Ask An Agent / Photographing Kids

Ask an Agent is a regular monthly column that answers all your dilemmas about the business of photography - a sort of photography agony aunt. Whatever area of the industry you are in, if you have any questions you’d like to ask please send them to  LisaASKanAgent5

I’ve been asked to put some costs together for a shoot with babies and toddlers. I have some personal shots of kids in my folio but have never been commissioned by a client to photography them. Can you tell me the things I need to be aware of when organising a shoot with kids. The client is a supermarket and the shoot is through an advertising agency.

Rebecca Dixon, Photographer.

I can indeed, here at LPA we have done lots of shoots with children and there are some specific things that you need to bear in mind as it can be a minefield!

Children’s Performance Licences

A performance licence is required in the UK (and many other countries) when a child under the age of 16 is required to work on a shoot as a model. This is to protect the welfare of the child, for example to check that they are fit and healthy enough to work and are not working too many days in a given year.

You need to apply for the licence from the children’s employment officer at the borough council where the child lives. It isn’t expensive, is usually a straightforward procedure and the councils rarely reject the application. You should allow up to 10 days but be aware it can take up to 21 working days. You must take this paperwork to the shoot, we have been inspected several times! Not getting a licence can result in a hefty fine.


© Michela Nale


© Kerry Harrison

Working Hours

Children can only work a restricted number of hours and between certain times. You should check with the children’s employment officer as occasionally this differs between councils but here’s a quick snap shot:

children performance table

A set of Children (Performance) Regulations 1968, can be downloaded on most councils websites and contains more important information.

It’s also worth asking the parent when the best time is to shoot them, in case for example, they have a regular nap time that you might want to try and work around.


© Sarah Cresswell

Audition Fees

Model agencies often charge an audition fee to contribute to the cost of parents travel and expenses to get to a casting.

Chaperone Fees

A chaperone fee is charged by most agencies to cover cost of travel and expense for the parents or relative to accompany the child to the shoot. Sometimes a professional chaperone is hired.

First Aider

Some councils insist that a first aider be present on shoots involving children. You can get more information from:

Association of First Aiders -

St. John's Ambulance -

First Aid Cover -

CAP Codes

The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) produces a set of codes called The UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing (the CAP Codes) - are ‘designed to protect consumers and create a level playing field for advertisers.’ These are regulated by the Advertising Standards Authority.

Although this should be the responsibility of the advertising agency don’t assume your client is aware of them, there are certain products that kids shoudn’t be associated with in an advertisement e. g Alcohol.

Model Release

If you are booking the kids through a model agency check that the usage of the final images is somewhere on your agreement with them, they usually send you a booking form including this information.  If you aren’t booking the babies through an agency, you’ll need to get a model release form signed by the parent, detailing the specific usage needed.


Whether you are shooting in a studio or on location, make sure there is suitable access. We have had production assistant's spending all day running up and down stairs before carrying baby buggies. Often parents might have other small children that they bring along so try to find somewhere that accommodates this. If you are organising a casting in a casting studio I would advise preselecting the kids that will be seen and making this clear to the model agencies to avoid the casting looking like a crèche!


Casting shot from an LPA casting with children, made more enjoyable by the children dressing up in animal hats!


If we have young children in a shoot we usually have a back up in case the child is ill or not in the mood to be photographed on the day. For example on one of Kerry Harrison's castings one baby was so smiley the crew couldn't help but pick him for the shoot. But when it came to show day he refused to pull out his grin! Leaving the stylist and photographer trying to entertain him, but nothing would make him happy. Also handy so one can have a break whilst the other is photographed. Usage is usually only charged for the child that is selected, but check with the model agency.

Other Stuff

Other things to bear in mind is what kids of certain ages can and can’t do. I remember organising a casting once with toddlers who were meant to do karate kicks, before realising they were too young to do them!

Games, toys, music are worth having on shoot to keep the kids happy.

The shoot below posed unique challenges to Patrick in that the children were speaking Welsh all day. The little boy below was shot under the chair as he refused to come out, leaving Patrick with no choice but to shoot him there!


© Patrick Harrison / Welsh Medium Education

Good luck with that then!

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This advice should be taken as a guide only. Lisa Pritchard and LPA take no responsibility for any omissions or errors. Please seek professional legal advice should you require it.