Please note that the information on this website regarding photographers' rights and UK law must not be regarded as authoritative. It is written in general terms with a view to increasing general everyday understanding. However it is neither intended to provide authoritative advice nor to be used as guidance in specific cases. Anyone seeking authoritative advice regarding such matters, or anyone involved in a particular legal case, must seek the advice of a suitably qualified solicitor.
The photography of children in a public place (such as a public park) is permitted in UK law. The permission of the parents is not required. However, public attitudes to such activities no longer reflect the provisions of UK law. Parents and members of the general public may object and even intervene, particularly when a photographer takes more than a single image or shows more than a passing interest in the subject. Approaching a child with a camera and engaging in conversation is likely to lead to problems. It is therefore much wiser to seek out the parents or guardians, offer your name and address and explain your motives, and ask for permission to photograph a child. If permission is refused a photographer would certainly be unwise to persist.
It is of course illegal in UK law to take indecent photographs of a child (under the age of 18). The word "indecent" is not specifically defined by the Protection of Children Act 1978, and it is generally left to a jury to decide, without expert guidance, whether or not an image of a child should be regarded as indecent. A child under the age of 16 cannot be used as a paid model unless a license is obtained from the relevant local authority. In Scotland, photographing a child in a public place may be regarded as a breach of the peace.
It is because this issue has become so sensitive that many organizations and local authorities restrict or prohibit the photography of children at the events they organize. Indeed, some will not even allow parents to photograph their own children. However, rules of this type are likely to reflect the organizations' child protection policies rather than the provisions of UK law.