook or anywhere else.

    I reckon, your child, your call. No one else’s.

    1. Oh no, that would be awful. I do that as well, even to family.

  24. I was in Princes Street Gardens with the children when a woman started taking photo’s of my children because they were so cute! I angrily demanded she delete each one and if I saw her doing it again I’d call the police. I don’t want my children broadcast all over the internet and certainly not with people I don’t know using their photo’s. My friends a photographer and she only posts photo’s with permission.

    1. Good for you. I would as well, as would most mums I suspect. I think it should be the choice of ourselves and our chilren when they get older whether their pictures should be on the internet.

  25. I always ask our guests before photographing them for my blog or facebook. Generally everyone is happy, but occasionally I have to miss some children out, rather this than upset someone though!

    1. Thats the difference though isn’t it. You ask and have got permission and then nobody is going to be upset about it, or feel their privacy has been invaded. x

  26. Yes I have to agree with you. I always asks permission to take photos of any children whether that be my children’s friends or my niece etc. If I saw someone taking photos of my children and I didn’t know them then I demand to have them delete the photos. Children have the right to privacy just as we do.

    1. Yes, thanks. Parents seem to have the same ideas generally. I think the have the right to privacy too. x

  27. If they’re profiting from using the likeness of someone else without permission (say, if they use them in an article or sell the photos) it’s actually against the law in many places. There are also privacy and stalking laws in place to prevent this, and of course, where children are concerned, should you ever be in a position where someone is photographing your children without your consent, call the police immediately. I don’t know many photographers who’d want the title of pedophile on their CV!
    Bloody nerve!

    1. I would call the police, and most women I know would do the same. It is just not something that people should be doing these days. Thanks xx

  28. i agree, its different if it is family or friends but not random strangers, its just plain weird! there doesnt seem to be any privacy or respect of it any more

    1. The lack of respect or compassion for others is what is the biggest worry i think.

  29. Arguably, in my opinion, one should seek permission of ANYONE, regardless of age, before taking that specific person’s picture for personal use. If I take family snaps and accidentally capture the image of a random person in the background I won’t post that picture on my Facebook page. It’s not appropriate to me. And it’s not about a moral high ground, it’s about consideration of others above yourself. I even ask my own kids if thwy mind me sharing pictures of them. It’s respectful.

    1. Yes, my kids are not published much. They get all the information from schools about keeping safe and they generally don’t like it. Its their decision whether to be there or not.

    2. “Arguably, in my opinion, one should seek permission of ANYONE, regardless of age, before taking that specific person’s picture for personal use.”

      Agree. Just because I am not a child it does not mean that you can steal my image without my consent to use for your own purposes.

  30. I have to agree with you on this one Hun. I always look at things like this, from how I would feel if it was my child.
    I wouldn’t want their pictures published anywhere without me giving permission, let alone not even knowing about it!
    It is a very sensitive subject, especially where children are involved, but in my opinion this is definitely NOT right!
    I can’t believe people have “slated” you for having this view and I am pretty certain that there are many other parents/people that share the same view as us!

    1. Thanks, I think so too. Its just a courtesy to ask I think. It was a personal attack, and not nice, but we live and learn about the people we live among by it.

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