After a hectic last few weeks in school, my kids are finally on Christmas break. They’ve been in a state of elevated excitement for a while now thanks to all the hype and excitement, and hopefully we can get them on a somewhat even keel while school is off. All that free time can be a bit of a challenge though, and I’m sure that like us, you’ll be looking for ways to keep your kids occupied over the holidays. Why not offer them a photography project and let them become the documenters of the family holidays? Cameras are now one of the most widely available pieces of technology, making photography accessible to almost everybody. Today I’m going to offer you 10 tips to help you help your kids grow the passion for the craft of photography.
Think before you shoot
No matter what you’re trying to accomplish in life, a bit of planning goes a long way. Now of course we don’t want to steal the joy out of an endeavour by holding a project management meeting complete with flow charts, but a few simple questions can definitely help to get your kids focussed and thinking. For example:
- ‘What are you going to photograph today?’
- ‘What’s your favourite photograph? What do you like about it?’
- ‘What are you going to do with your photographs?’
Tell everybody what you’re doing
The concept of access is a really important one for photographers, because aside from street photographers, basically every other photographer needs to get access to their subjects, and permission to shoot. But when you get that access, in my experience, everything else just flows. So encourage your kids to tell everyone what their doing and the chances are, people will be only too happy to help out.
Ask for help
Speaking of help, some situations (like crowded rooms) may pose an issue for pint sized photographers, and so they need to know that they can always ask for help. Photography can be an incredibly empowering craft because once you have the goal of getting a certain shot, the motivation is clear and the actions required to reach that goal are easy to identify. A photography project is a wonderful way to bring kids out of their shell.
Photography is all about trial and error, no matter how long you’ve been doing it. That’s part of the beauty; there’s always something new to learn. And the best way to learn is hands-on, trying things out and refining your methodology. So encourage your kids to experiment, to think creatively and never be afraid to make mistakes – as long as they keep the equipment safe!
Photography needs light
You’ve probably noticed already that I’m not offering a lot of technical tips here, and deliberately so. Everyone should start photography in automatic mode, and just let the camera make all the decisions. It’s like learning to ride a bike with training wheels; it gets you started. In my opinion the most important technical thing to learn at this point is the importance of light. There has to be a light source in order to make a photograph. If you’re in automatic mode the flash will probably pop-up if there isn’t enough ambient light, but sometimes it may not. It can be a frustrating experience to struggle with photographs that don’t correspond to what our naked eye sees, and usually the problem is the lighting. You’re never too young to learn about good lighting!
Image courtesy of Monica Gozalo
Smiles win prizes
One of the attributes of good people photography that you can easily explain to your kids is the importance of great expressions. Big smiles and belly laughs get great responses from viewers so encourage your kids to look out for fun and playful moments and be ready to hit the shutter button.
Most people have a habit of standing too far back when they take a photograph, so definitely encourage your kids to get as close as possible when they’re shooting. Obviously this doesn’t apply to landscape photography, but where people are involved, there’s usually a point of interest in the photo that’s important and the closer we can get to this, the more effective the photo will be.
Try not to cut off anyone’s head!
Ok this is pretty obvious (and applicable to a lot of situations!) but while I’m telling you to encourage your kids to get closer, it’s important to try to keep everyone’s heads in the frame, particularly for the old family group portrait! Of course there are situations where the story is not about the faces, which leads me nicely to my next tip….
Photography is storytelling
For me the greatest power of photography is as a medium for storytelling. The truly great photographs are those that speak to themes and events wider than what which is included in the frame. This is a concept that may be difficult to explain to a younger audience, but try to get them talking about the images they are making as you review them, and you’ll find that the best storytelling images also lead to the most interesting conversations.
As with any pursuit, it can take a while to find your flow in photography, that point where it feels effortless and ideas come easily. But with a little patience, and a little encouragement, your kids may well discover a new way to express themselves and to frame the world around them. They’re going to grow up in the most visually literate society the world has ever known, and a foundation in photography will be a huge bonus to them, whatever path they follow.
Feature image courtesy of Marcus Spiske