Photography for Teens

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"Free" by Alan Antiporda on Flickr Creative Commons.

When my daughter was in high school, she took a semester of photography as one of her electives. The class focused on film photography and darkroom procedures, so I gave her one of our film SLR’s to use. She has since stated that it was one of the best classes she took in high school – we still have the results of her work framed here and there throughout the house.

Photography certainly isn’t the least expensive hobby your teen could express interest in – nor is it the most expensive. Some high school courses provide cameras for the class to use – typically one shared between two students. Many high school courses require the student to have a camera for the class. If you’re in the latter category, this article is for you. The information that follows is based on a course based on digital photography.

Because most photography courses are based upon SLR-type cameras, you’ll probably have to forgo the less-expensive point-and-shoot route. However, there are a few options for the budget conscious that will support the class without breaking the bank.

Which camera is best for a beginner?

This is a great, and often-debated, question. There are a LOT of great beginner DSLR’s out there – here are three that have come to my attention recently as being particularly exceptional examples:

  • The Nikon D3000 is particularly user-friendly, and has a very unique “Guide Mode” that literally walks users through the steps to capture the specific type of photograph they’re trying to achieve. There’s a lot of room to grow with this camera, as the photographer’s confidence and knowledge grows. At the time of this writing, the Nikon D3000 with a kit lens is being offered by Amazon for $430.00.
  • I personally learned on a Canon Rebel XS and shot with it over three years before upgrading. It’s light and compact, and pretty darned bullet-proof. At the time of this writing, the Canon Rebel XS with a kit lens is being offered by Amazon for $480.00.
  • Like it or not, Canon and Nikon have cornered the market on DSLR’s, especially affordable entry-level models. I, personally, am not a fan of the Sony models, but if you prefer them the Sony Alpha SLT-a35 is the least expensive entry-level DSLR with a kit lens coming in at about $650 at the time of this article.

Go Used.

If you decide to look into buying a used DSLR, your brand and model options open wide. I looked on eBay and filtered for 10.0-11.9 megapixels, with a lens, with a price range of $0 to $300 and came up with 64 items. Models ranged from the Canon EOS Digital Rebel XTi to the Nikon D3000 to the Olympus EVOLT E-420.

Buying used also gives you the opportunity to buy a lens with a wide and flexible focal range – or even several lenses. Again, a search on eBay of all digital SLR lenses under $200, all conditions (new, used, refurbished, etc.), all brands, and with combined auto and manual focus, resulted in 5,065 items.

Petapixel has a great Guide to Buying Used DSLR Gear that will really help you determine the quality cameras from the lemons. When going the used route caveat emptor is the name of the game, of course.

What else will you need?

  • Your teen will need to be able to get the photos off of the camera and onto a PC (and I’m going to assume you have a PC), so you’ll need the USB cable appropriate for your camera model. A memory card reader, like a Kingston 19-in-1 USB 2.0 Flash Memory Card Reader, is handy and accommodates multiple types of memory cards. Plus, it’s under $15 bucks.
  • Get a memory card for your specific camera model that has at least 2GB of storage space. This will hold about 300 JPEG images. 2GB cards are incredibly inexpensive – prices go up according to the storage space on the card.
  • Complicated post-processing software isn’t necessary, especially if your teen is shooting in JPEG instead of RAW. Paintshop Photo Pro X3 Ultimate from Corel is currently being offered by Amazon at a discounted price of $39.00

Encourage your teen!

An interest in photography will enrich your teen’s life in many ways. They will use concepts in math, geography, and physics in ways that will demonstrate practical application, thereby circumventing the, “But when will I ever use this in REAL LIFE?” argument. Through the lens of their camera they will observe examples of sociological, environmental and behavioral sciences. They will understand their relationship with the world they interact with in a new way. They will explore and expand upon their artistic skills and perhaps discover interests they’d never considered before.

Check out my related article, Introduce Your Kids to Photography. The advice for younger children applies to teens as well!

For an idea of the types of things your teen would experience in a photography class, download a sample curriculum from SC Photo.

Photo Credit: “Free” by Alan Antiporda on Flickr Creative Commons.

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