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Photographing and filming children

Last updated: 11 Jan 2024

Taking, sharing, using and storing images of children 

It's important that children and young people feel happy about their achievements and have images of their special moments for themselves and their families to look back on. This includes photos and videos taken by teachers during school performances and special events, or by staff and volunteers delivering events and activities outside of school. 

Your organisation might also take images or videos of children through:

  • the use of closed circuit television (CCTV) 
  • running live online sessions involving children
  • livestreaming events involving children.

If you work with children and young people, it's important to be aware of child protection and safeguarding risks around taking photos and videos.


If safe processes aren't in place, photos and videos may be shared outside of your organisation or posted online without prior consent from children and families. This could lead to safeguarding risks such as:

  • images being modified or misused out of context, for example to create child abuse images 
  • a child being identified for the purpose of future grooming and abuse
  • a vulnerable child being identified by an existing perpetrator of abuse.

How can I prevent photos and videos of children from being misused?

The potential for misuse of photos or videos can be reduced if organisations are aware of the potential dangers and put appropriate measures in place. You should also consider the data protection implications for your organisation.

We've put together guidance to help you think about and mitigate the risks involved with taking, using, sharing and storing photos and videos of children.

Photography and filming policy

Creating a photo and video policy statement

Schools, clubs and organisations should have a written photography and filming policy statement that sets out your overall approach to images taken of children and young people during events and activities.

This policy statement should be used alongside a more detailed set of procedures that explain how your organisation stores and uses photos and videos of children and young people in publications, on websites, on social media and on other online platforms. It should also outline the actions you take to keep children safe.

You should make sure children, parents, staff and volunteers understand the policy statement and know how photos and videos taken during your organisation's events and activities can be shared more safely.

We've created an example photography and filming policy statement, which you should tailor according to the context of your organisation. This should be used alongside your overarching online safety and child protection policies and procedures.

> Download our example photography and filming policy statement (PDF)

> Find out more about developing an online safety policy

> Find out more about writing safeguarding policies and procedures


Gaining consent

Gaining consent to take, use and share photos and videos of children 

Children should always be consulted about the use of their photo or video and give consent to it being taken, used or shared. For young people under 16, you should also get parental consent before taking a photo or video.

In situations where under 16s are separated from their parents (for example if they are in care) you should seek consent from someone who holds parental responsibility (for example the child’s carer or the local authority).

For 16- to 17-year-olds, you should decide if it's appropriate to obtain parental consent, depending on the activity and the young person’s circumstances. If you decide you do not need parental consent, then consider whether you should still inform parents that the photo or video of the child is being used or shared. In most circumstances, parents have a legal parental responsibility for their children up to the age of 18.

How to get consent

It’s important to make sure children, young people, their parents and carers understand what they are agreeing to.

  • Make them aware that a photo or video is being taken.
  • Explain what the image is going to be used for, and how it could be used in the future.
  • Ask for their consent to share the photo or video and record this on a written consent form.
  • Tell them how long you will keep the photo or video for, why they are being kept for this length of time and what will happen once this period has expired.
  • Explain how a child or parent can withdraw consent if they change their mind, and what you will do in response.
  • Make it clear that if a child’s photo or video has been used online or in printed publications it will be very difficult to recall it if consent is withdrawn.

Keep a record of the written consent that parents, carers and children have given for images being used.

It's good practice to share your photography and filming policy statement with children and parents and seek their consent at the beginning of the year. You may also need to get additional consent in specific circumstances (if for instance, you are bringing in a professional photographer or the photos might appear in the local or national media).

> Download our example photo and video consent form (PDF)

What to do if consent isn't given

If children and/or their parents and carers don't want to have their photo or video taken, used or shared, you should respect their wishes.

Children should never be excluded from an activity because you don't have consent to take their photo or video. Instead, you should find a way to make sure anyone filming or taking photographs is aware of who hasn’t given consent for their image to be used. For example, you might want to give children a sticker or a badge.

Consent and data protection

It's important to make sure children, and where appropriate their parents, agree to the use of their photo or video. However, from a data protection perspective, consent isn’t always the best reason, or 'lawful basis’, for the use of a photo or video. The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) provides advice for schools on deciding the right lawful basis for taking photographs, which may also be helpful for other types of organisation (ICO, n.d.a).


Taking photos and videos

Taking photos and videos of children  

Should I take photos and videos of children?   

In some cases, it may be safe and appropriate to take photos and videos of children during events delivered by your organisation. However, some children, parents or carers may prefer not to have photos or videos of themselves or their children taken. For example:

  • families may have religious or cultural reasons for choosing not to have photos or videos taken
  • children who choose not to have contact with some members of their family may want to minimise their online presence
  • if a child and/or their family have experienced abuse, they may worry about images of the child being shared online, enabling the person who perpetrated the abuse to trace their whereabouts
  • the child's identity may need to be protected because they are in local authority care or they have been adopted.

What do I need to consider before taking a photo or video? 

Before taking photos or video recordings of children, make sure you know what the purpose is. For example, you might want to take a photo of a child participating in an event to include in a newsletter, poster or on your organisation's website. 

You should also gain written consent from the child and their parent or carer before taking a photo or video. It's important to make sure all parties understand why the photo or video is being taken and what you're going to do with it.

If you have already gained consent, but the existing photos or videos are no longer going to be used for the original purpose, it is important that you contact the child’s parent or carer to gain new consent or destroy the images.

Can I use personal devices to take photos or videos of children? 

Avoid using any personal equipment to take photos and videos of children – only use cameras or devices belonging to your organisation. It’s important that images and videos are saved securely, using a security code for example. Devices should be stored away safely and securely when not in use.  

Taking photos and videos for organisational use

Who should take photos and videos?

Photos and videos should only be taken by an authorised person within your organisation who has an appropriate reason for doing so. For example, if they are a member of staff within the school or other organisation delivering a session or event for children. 

Using professional photography and filming services 

You may choose to use a professional photography or filming service to capture events involving children.  If so, you should ensure that parents and children are informed and consent to this prior to the event. The photographer should be given a clear brief to ensure that images are taken only for specified purposes, and only those children who have provided consent are captured in any photo or video footage. 

In advance of a professional photography or filming session, agree with the child and their parents or carers the best way to identify them so the photographer knows who has not consented to having their photo taken. This might involve giving them a badge, sticker or wristband. Whichever method you choose, you should make sure children don’t feel singled out or isolated.

Taking photos and videos for personal use 

Photos and videos taken by parents and spectators 

If parents, carers and other spectators are attending an event, they may wish to take photos and videos or livestream. If so, it's important to have a photography and filming policy statement that is shared with parents and carers prior to the event. This will help to set out rules around taking photos, videos or livestreams to help to minimise the risks of images being misused or shared without consent.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) provides guidance for members of the public on taking photos in schools (ICO, n.d.b).

Using and sharing photos and videos

Using and sharing photos and videos of children

Potential risks

Sharing photographs and images of children on social media or other online platforms carries potential risks (Thinkuknow, 2021). For example:

  • photos or videos may appear in internet search results. This may make children vulnerable to grooming if a photograph is shared alongside information that makes them identifiable. This includes: personal details; a tag with location information; visual details such as a school uniform.
  • images of children may be shared online, and images may be copied, downloaded, screenshotted or shared by anyone.
  • images of children may be adapted and used inappropriately.
  • depending on the terms and conditions of using an online platform, the image may be owned by the platform once it’s been posted. Platforms may then license images for use by third parties – such as for commercial purposes.
  • each photo or video, and any comments on them, can become a part of a child’s public image in ways which young people may not be happy with, now or in the future.

Before sharing images of children on social media, you should also consider how widely images may be shared, how long they may remain available and how this may affect the children’s long-term wellbeing.

Sharing photos or videos of children through your organisation

It's important to think carefully before using or sharing any images showing children and young people on your website, social media or other publications. 

You should only share images when it is safe, appropriate and in line with your photography and filming policy to do so. You should also make sure you have written consent from the parent or carer and the child to use the image in the way you have planned.

When deciding what images to use:

  • choose images that present the activity in a positive light and focus on the activity rather than the child.
  • choose images of children in appropriate clothing (including safety wear if necessary)
  • avoid images that may be more prone to misinterpretation or misuse by others
  • don’t supply full names of children along with the images
  • avoid publishing personal information about individual children and disguise any identifying information. 

> See our Child Protection in Sport Unit’s advice on taking and using photos at sporting events

Advising parents or carers about sharing images of children on social media

Your photo and video policy statement should make it clear that parents or carers should gain permission before sharing photos or videos of other people's children on social media.

Consider asking parents not to share any photos or videos of events and activities on social media, where other people's children can be identified. Explain how sharing images in this way could place some children and families at risk.

Your photography and filming policy statement should include a section on how you will set out your expectations for parents, carers and family members who want to take photos and videos for personal use. Parents, carers or other family members may also want to broadcast an event involving their children by livestreaming. Our information on live online events sets out the measures which can be put in place to do this safely.

Advise parents or carers who want to share photos or videos of their own children on social media to make sure they understand who else will be able to view images of their child.

Suggest that parents or carers use their privacy settings to make sure only people they trust can see their profile and photos, and that geo-location settings are not shared. Before posting a picture, parents or carers can also make sure there isn’t anything that would allow a location or identity to be recognised, such as school logos or signs, road names, or names of clubs that their child attends.

Encourage parents to ask for children’s permission before posting a photo or video of them online. With very young children and babies, this will not be possible but parents and carers should consider the long-term implications of sharing an image before making it public.

You could run an information session for parents on online safety, which may include information about sharing images online.

> See our online safety resources

Using CCTV and surveillance cameras

Your group, organisation or business might be considering, or already be, using closed circuit television (CCTV) or surveillance systems as a way of helping keep children and young people safe. But before doing so you need to consider:

  • whether this is justified
  • whether it is the most effective way to keep people safe
  • what impact it will have on people’s privacy
  • how you will ensure your system operates within the law, particularly the Data Protection Act 2018.

The Biometrics and Surveillance Camera Commissioner has issued an updated code of practice for surveillance cameras (Biometrics and Surveillance Camera Commissioner, 2021).

The ICO has also produced a checklist for organisations to use before installing (ICO, n.d.c).

In England, Ofsted provides information on how it inspects the use of surveillance in residential and childcare settings (Ofsted, 2019). 

In Scotland, the Care Inspectorate provides guidance for care providers (PDF), including childcare settings, on using CCTV in their services (Care Inspectorate, 2018).


Live online events

Live online events

Your organisation may use livestreaming or video conferencing to organise online activities or events. This might include:

  • organising lessons or group activities for children using a video conferencing service 
  • livestreaming an assembly or other event via an online streaming platform.

Whatever the reason, it's important to consider the safeguarding implications.

What is livestreaming?

Livestreaming is a way to broadcast activities in real time over the internet. You can stream to large numbers of people, via an online platform, or choose to restrict your audience to a small, private group. Although viewers can engage with a livestream, the organiser, or ‘host’, has control over what viewers see and hear.

What is video conferencing?

Video conferencing enables live, online, interactive sessions.  It is typically designed for smaller group sessions where everyone is invited to contribute. You need to be invited, or sent a link, in order to attend. 

Safeguarding and child protection

You need to think about any potential risks associated with working online with children and ensure you've put appropriate safeguards in place.

Consider what measures need to be in place to help children feel safe and build mutual trust.

If you're worried about the welfare of a child you're working with you should follow your safeguarding and child protection procedures and share your concerns as soon as possible.

If a child is suffering or at risk of suffering significant harm, you can share information with appropriate agencies or professionals without the child's or their parent's consent

> Find out more about recognising and responding to abuse

>  Find out more about safeguarding and child protection for tutors

To create a safe environment for children and young people when using livestreaming or video conferencing software, there are several things you should also consider.

Which platform will you use?

Always make sure the platform you are using is suitable for the children's age group, stage of development and ability. Set up an organisation account for any online platforms you use (don't use personal accounts). Make sure you double check the privacy settings. 

> Read more about choosing a suitable online platform

> Learn more about setting up social media and online communities

Maintaining professional boundaries

Delivering a session online is different to working with children face-to-face. But adults should always maintain professional relationships with children and young people.

Remind staff of your code of conduct and make it clear how you expect them to behave. If you're holding an online lesson, activity or event, make sure staff are in a neutral area where nothing personal or inappropriate can be seen or heard in the background. You should also make sure that children are in a neutral area if they can be seen on camera.

> Look at our example code of conduct for adults working with children


You should make sure parents, carers and children understand the benefits and risks of livestreaming and online sessions and get written consent for children to be involved. 

> Tailor our example consent form to your needs


Most digital streaming platforms and online conferencing software allows the host to record the event. The Recording live events tab sets out the things you need to consider if your video or audio recording will include children or young people.


When livestreaming, you should consider whether you need to restrict access to your online event. For example, you could make people register in advance to watch a livestream and issue a log in and password. Custom livestreaming platforms will also enable you to restrict access to your online event. 


It's best practice to have at least two adults present when working with children and young people. This applies both online and in face-to-face settings.

The number of adults you need for online events will vary depending on the children's age and stage of development, and the activities being carried out.

For example, if you’re using 'breakout rooms' on an online platform, you need to consider how will these be supervised.

If you allow chat during a livestream you'll need to think about how you will moderate the comments, and familiarise yourself with how to report any offensive or abusive content.

> Read our recommended adult to child ratios for working with children

> Find out about moderating online communities 

Using webcams

If you're organising an online activity or lesson via video conferencing software, think about whether you will ask children to turn their cameras on.

Some children might not feel comfortable turning their webcams on. They may be shy, unsure of the technology or have had a bad experience using video calls in the past. 

Some children, parents and carers may be uncomfortable with others being able to see into their home. And some might want to hide something that is happening at home. Every child is different. Some children might be more confident about asking questions with their cameras off, and others might prefer it with the camera on.

If a child doesn't want to turn their camera on, consider whether you need to check in with them and their family separately to make sure everything is okay.

Make sure your organisation has child protection procedures for staff to follow if they are concerned about anything they have seen on a video call.

> Use our self-assessment tool to make sure you've got all the right safeguarding and child protection measures in place


Recording online events

Recording live online events

Most digital streaming platforms and online conferencing software allows the host to record the event.

You might want to record live online events involving children so that parents, carers and other children who cannot attend are able watch or participate. Or you might want to use a recording as a reflective tool for teaching and learning.

If your video or audio recording will include people other than yourself, there are several things you need to consider and put in place before you start recording.

Deciding if you need to make a recording

Video and audio recordings of an identifiable person constitute personal data under the Data Protection Act 2018.

Under the legislation, you need to make sure any recordings you make are:

  • adequate for your stated purpose
  • relevant for your purpose
  • limited to what is necessary.

You need to be clear about why you want to record online sessions, particularly if you would not normally record face-to-face sessions. Recording an online session should never take the place of other safeguarding and child protection measures.

You must have a specified, explicit and legitimate purpose for making a recording and only use it for that purpose.

Consider whether there are any other measures you can take to fulfil your needs. For example, if you work in an organisation where senior staff regularly observe face-to-face sessions, you could set up a system where they are invited to join video calls.

> Find out more about how data protection affects children

Policies and procedures

If you decide you need to record sessions, you should have a written policy which explains:

  • what you will do with the recordings
  • how you will store them securely and how long for
  • how you will dispose of them securely
  • who will be able to access them and how.

You also need to get written consent from parents, carers and children to make the recording.

Staff and volunteers should also give their permission for a recording to be made and organisations that employ contract workers (such as tutoring organisations) should also get written consent.

Make sure all parties understand why the recording is necessary and what you're going to do with it.

Check before each session that the children you’re working with are comfortable being recorded. Will they still feel able to engage with the session?

Make it clear that any party can withdraw consent at any time. If someone withdraws consent after a recording has been made make sure you dispose of the recording securely in line with your policy and procedures.

If you're an organisation, your policy should explain who is responsible for making, storing and disposing of recordings. This should be done centrally by your organisation rather than by individual employees or volunteers.

Parents, carers and children recording sessions

Some children, parents or carers might want to record sessions themselves. They might do this through the video call platform, or using a separate camera. They will be able to refer back to their recording whenever they want, but you won’t have any control over what happens to it. You might want to discuss this with them and make a written agreement about what they will use the recording for and how long they will keep it for.


Storage and data protection

Storing images securely

Photos and videos are classed as ‘personal data’ under the Data Protection Act 2018. Therefore if your organisation stores photos or video recordings of children for official use, you must ensure you are complying with the requirements set out in the Data Protection Act 2018

You must take steps to mitigate the risk of unauthorised access to and inappropriate use of images of children. This might include:

  • storing images in a secure location
  • encrypting electronic images before they are stored 
  • only using devices belonging to your organisation to take and store photos and recordings of children
  • making sure anyone who takes or uses images of children for your organisation has permission to do so.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) provides guidance on data protection (ICO, n.d.d).

Further guidance about encryption (ICO, n.d.e) and data storage (ICO, n.d.e) is also provided by the ICO.

The Department for Education (DfE) has provided a data protection toolkit for schools in England, which includes information about the retention and storage of images of children (DfE, 2023). The best practice set out in this guidance may also be helpful to schools in other nations of the UK.



Biometrics and Surveillance Camera Commissioner (2021) Amended surveillance camera code of practice. [Accessed 30/08/2023].

Care Inspectorate (2018) Guidance for care providers in Scotland using CCTV (closed circuit television) in their services (PDF). Dundee: Care Inspectorate.

Department for Education (DfE) (2023) Data protection: toolkit for schools. London: DfE.

Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) (n.d.a) Taking photographs: data protection advice for schools. [Accessed 30/08/2023].

Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) (n.d.b) Taking photos in schools. [Accessed 30/08/2023].

Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) (n.d.c) CCTV checklist. [Accessed 30/08/2023].

Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) (n.d.d) Guide to data protection. [Accessed 28/07/2021].

Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) (n.d.e) Encryption. [Accessed 30/08/2023].

Ofsted (2019) Surveillance and monitoring in residential childcare settings: information for providers and managers on the use of surveillance, including CCTV, in their residential childcare settings and how Ofsted will evaluate its use. [Accessed 30/08/2023].

Thinkuknow (2021). Sharing pictures of your children online. London: National Crime Agency’s CEOP Command. [Accessed 28/07/2021].