Teaching kids about photography has so many benefits. Not only is it a great way for children to express their creativity, it’s also a fun way to help develop their voice and identity. Photography can teach them how to see things from a different perspective. They’ll learn to tell stories through their photos. Plus it’s a confidence booster. Photography is art so there’s no right or wrong way to do it. There are no mistakes in photography. Only ways to grow.
It’s also a wonderful way to bond with your kids. If you explain to them that they aren’t just snapping a picture, that they are freezing time and capturing a moment that will last forever, all of a sudden cameras become magical.
Last year on Take Your Child to Work Day, I let Jaime, my 12 year old, stay home from school and help me photograph Olivia for her one month pictures. We talked about camera settings and light and she loved experimenting with angles.
She also loves to bake so we’ll often take pictures of what she makes.
When Olivia was born, both girls started taking more of an interest in getting behind the camera. They love to get shots of her smiling and I love that they are interested in what I do for a living.
If you’ve got a child who’s interested in photography, I’d love to share a few simple things you can teach them to help develop their skills. Before I do that, let’s talk about what camera they should be using.
what’s the best camera to use?
The easiest way to teach kids about photography is to let them use your smartphone. I know, I know – aren’t we supposed to be getting them OFF cell phones? But, there are basic rules you can learn about light and composition that don’t require a fancy digital camera and an iPhone is a great way to do that.
If they want something of their own to practice, try an instant camera like the Fujifilm Instax Mini. It’s inexpensive and they get the instant gratification of seeing their photos in print. Plus, it’s great to have for doing some of the photo projects I’m going to share with you at the bottom of the post.
Also, don’t be afraid to let them use a DSLR too. Maybe you’ve got an older model laying around. Or think about buying a used one. That’s what we did for Julianna, my oldest daughter, as a Christmas gift a couple years ago. We bought a used Canon Rebel T3. That camera is discontinued now, but any of the Rebel models are great for a beginner. If you’ve got young ones, I still think it’s ok to let them use a bigger camera as long as you make it a rule to keep the camera strap on at all times.
5 simple rules for good photos
Now that you’ve got an idea of what camera to use, let’s talk about some rules you can teach your children. Some of these concepts might need to be tweaked according to your child’s age. All of these rules assume you’re going to be using a smartphone.
1. Teach them how to focus and what to focus on. Most smartphones have the ability to move the focus around by tapping the screen. This is pretty easy even for young kids and it makes such a huge difference when what they want in focus is actually in focus. You might also want to explain that what they are focusing on is called their ‘subject’ so that when you talk about their pictures later on, you can ask questions about why they chose their subject.
2. Teach them about exposure and what it means. A picture is overexposed if it’s too bright and underexposed if it’s too dark. Your smartphone should have the ability to adjust the exposure of a picture. On an iPhone if you tap the screen and hold it down, a little box with a sun icon will pop up and you can slide the bar up or down to brighten or darken your image. Have your kids experiment with this. Exposure will adjust automatically if you tap on certain parts of the picture too. Tap on a bright spot and the rest will darken. Tap on a dark spot and the rest will brighten.
3. Help them learn how to find good light by showing them how to keep their main light source behind them. You are more likely to get well lit pictures this way. So, for example, if you are taking a picture using window light indoors, have them keep the window behind them. It’s also important not to block the light as they stand in front of the window.
4. Teach the ‘rule of thirds’. For parents, the ‘rule of thirds’ is a design concept where you divide your photo up into 9 squares. By doing that you get 4 intersecting points. The idea is to place the most important part of your images on one of those 4 intersecting points. You don’t have to necessarily explain this to your kids. Just tell them that their subject doesn’t always have to end up in the middle of the photo. You can help them practice this by turning on the grid on your iPhone. You’ll find it under Settings.
5. Tell them to move around: Kids actually move around more naturally than adults when taking photos so it’s a pretty easy concept for them to grasp. Encourage your kids to get high, get low, get close, get far. As they start to move, they’ll see more ways to capture a photo. They should also be thinking about whether they want the photo to be horizontal (landscape) or vertical (portrait).
Now that you know how to teach the basics of photography, click here to download a checklist of 10 fun photo projects you can do with your kids. Print it out and hang it on the fridge for those days when you’ve got nothing planned.