Teaching Kids About Travel Photography Etiquette

Everyone takes photos when traveling—it’s part of the whole experience. Now if you enjoy traveling to new and exciting places with your kids, then at some point they are going to want to take some photos of their own. Children today are particularly tech-savvy and can work most devices without needing much instruction, so photography is something that you can (and should) allow and encourage them to learn. Parents can even provide their children with a simple, kid-friendly camera to practice on, so that they won’t have to keep whipping out smartphones or iPads (a surefire way to attract thieves) to capture the sights.

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But before you give your child a camera, remember that there are certain rules in travel photography that everyone (even non-professional shutterbugs) need to adhere to. Here are some of the most important rules of photography etiquette that you need to teach your kids:

Always ask permission from a parent, guardian, or any adult companion.

In travel photography, the golden rule is to ask permission from the people whom you plan to feature in your photos. But for your children, the golden rule should be to ask you for your permission before taking photos of anything—at least until they are old enough to know how to discern which situations are appropriate for taking photos and which are not. This way, you can properly guide them, as well as facilitate their interactions with the locals. After all, someone will still need to ask permission from whomever your child wants to take photos of—a crucial step that you cannot forego, particularly in foreign countries where the customs and norms may be different from where you are from.

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Having your child inform you first before taking pictures prevents him from breaking certain social rules (regarding photography)—and getting himself into trouble—in the country you are visiting. Some places, like in Indian or Japanese temples, have a strict ban on any type of photography. In other places, it may be considered rude to take photos of people in the street. You cannot expect your child to be aware of or remember all these different rules, so it’s best to have him ask you before he whips out a camera.

Respect personal boundaries.

If you have yet to teach your kids about the concept of personal space and boundaries, then this is the perfect time to address it. Unlike adults, children are accustomed to affectionate physical interactions (mostly with their parents, grandparents, siblings, and even their friends). It is completely normal for a child to, say, touch his mother’s face or sit on his father’s lap, which is why he might find it strange that this type of interaction may not be accepted or welcomed by other adults.

Before you decide to trust your child with a camera on your travels, you need to teach him about the “personal bubble.” Most children would normally have no qualms about thrusting a camera into someone’s face or squeezing beside someone to take a quick selfie, so it is important for your child to understand that some people are very particular with their personal space and may possibly take offense when other people—children included—violate their sense of space by entering their “personal bubble.”

Avoid using the flash (unless absolutely necessary).

As you probably already know, some tourist spots—particularly art galleries, museums, or zoos—do not allow flash photography within the premises. But children aren’t particularly fond of reading signs, so there’s a very good chance that they wouldn’t automatically know this important rule. Therefore, you need to make sure that your child is made aware of these crucial rules and that he learns how to turn the camera’s flash on or off before allowing him to take photos in public places. Otherwise, this can lead to some very embarrassing situations.

Also, people generally don’t like having a bright camera flash go off in their faces, so make sure that your child knows to turn off the flash when taking photos of the locals and other tourists.

Don’t block the view.

Children aren’t always aware of what is going on in their surroundings, so it’s important to remind them that they have to be mindful and considerate of other people when taking photos. For instance, when you visit a tourist hotspot like a historical landmark or any of the other popular photo-op spots, there will most likely be a horde of other tourists and photographers there who are also trying to take photos of their own. Remind your child not to block anyone’s shot or “photobomb” another tourist family’s photo session. Teach him to patiently wait his turn until other people are finished, so that he can take his photos without bothering anyone or ruining other people’s photo-ops.

Being polite when taking photos in tourist spots must be a continuous learning process—it doesn’t end with just telling your kid what he can or cannot do. Keep an eye on your little one’s behavior, remind him if you must, and don’t forget to give words of affirmation every time he does something right.

About the author

Pit Stops for Kids AUTHOR: Amy Whitley is the founding editor of Pit Stops for Kids and content editor of Trekaroo. She writes on staff monthly at a number of travel publications, and contributes to OutdoorsNW magazine as an outdoor adventure traveler. Find Amy at Google.

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