Sharing your passion for photography with your children is a dream come true for many parents.
Giving kids the tools they need to better their photography skills will foster a lifelong interest in photography as well as other creative pursuits. The following tips will help you encourage their interest with the right mix of proper tools, technical lessons, and fun outings.
1. Keep it fun
Above all else, photography with kids should be fun. You’re not teaching them photography skills because you want them to get into a great photography school or become professional photographers. If photography isn’t enjoyable, kids aren’t going to stick with it. Encourage them to bring their camera along for family outings and plan occasional excursions with the purpose of getting some really cool shots. Even when you’re actively teaching, keep the mood light with exercises such as making funny faces for candid shots or including silly props like a Lego figure.
2. Provide kids with their own cameras
Children won’t feel like they can truly own their photography skills unless they’re shooting with their own cameras. The right camera will depend on your kid’s age and temperament. For small children, a plastic digital camera is a great option. Vtech offers several nice, affordable models. Kids will get to take real pictures without anyone worrying about a camera getting broken.
For elementary school age kids, a basic point and shoot camera is ideal. If you have an old point and shoot lying around, let them try it. For middle school and high school kids, encourage them to use their smartphone cameras as much as possible. If they’re interested in exploring DSLR or mirrorless photography, loan them one of your older models or consider investing in a low-end model.
3. Teach children how to hold a camera correctly
Learning how to hold a camera properly minimizes the risk of dropping it and helps you take better pictures. Make sure the camera your child is using is equipped with a neck or wrist strap. Gently enforce wearing the strap while shooting to keep the camera safe. Once the child is comfortable wearing the camera, teach him how to bring the camera up to his face, keeping his arms tucked in to limit movement, creating sharper photos. Provide occasional reminders to keep your child conscious of his form without badgering him about it.
4. Cover basic composition techniques
For elementary school age children and older, learning tried and true composition techniques is appropriate and will go a long way toward helping them create stronger images. Start with the rule of thirds, leading lines, filling the frame, and negative space.
Discuss limb chopping, and provide examples of strong and weak portraits. Then move on to lighting techniques. Work through catchlights, backlighting, low light, and window light. Whenever possible, give your kids opportunities to practice taking pictures in different lighting conditions.
5. Put together fun photography activities
When you’re out and about as a family, urge your kids to bring their cameras along. As you’re able to, pause so that they can take pictures without feeling rushed. Photography is a great excuse to visit new destinations and explore unfamiliar areas of town. Plan outings to new spots or re-visit favorite spots with the purpose of taking pictures.
For younger kids, organized photography activities will make photography more fun. Consider organizing a scavenger hunt around the house or even around town. Having them find and photograph items starting with each letter of the alphabet or items grouped by number helps them think outside the box and shoot beyond the row of stuffed animals in their bedroom while working on letter and number skills.
6. Help them get out of a rut when they get discouraged
Inevitably, kids will get discouraged with their photography. They’ll have a bad day and claim that everything about photography is too tough, or they won’t be happy with any of their photos, even after a fun day of shooting around town. If they’re really frustrated, most of the time it’s best to take a break from photography and return to it later in the week.
Let them know that everyone has rough patches and that even the best photographers struggle to create images they love all the time. Remind them how far they’ve come already, and tell them you’re looking forward to seeing what else they create this year.
7. Print their photos and hang them on the wall
One of the most satisfying elements of creating art is getting to see it displayed properly. While it’s fine looking at digital photos on a phone or computer screen, it’s not the same as seeing printed copies. Create a photo display in the dining room or kitchen or your child’s bedroom where you can switch up the photos periodically to keep it fresh and interesting. If your kid takes a photo they really like, frame it. Splurging for professional framing is a great holiday or birthday present.
8. Assist them with creating photo gifts
Printing kids’ photos and displaying them around the house is a great start for building self-esteem and helping them realize the full potential of their skills. As kids become more confident and build portfolios of beautiful images, help them select photos to gift for special occasions. Mom or Grandma is sure to love a family picture or gorgeous composition of a favorite spot that their own kid or grandkid took. Teach them how to use photos to make other gift items as well, such as DIY photo coasters or commercially-printed calendars.
With a little guidance, you’ll be amazed how quickly your kids grow their photography skills. While they will take lots of mediocre snapshots, they’ll blow you away with the occasional amazing composition. Keep encouraging them, but know when to back off, too. For some children, photography will be a passing interest. For other kids, it will become a lifelong hobby or even career. Follow their lead to provide the right motivation in their creative pursuits.
Rose Clearfield is a freelance writer and hobbyist photographer. She lives in southeast WI with her husband, son, and three cats. She bought her first DSLR in 2012 and hasn’t looked back since. With an education background and a passion for writing, she loves helping people learn how to take better pictures.