When I was a kid, I gravitated toward the camera. Of course, those were different days. Back then, a kid couldn’t take that many photos for fear of wasting mom and dad’s money on film. Now it’s a totally different era. I feel like I can really teach my own children how to take pictures. Here’s what I’ve learned.
Teach them the value of experimentation
Show your kids there isn’t just one way to take a picture. Get down low on the ground, shoot from above. Try a ton of different angles. Give the camera to your kids and tell them to come up with 20 different pictures of the same tree. Kids will love this sort of challenge. I wish I could have done that as a kid. If I did, I’m pretty sure I would have been grounded.
Just as important as experimentation is the ability to pick one or two great photos from a long string of okay photos. Every time your kid comes back a shoot, review the photos on your computer and have your kid pick his or her favorite. When they have a favorite, ask them why they like it. This is a great time to reinforce the reasons why some photos work better than others.
Teach them to shoot a variety of subjects
When I was a kid, I wasn’t that interested in photographing people. I just wanted to take a bunch of pictures of things around the neighborhood. I really should have been taking more pictures of my family and friends. If your kids are stuck on one subject, encourage them to branch out and try something new. I know it would have improved my childhood photography.
Teach them to focus on a single subject
This isn’t something you only have to teach your kids. There are a lot of adults who need to learn this lesson. Show your kids the different distractions that can occur in photos -things like streetlights and other background noise. Tell them to pick just one person and zoom in really far to get the photo instead of just blankly shooting a room full of people.
I think the best way to teach this concept is with still life photography. Shoot some photos of fruit and flowers with your kids. Show them the importance of getting up very very close. They’ll take the lesson from fruit, and they’ll apply it to taking pictures of people.
Teach your kids how to avoid putting everything in the center
You don’t need to teach your kids the rule of thirds quite yet. If they’re pretty young, they probably won’t get it. For now, you can teach them to avoid placing the subject in the center. When you’re reviewing their photos, tell them to move the subject to the right or left. You don’t need to say why. Just tell them to avoid the center because it makes better pictures.
Show them the different shooting modes
Kids know there are bunch of different settings on a camera, but a lot of them don’t know what they’re for. Take a few hours to go through the different shooting settings on your camera, illustrating what each of them does best. Take some action shots, portraits, indoor shots, and everything for which there is a mode. This is a great way to get them ready for manual photography.
A side benefit of doing this is that it forces your kids to shoot different subjects. Action mode is best for sports, and macro mode is best for small things. Use the modes to show your kids that there’s more to photography than taking pictures of the family dog.
Get them to love the sound of the shutter
By that, I mean your kids should be taking tons of photos. There are no restrictions these days, so let them have at it. The more photos they take, the faster they’ll learn. Eventually they’ll get bored of taking the same photos over and over again. They’ll start experimenting just to do something new.
Show them how to handle the camera
Most kids don’t know there is a proper way to hold the camera. They also don’t know that they need to hold the shutter button halfway down to get the camera to focus before taking the shot. The first time your kid grabs a hold of camera, go through the shooting sequence. Show them how to hold the camera close to your face (to avoid camera shake) as well as how to prefocus on subjects.
The one thing I love most about digital photography is how immediate it is. My nephews can review their photos with me just seconds after they’ve taken them. Whenever they make a mistake, I show them a few things they can do to improve upon it. Over the years, I imagine their photography will improve, and pretty soon they’ll no longer need my help. I can’t wait to see what kind of photographers they’ll become.
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