Children make great photography subjects when practicing street photography, so long as you don’t look like a creeper. Capturing kids (on a camera, not in your windowless van) can be a challenge for all the same reasons taking children’s portraits is difficult, they are unpredictable and can’t sit still.
People enjoy photographs of children, it reminds them of the reckless abandon they had when they were full of youth and vigor. It’s hard not to smile when you see a small child having a good time, unless you’re a Scrooge… You know, before the Christmas ghosts.
If you’re new to street photography you’ll want to check out Intro To Street Photography: Increasing Your Comfort Level because if you aren’t comfortable photographing complete strangers you’ll probably be even less comfortable photographing complete strangers children.
Just like taking children’s portraits, you’ll need a faster than average shutter speed to capture their crazy-fast movements. This may mean increasing your ISO higher than normal so if you head out with the intention of photographing children you’ll want to make this adjustment before you are out the door (unless you’re quick with the adjustments and you know for sure you’ll remember to make it).
For your comfort, and for the kids parents comfort, you’ll probably want to use a lens with a focal length longer than 35mm… As impressive as it is that you like to get that close to perfect strangers, nobody is going to be comfortable with you leaning into to their little bundles of joy with your camera at that proximity. I find using somewhere North of 70mm is a good, comfortable distance for all parties.
How To Capture Interesting Shots
The elements that make street photography of children interesting aren’t any different from the things that make photographing their adult counterparts interesting. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Capture emotion – whether the child is laughing, crying, or throwing a temper tantrum, it’s better than a photograph of a child with a blank stare on his or her face.
- Use compositional elements like reflections, leading lines, or framing to make the image more interesting and emphasize the child.
- Smile when taking children’s photographs, but not so much that you look like a pervert. Generally children react to a smile with a smile of their own.
- Look for places where kids will be kids, like water fountains in the city. Do not casually stroll through playgrounds photographing children…
- Respect people’s privacy, it’s not alright to photograph children playing in a yard along the street.
- Look for the unusual, remember what is usual to you and I in one part of the world may be strange and unusual on the other side of the world.
- Contrast is your friend, look for subjects that stand out from their surroundings.
- Sit/stand and wait. Look for interesting scenes and if you find something you can sit and wait for your subject to come through.
- Timing is everything, not just when the subject does something interesting but the time of day. As you know, lighting is everything in photography so it makes sense that the time of day will have a direct impact on your quality. I prefer shooting right after the sun rises or right before it sets.
Will You Need A Release?
If you plan on selling the images for commercial use (like advertising) then you’ll need a release signed, for children you’ll need an adult to sign their release. However, you do not need a release to take, use, and sell photographs of people (including children) that you take in public places. If you are planning on selling prints, publishing in a magazine or news outlet, or a blog, you don’t need a release signed.
Photographing people in public places is legal but you must respect peoples wishes. If you get the finger or an angry gesture to go away then I’d suggest you do just that. It’s not that you couldn’t still take the shot but put yourself in the other persons shoes, If you didn’t want your photograph taken you’d hope the other person respects your wishes.
An exception to the above rule is photographing people in private areas from public places (taking a photograph from a public street into their bathroom window). Again, I feel like I shouldn’t have to say this… don’t be a pervert, respect peoples privacy. You wouldn’t want someone taking a photograph of you completing your Sudoku puzzle on the crapper.
This article does not constitute legal advice in any way. The information contained above is no substitute for legal advice from an attorney licensed in your state and may or may not be applicable to your specific situation. It’s your responsibility to obtain legal counsel if and when needed.
Street photography is quickly becoming one of my favorite forms of photography because of the unique shots that are constantly presenting themselves in areas I’ve photographed hundreds of times. If someone tells me they are tired of photography because they’ve photographed everything around them then I’d suggest they look into street photography. So grab your camera and get out there.