If you love photography, you have probably loved it since you were a child. Do you remember your first camera or the first picture you ever took? Remember how excited you were about taking pictures and sharing them with everyone. You can help a child experience those same feelings by getting them started in photography. Most people, no matter what age enjoy taking pictures and children are no exception. Here are some tips to help you teach child photography.
When working with children it is important to buy a product that is not only cost effective, but kid friendly. Disposable and waterproof cameras are perfect for children because they are generally inexpensive and unbreakable. A kid camera can cost anywhere from $4-$20 or more depending on what you are buying. To save money you can always buy used or refurbished cameras at a discount. Remember that occasionally all children have “butter fingers” and will drop the camera, so buy something that is kid friendly with a tough exterior in case it is dropped.
The functions of the camera should not be extensive, just simple point and shoot technology that children can easily use. It is really unnecessary for a child to be learning zoom and shutter speeds when it is very likely they will not retain the information for much longer than a lesson. Disposables, waterproof, and digital cameras are fine and will teach the basics of point and shoot as well as flash photography.
The key to getting children involved in the art of photography is to start them young. Children as young as 3 or 4 may enjoy the gratification of photography, but of course will need supervision. Even a 5 year old may just want to shoot everything in site but you should set limits before you even get started. Try limiting the shots to 1 or 2 per subject at first. As the child progresses increase the number of shots per subject. Keep in mind the budget that you have for film and processing. You want to be firm but gentle when teaching children photography so try not to have too many rules or be too stringent. Photography is supposed to be fun so keep it light.
Before you give the camera to the child set clear guidelines about using the camera. Choose a spot where the camera can be store safely, out of the reach of the child. Set rules about when and where the camera can be used, and also about asking permission before taking the camera. Although your 3 year old may know that he or she is not supposed to use the camera without asking, they may not be able to stop themselves once they get the idea in their little head. Hide the camera in a cabinet or a drawer in your bedroom. Start teaching the value of a camera and respect for the tool as soon as you start teaching them how to take pictures. Be an example by handling your own camera gently.
When you go to church, the park or playground, or a family outing bring the camera with you. A small fanny pack or child’s backpack is great way to carry the camera and keep it from getting damaged. Encourage your child to shoot friends and family, trees, birds, and other subjects that they like. Have an idea before you get started for a project that you can use the photos in, like a photo book or wall mural, not just for decorating the refrigerator. Get your child involved in the entire process of planning and making the project.
Choosing a subject and sticking to it is a good idea. Generally kids will want to shoot their favorite things. Trains, cars, dogs, and toys are some of the things your child may want to shoot. Let them take pictures of the things they like. It makes for great childhood memory keepsakes because with just one or two snaps it is saved for life.
One of the biggest barriers in teaching children photography is that they may not retain the information or loose interest quickly. If you just understand that it takes a little time and patience it will be much easier to teach a child. Children’s attention spans are generally pretty short at least until about age 5 so don’t worry if your child is not interested now, they will be later.
After the pictures have been downloaded to the computer or processed, take a look at them together with your child. This is a great time for some parent child bonding as well as showing the child what they need to improve. Offer praise and constructive criticism that will help get rid of compositional and lighting mistakes. If using a digital format, print a few of the pictures for your child to have and share.