Travel Photography Subjects: Young People

Travel Photography Subjects: Young People



This post is number three of twenty one subjects that will help you focus when on your next journey and wish to bring back a well rounded story of where you were.  If you’re just going on vacation and only want pictures of yourself by the pool sipping boat drinks, then you can probably skip this one.  These posts are not intent on telling you everything you need to do, step by step, to capture perfect, cookie-cutter pictures while traveling.  Instead, they are intent on pointing out some vital elements to capture when on the road and ask thought provoking questions you may want to ask yourself.  My hope is they help guide you to find your own means to better expressing what your travels have meant to you and present that in the best light possible.

Today’s focus is the youth you will encounter on your travels.  Young people (and the age range for youth is open to your own interpretation when traveling) often require different tactics to befriend.  Often all it takes is a simple smile to open things up.  Kids are naturally curious but often wary of new things (and it conflicts them a lot!).  So it takes time and patience.  On the other hand, some older kids will run right up to you (sometimes asking for money, gum, pens, etc…) and be eager to see themselves on your camera’s screen afterwards.  That’s actually the best way to break the ice with most children, show them a picture of themselves.  Kids in touristy areas will be less interested in the picture and more interested in getting something from you.  But once you are away from the main tourist traps, you’ll notice kids delight in viewing themselves.  And if your camera has video capabilities, you may have to spend all afternoon filming them and letting them watch.

Be considerate of the children’s parents when taking photos.  It’s not practical for me to list the accepted cultural norms for all countries or regions of the world in regard to this (mainly because I’m ignorant of most of them myself and learn as I go) but as a rule of thumb, check in with the parents before taking photos of their children, assuming they are nearby.  If there’s a language barrier, a simple smile and quizzical look while pointing to your camera is about all it takes.  As it is polite to ask anyone for permission to take their photo, that courtesy should be extended to the child’s parents.

For some practical tips, set your camera on the ‘Sports’ mode if it has one.  Some cameras even have a ‘Kids & Pets’ mode which pretty much is the same thing; higher ISO, faster shutter speed and increased frame rate to help freeze the ever moving child.  If your camera doesn’t have either of those mode, just pick a decently high shutter speed and ISO combination.  Think 1/250sec or more and an ISO around 400 can help with the higher speed while not adding much noise.  If you’re using a point and shoot with their often maligned shutter delay, try using your cameras ‘Continuous Shutter’ option.  While this may only be .8 or 1.4 frames a second, it can help increase your chances of catching a special moment.

Also, get down at their level, or lower, and play for a bit before starting to shoot.   Make faces, laugh or show them photos of where you come from (you DO travel with photos from home to share with others, right?).  As with any human, big or small, try to connect before capturing their image.  One of the easiest ways of connecting is to bring photos of animals from home, be they farm animals, pets or wild.  Imitate the noises the animals make.  Goof off and have fun.

Do you have special photos of children from your travels that you’d like to share?  Post them in the comments section below.

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Peter West Carey leads photo tours and workshops in Nepal, Bhutan, Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles and beyond. He is also the creator of Photography Basics - A 43 Day Adventure & 40 Photography Experiments, web-based tutorials taking curious photographers on a fun ride through the basics of learning photography.

Some Older Comments

  • angad singh August 8, 2010 05:36 am

    young monks waiting for their boat just after the rain...shot of the hip!!

  • Naomi July 20, 2010 12:44 pm

    A photo of a little girl from Bajau Laut ethnic, with no nationality. Bajau Laut came from Indonesia to Sabah, Malaysia. They live on small settlement at shallow water near Semporna. Some live on small boats.

    [eimg link='' title='Young girl from Bajau Laut ethnic' url='']

  • Kathryn Bell July 17, 2010 08:42 am

    A proper link to the photo with gorgeous Bolivian children playing in boxes

    [eimg link='' title='Children in Bolivia' url='']

  • Miles July 16, 2010 09:37 am

    Upon arriving on Ko Phi Phi.

  • Kathryn Bell July 16, 2010 09:36 am

    Gorgeous kids playing in Bolivia. Taken a few years ago with a small point and shoot.

  • katherine low July 7, 2010 04:09 pm

    [eimg url='' title='hide-and-go-seek']

    I took this in Tuscania, Italy in May. I was staying in a Medieval town and this park had views of Historic architecture that any visitor was amazed by- but to the local children it was just where they met up to play.

  • mark July 6, 2010 10:56 pm

    very helpful post

  • Vidya Poyilath July 6, 2010 06:16 am

    i am not saying this is photographically great, but i love the various poses i got in this pic..especially of the little one behind the dad.. which i found TOO CUTE! :) overall, i am pleased the way this turned out to be :)

    [eimg link='' title='The more, the merrier! :)' url='']

  • ClauCookie July 4, 2010 11:28 pm

    Children are very natural and fun, I love to take pictures of them.

    this one is in Dublin during Saint Patrick day

  • chroma key July 2, 2010 10:49 pm

    i still remember my earlier days as i started my photography as a hobby later, which turned into carrier. i always like to carry my digital SLR to the place were i never visited and love to take pictures of rear subject, expression, celebration, colors, nature, wildlife etc. i regularly keep updating my collections and never miss to share with my friends and family.

  • bobtan July 2, 2010 10:45 pm

    i love travel photography its inspired me if i see all these photos

  • Dennis San Pedro July 2, 2010 06:36 pm

    [eimg url='' title='DSC6657.JPG?et=fN7068dBHx8480TfX9oZig&nmid=344137122']

  • Dennis San Pedro July 2, 2010 06:32 pm

    My grandson

    [eimg url='' title='DSC6690.JPG?et=sg50mUY%2BNj0HJQjI%2CnCZLg&nmid=344137122']

  • Nikki July 2, 2010 01:55 pm

    While walking through a small Vietnamese town/village I came across these two little children.

  • Kara July 2, 2010 01:36 pm

    I love photographing children! Especially if you're travelling to a 3rd world country like Cambodia, always show the children previews on your camera screen. They will usually laugh or smile coz most of them are not acquainted with techonology/cameras...

    [eimg url='' title='jun10-fsc-cambodia-10-1.jpg']
    [eimg url='' title='jun10-fsc-cambodia-2-1.jpg']
    Check out more photos in my blog entry:

  • Kara July 2, 2010 01:17 pm

    I love photographing children...!!! Especially in 3rd world places like Cambodia, the children are not acquainted with techonology/cameras so when you show them the previews of the shots you took, their smiles and laughter would warm your heart. I realise that kids warm up more easily afterwards when you show them previews on your cam screen... :)

    [eimg url='' title='jun10-fsc-cambodia-9.jpg']
    [eimg url='' title='jun10-fsc-cambodia-10.jpg'][eimg url='' title='jun10-fsc-cambodia-2.jpg']

    Here's other photographs of the wonderful Cambodian children I took:

  • wing July 2, 2010 12:06 pm

    some more...

  • Richard Hall July 1, 2010 02:52 pm

    I,ll try again as my photo did not come through first time

  • Anh Vo July 1, 2010 06:03 am

    [eimg link='' title='IMG_5073' url='']

  • Mr Jon July 1, 2010 03:44 am

    Great post, and part of what promises to be a really interesting series. I'm also a fan of the "nod and smile" technique for people pictures. Seems to work most - though not all! - of the time here in Vietnam.

    This picture was taken in Sapa, in the north of Vietnam, last summer.[/img]

  • Caroline June 30, 2010 06:04 am


  • Caroline June 30, 2010 05:20 am

    I always find the most photogenic children when traveling! My partner recently bought me a Polaroid Pogo, a small, portable, inkless printer that makes tiny sticker prints-- and I'm thinking it will be fun to use with kids, especially in very remote areas where people have few, if any, photos of themselves.

    [eimg link='' title='Going In, Ocean Beach, San Diego' url='']

    [eimg link='' title='Young Boy in Tribal Makeup, Indore, India' url='']

    [eimg link='' title='Village Children, En Route to Agra, India' url='']

    [eimg link='' title='Village Child, Indore, India' url='']

    [eimg link='' title='Girl with Pigtails, Indore, India' url='']

  • Murchyk85 June 29, 2010 11:58 pm

    Spanish kids :)

  • Murchyk85 June 29, 2010 11:57 pm

    Spanish kids :)

    [eimg url='' title='Girls_name.jpg']

  • Heather C June 29, 2010 11:49 pm

    some shots from my recent vacay...[/img][eimg link='' title='beach bum' url='']

  • GerryS June 29, 2010 11:20 am

    [eimg link='' title='Best Pals' url='']

  • Janice June 29, 2010 05:13 am

    Ah, what a beautiful post! When you want to sell your photos online, it is always a good idea to receive permission from the subject as well as the parents before you begin to click away. But more than that, photographing children can help you to practice shots with movement and that express feelings or a particular mood - because children are not fake in this way. So, even if it's just to practice and fine tune your skills, it is worth it!

  • Monica June 29, 2010 04:27 am

    I was lucky enough to get this shot of some Uyghur children in old town Kashgar... photographing children is tricky, but definitely worth the effort.

    [eimg link='' title='Generations in Kashgar' url='']

  • Keith June 28, 2010 11:09 pm

    I like to secretly snap from the hip when traveling.

    [eimg url='' title='IMG_1618.jpg']

  • Killian June 28, 2010 10:38 pm

    David, actually, if you're in public in the US, you actually do have the legal right to photograph kids with or without permission.

    The Photographer's Bill of Rights can be found here:

    That said, I do tend to ask permission as well if I can. And really, while I understand the paranoia that pervades society lately, most pedophiles are not going to sit out in the open with their equipment, interacting with people and such. Being careful is one thing, but I think that if we go too far in the other direction, we really risk breaking down a lot of the fibers that connect us to each other.

    Case in point: I was at an Irish Dance competition with my daughter a while back, and we were hanging out in between her events. Some little girl, maybe 7ish?, came off the stage in tears because her wig was coming loose and her mom was off in other staging room with her older sister. No problem. I told her to come off to the side with me and we used our bobby pins to reset her wig securely, and she went back on stage to finish her event with no problem. Later, the mom came to me in gratitude, for co-opting her kid for a few minutes. We have to help each other out as families, and even the simple act of sharing photo ops can strengthen that.


  • Phillipa Chan June 28, 2010 08:27 pm

    An angel face but a monster kid, lol

    [eimg url='' title='Thich_Ca_Phat_Dai_26_FOTOP.jpg']

  • kimi June 28, 2010 08:26 pm

    love dis!
    children r always soo intriguin to capture.. i always try to capture small children near my college construction site.. a delightful feelin frm both d sides..

  • Melbourne Phone Directory June 28, 2010 07:49 pm

    My cousin recommended this website, you have awesome blogs. Thanks for writing.,

  • Richard Hall June 28, 2010 07:08 pm

    a young boy we came across Bali who loved having his picture taken


  • wing June 28, 2010 04:11 pm

    Tibetan children

  • Jason Collin Photography June 28, 2010 02:45 pm

    A photograph of myself with some Cambodian children taken in 2001, which I like so much I use on my about page:

    It was one of the best afternoon's of my life.

  • Raylee aka Camellia June 28, 2010 01:05 pm

    I agree with you David. Even as a female, I'm afraid of being accused of all sorts of untoward things. There's a skate park not far from home and I'd love to take photos of the kids on their bikes and boards - but no way am I risking it.

  • Alli June 28, 2010 11:48 am

  • Camping Toilet June 28, 2010 10:51 am

    Young people are always tricky to get some descent shots. Good book.

  • Joey Rico June 28, 2010 10:30 am

  • David Beards June 28, 2010 10:25 am

    In today's climate of alleged pedophilia and child protection laws, I would never even attempt to take a photo of a youth. You could find yourself being questioned by police!

  • Natalie Duran June 28, 2010 09:14 am

  • Michael S. June 28, 2010 08:45 am

    As with photographing anybody, I completely agree that the "nod and smile" goes a long way in overcoming language barriers.

    In late April I was walking through a botanical garden at a local university during the Cherry Blossom Festival in Seoul. This child was enchanted with her mother's bubble maker, and when she noticed I was smiling at them, I raised my camera. After a nod and a smile, I received one back, and got this. I don't think I would have captured the same moment of intimacy if I had just shot without permission:

    [eimg url='' title='090b.jpg']

  • Natalie Duran June 28, 2010 08:34 am

    [eimg link='' title='NAT_006' url='']

  • toomanytribbles June 28, 2010 07:54 am

    i really liked this post. i LOVE photographing children, with their parents' permission, but i upload very few. i really like how, when i have a camera in hand, we become instant friends!

    you know, sometimes, when you travel, you find a bunch of children, and they photograph YOU!