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Are photos an observation?

‘I want to see a photo of my child before four o clock’.

This request was made by a family whose child attends an early childhood service.
We have also heard that one mother dresses her child in yellow when he attends his early childhood service so that he stands out and is easy to identify in photos. One educator declared that a colleague of hers had taken 150 photos in a two hour period and another announced that she had seen educators ‘whipping dummies out of a child’s mouth’ to get a good photo.

We live in a world of digital technologies where Instagram and other social media platforms are consuming, obsessive and for some have become a way of generating income. However, as educators, we should carefully consider why we are taking photos of children in their early childhood service. Many educators report that families ‘expect’ it. Why do families expect it? Who created this expectation? Did the sector create this expectation by endeavouring to communicate with families about what their child was doing at the service that day?

Respectful relationships and interactions with children are critical to their sense of identity, their wellbeing and for rich, enjoyable learning experiences. However, are educators sacrificing their responsibilities in Quality Area 5 (Relationships with children) in the NQS when they run around with an iPad or camera, just to take photographs? This obsession to take photos of children does affect relationships with children, and the camera takes educators away from a child rather than bringing them closer to a child.

Educators seem to think that a photo is an observation and it seems that they have ditched their notepads, their pens and intentionality to fulfil their ‘quota’ of photos for each child. Photos can be a tool to support documentation, but many educators have misunderstood this. Consequently, a culture of taking meaningless posed and ‘cute’ photos has emerged where many educators believe that these photos are count as an observation. Due to the number of photos taken and the lack of intentionality, often the photos do not reflect a rich, strong, competent and capable image of the child, nor do they record a child’s learning or 'distance travelled'. Sometimes these photos are entirely unethical and published without consideration of what the camera has actually captured in the background.


While it is essential to develop respectful partnerships with families and listen to their requests, it is also necessary to critically and ethically reflect on how these requests can impact and influence the quality of the pedagogical experiences that you offer to children in your services.

Use the camera less and spend more time interacting with children.