Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Photography Skills for Kids –7 Simple Tips

“Photography is an art of observation. It has very little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them” – Elliott Erwitt. I strongly believe in teaching kids photography skills and letting them develop their own view of the world through the lens of the camera. I am hoping that understanding the power and beauty of photography will help my daughter make better choices than taking up sexting when she is a teen. So what can parents do to foster interest in photography in their children?

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Tips to Get Kids Started With Photography

1. Don’t Start Too Early

It might be tempting to hand your toddler a camera or your phone and let them push buttons, but most kids under 5 don’t have stability and dexterity to take non-blurry pictures. Unless you have an exceptionally interested children, I’d suggest waiting until they are over 5 to really introduce photography to them.

2. Don’t Fret About “Just Right” Camera

Camera choices depend mostly on your family situation. If your child is not careful with things, you might want to invest in a camera for kids. A well meaning friend of the family gave Smarty  VTech Kidzoom Camera when she was 4.
VTech Camera
It is sturdy and has big buttons designed for smaller hands. However, quality of lens is sub-average, and we thought that this camera has too many unnecessary bells and whistles taking children’s attention, which is already a precious commodity, away from actually learning to take decent pictures. We put that camera away and for her 7th birthday gave her my old Canon Powershot SD1100 while I upgraded to Canon PowerShot Elph 330. You could use any older digital camera as long as it is reasonably small and reasonably fast while taking pictures.
Canon Powershot

3. Make Them Get a “Camera License”

When my daughter was in kindergarten, her class had iPads in the classroom. Before children could get access to iPads, they needed to pass a “test” to demonstrate that they know how to handle this expensive piece of electronics properly and receive an “iPad license”. The same applies to cameras. We expected our 7 year old to:
  • Know how to turn a camera on and off
  • Remember to put it in a protective case when not in use
  • Return it to a designated spot in the house - we are still working on that. Recently she “lost” her camera for a few weeks and then I discovered it quite by accident in my own backpack!
  • Take pictures, take videos and view the results
  • Use zoom button
  • Turn flash on and off

4. Teach Them to Stand Still

We are trying to teach our daughter that there are three parts to taking a good picture:
Holding Your Camera for Kids
    • Decide on what you want to photograph
    • Hold camera straight with both hands
    • Make sure your hands don’t block your lens or flash (as you can see from the photo, this is still work in progress)
    • Stand still – you cannot take photos while moving. This is getting better… most of the time daughter remembers this tip.

5. Don’t Tell Them What to Photograph…

Mama Portrait from 7 Year Old
… Or you are going to regret it as I did when I asked Smarty to take my photo. Smarty is not very interested in photographing people, she is a lot more interested in details around her. There was a period when she was photographing stones and cracks in the sidewalks. Luckily we live in the age of digital photography and we don’t have to worry about the cost of every shot. Picking their own subjects not only make photography a lot more interesting, but also allows us a unique insight into their view of the physical world.

6. Show Them the Possibilities

Fairy Houses
This weekend we took this little Playmobil fairy on a hike with us and focused on looking for fairy houses and photographing her homes. Smarty loved this idea, and suddenly hiking was a lot more interesting to her than it usually is (it also took us much longer than usual to get through our usual hiking loop in our favorite hiking place). I think that we will have a lot more of those “props” pictures in our future trips.

7. Play Photography Games

Photography games can be a lot of fun to play, especially if you have more than one child. In the past we did photography scavenger hunt and went on a photo walk. Playtivities has a fun photography “find the spot” activity that I think we will be playing here too:

Your Turn

Do your kids like photography? When did they start taking their own pictures?


  1. Love! We gave K our camera to take photos of us when she was little. We got lots of shots of our legs. Ha! Smarty did a good job!

  2. Well we ignored one of your first points and let them click away on the phone the first time they showed interest. I did have a rugged case around my phone and yes, it took ages to delete all those blurry pictures but hey.

    I found video a more natural entry point for camera use with my kids. It seemed to catch their attention more, especially when they got to know free special FX apps, and they have to keep the camera trained on that moving target for a whole period of time.

    But for the past year my 5, now 6yo has been taking pictures for my blog. That breaks the don't-tell-them-what-to-take rule but he does get to take his own pictures as well so it's small proportion. He's fascinated by the post-processing routine.

  3. I LOVE the idea of a camera license!

  4. I LOVE the idea of a camera license!

  5. I love this post! Especially the camera license idea!

  6. What a great idea! I really like your idea of taking a toy with you and letting them set up shots with it. My Princess would love that! Thanks for sharing!

  7. My 6 y/o loves using my camera, so your #7 will be a huge hit! How had I never thought to make games out of this interest? Thanks for the inspiration!

  8. My son has been clicking pictures with my phone for a few years now... he is six. Your advice here is what I came looking for. We are looking for our options so that I can gift him one for his 7th birthday. Also, I was worried about about how responsible he will be with it. I really like your idea for a license. Thanks for the inspiration.

  9. Oh, I love the idea of showing them how to set up mini shots. I think we have a new plan for a walk.....

  10. My oldest (now 7) was given a hand-me-down camera from his grandfather when he was five, and he loves taking pictures! Your points are right on. I just started putting together photo challenges for us to do together. Here's my blog post about our first one: http://backyardclassroom.com/2015/04/13/spring_signs/

  11. My oldest is 7 and just had a tablet for her birthday and she has just discovered taking pictures with that so this is really useful reading for me!! Thanks for linking to we love weekends.x

  12. Interesting tutorial as outgrowths photographer :) Thank you for sharing. My daughter is interested in photos, I think it will come in handy for her. She edits her photo https://aurorahdr.com/hdr-photo-tutorial. Simple and easy to use software, my daughter knew how to use it. I advise you to try.