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Saturday, July 15, 2006

Digital Photography for Kids

Kids love taking pictures. Back in the “old days” it would have been considered an expensive hobby to allow a child take haphazard photographs, what with the film and developing costs. Now, with digital cameras, it’s simple for a child to dabble in photography. Even a two year old can hold a camera and take a picture.

What type of camera should kids experiment with?

There are inexpensive digital cameras you can buy for kids, ones that cost $20 so you don’t care if they get lost or broken. However, these cameras don’t take the best photographs and in my opinion are a waste of money and not conducive to introducing the art of photography to your children. Let your child use your camera. Yeah, the $500 one. Just make sure it has a strap to hook around his neck so if he drops it, it won’t fall.

When introducing a toddler to photography, depending on the size of your camera, you may need to help him reach the button. The best type of digital camera to use with children is one that has a large screen for the child to see what he’s aiming at, rather than having to put his eye against the little hole and keep one eye closed…that can be trickier to teach.

One step at a time

Younger kids will begin by just getting a feel for holding a camera steady while taking a picture, so that it doesn’t come out blurry. As they get older or more experienced, you can introduce the flash features, zooming in and out, timer and other optional settings.

Older children can be given the basics, and left to explore further on his own. Give him the manual that came with the camera so he can learn more progressive techniques. Show him how to plug the camera into the computer and which program to use to download the photos. Eventually he can be introduced to a photo enhancing program and learn how to detail, crop and embellish his own photos and make projects with them. There are so many ways to expand the art of photography, but you don’t want to overwhelm your child. Start with one step at a time, and let your child’s interest lead the way (or in the case of lack of interest, photography can be dropped to pursue other interests.)

Freedom of creativity

Let your child decide what he wants to photograph. This morning we went outside and I gave my kids (6, 4 and 2 years old) turns with the camera. I didn’t direct their creativity. They attempted to photograph fleeting things such as dragonflies and butterflies. They discovered on their own how difficult it is to focus, frame and capture an image of something that won’t keep still. There were pictures taken of rocks, the yard, an anthill, a cocoon, flowers, grass, the family and the house.

If you see a beautiful flower, but your child is aiming the camera at the fence, don’t disturb him. You can photograph the flower yourself later if you must have a picture of it. Don’t push potential photographic beauty on your child. Allow him to find things that capture his interest. Just imagine how you would feel if you were excited about taking a picture of a certain tree, but someone came along and continually tried to convince you instead to photograph a plain white wall, which was boring to you. It wouldn’t be long before you lost interest and gave back the camera with frustration from inhibited creative freedom.

Give your child complete photographic freedom, even when you see him attempting to photograph something that won’t develop very well. Even if it means blurry images of dragonflies in the air or a spider web not showing up on camera or family members with the tops of their heads cut out of the picture. (I have a very nice picture of the bottom half of my face that my daughter took a couple years ago!) Let him click away and allow him to question later why certain pictures didn’t come out as well as expected.

Display your children’s photographic art

Keep the photographs your child has taken in a specific folder on your computer. I like to keep them separated by months as well, so I know when they were taken. At the end of the month, have your child look back at the photos he had taken that month and have him pick his favorite one. Blow that photo up, frame it and hang it on the wall in a prominent place in the home.

Every month, as your child chooses a new favorite, have him help you change the photograph in the frame. Previous months' photos can be kept in a large photo album as he grows his first portfolio! Letting him pick his own frame at the store is another way to encourage his creativity and self expression. Ask him to choose a frame that would best suit his photos, and don’t veto his decision if it doesn’t mesh with the décor of your home! As long as it is within your price range, allow him to decide which frame will be used to display his photographic art!

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