Introduce Your Kids to Photography

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When I was very little – around six or seven years old (and yes, that is me in the photo above, but I was about three then) – we had a friend of the family who was a professional photographer. He had a very complete darkroom in his home, owned every piece of photographic gear imaginable, and was blessed with an infinite amount of patience when it came to fielding my questions. Since I showed such an interest in the entire photographic process, he’d let me sit in the dark room with him and watch him work. I distinctly remember the smell of the chemicals, the eeriness of the red light, and the maze of twine strung from the walls and ceiling, holding dripping proofs.

He gave me my very first camera (and my second, and my third, come to think of it). I don’t even know what kind it was; it was a film camera that you hold at waist level and look down into. It had a silver hatch that flipped open and closed at the top, to expose the viewfinder. He showed me how to load and unload the film, and how to take shots. I LOVED that thing and took it everywhere, taking hundreds of pictures of my childhood life. I would take my film back to our family friend and he would develop it himself. Frame after frame of questionably composed photos of my feet, my toys, my friends. As I said, he had infinite patience.

I wish I still had those photos today.

Anyway! It was reminiscing about my childhood exposure to photography (forgive the pun) that got me thinking about this article. Based on my own experiences, as a child and as a mother with a daughter interested in photography, I thought I would share some tips about how to introduce photography to your children.

If they demonstrate an active interest in photography, encourage it! Digital cameras can be remarkably inexpensive, especially many point-and-shoot models. It’s not necessary (as much as they might think it is) to get them a top-of-the-line model, especially in the beginning. Even better, if you have an older model of your own just sitting around the house gathering dust, give them that one to experiment with!

Customize the complexity of instruction with their level of interest and their age. Start with the basics – how to hold a camera, how to keep fingers out of the shot, how to keep the camera straight and level, and how to focus. If your kid is anything like mine were, they couldn’t wait to just get started! As the child progresses, or in order to maintain the attention and interest of an older child, you can start talking about depth of field, composition, light, and other more advanced aspects of photography.

Let them play. The best teacher in the world can’t replicate the experiences gained by good old fashioned trial and error. So, give them a few pointers, then let them shoot away. Get excited with them! Even play with them; it’s easy to see the world with fresh eyes, when you’re on a photo-shoot with a child as your compatriot. Plan an outing with your child during which you each take photos with your individual cameras. It’s so interesting to see the different perspectives that come from a shared experience, and it makes for an excellent memory to look back upon when your child is grown.

Review their pictures with them. Some of my fondest memories are those I share with my daughter, going to the 1-hour developing place to pick up her latest roll of film. We’d sit in the car in the parking lot and tear into the envelope right away. She’d celebrate the “good” shots and mourn the “bad” shots, and we’d get a good laugh out of the experience. When you review your child’s photographs, emphasize the positive aspects of the “good” shots, and offer gentle guidance with the “not-so-good” shots. Talk about what your child might do differently next time in order to improve the shot.

Showcase their work. Have your child choose the shots that he or she is the most proud of. Print them out and put them up on the refrigerator. Even better, make a photo project out of it – create a collage, or a calendar, or frame a selection of prints to put up in the living room (we still have several of my daughter’s photos from her high school photography class framed and hanging here and there around the house). Help them create photographic gifts for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, birthdays, or Christmas. Great encouragement is gained by being able to physically hold the the product of their creativity in their hands.

Introducing your kids to photography is a great way to bond together over shared experiences and interests. Have you introduced a child in your life to the world of photography? What did you do to encourage them? Feel free to tell us about your experiences in the comments!

Photo credits (in order of appearance):
- “Me At Three”, Tiffany Joyce.
- “Snap” by Peter Lindberg on Flickr Creative Commons.

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  • http://tylerwainright.com/ Tyler Wainright

    Our oldest daughter loves to use our point-n-shoot camera but we haven’t printed or showcased any or her pictures. That’s a great idea.

  • http://www.naveenroy.com Naveen Roy

    Nice article. I was so surprised when I found out that my mom actually loved to shoot when she was a girl in her teens and going through college! She says she had a camera that she used to carry around and I still have some of her photos with me. Have scanned them and kept them safe.nnAnd she really took some great shots…..

  • DionV

    What a great post! My daughter has been playing with our various point and shoot cameras since she was about 6. The, um, “perspectives” certainly are interesting. :-D In amongst the head-scratchers (“Honey, can *you* tell that that is?”) are some very interesting shots as well. While I continue to renew/relearn my photography skills, I will take some time to encourage hers as well. Thank you.