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Photography Tips for Kids

Professional photographer Maris Ehlers shares some tips for teaching children to take better pictures.

I love seeing the world through the lens of a camera, and it's long been something that I have hoped my children would become interested in. While my youngest has shown an interest for a while, she usually likes taking pictures of things like her teeth, the dog's eyeball or to do portrait "sessions" with her stuffed animals with my iphone.  

My son, who is by far the more imaginative of the two, hasn't ever really shown much interest at all. In fact, a year ago this summer he went away to an overnight camp for the first time and the staff recommended sending him with a disposable camera. All I can say is between the camera and developing the film, that is $12.89 that I will never get back.  

Fast forward to this past Friday. My husband was preparing to head to Southwestern Minnesota for the opening of duck season, and our son who is nine was going with. He and I were talking about all of the things he loves to see while he is there, and so randomly I suggested he take one of my old cameras so he could take pictures of what he would be seeing, thinking he could better share his trip with me upon his return. Immediately he was worried that he might drop it, and I assured him that if he wore it around his neck (and made him promise to do so), that he and the camera would both be fine. 

They came home tonight, and I was simply delighted by his first pictures. Here are a few favorites. The only editing done was that I cropped the image of the cracked earth, and I punched up the colors a bit on the image with the water.  

He was so proud of what he had captured, and even better than the images themselves was his increased ability to share with me in vivid detail his experiences from the weekend.  

In an effort to build on this experience with my son, I thought I would give you some tips to teach your children (or yourself) to take better pictures.  

1. Practice makes perfect. Even the professionals know that while you can take photography class after class you can only learn so much. Picking up a camera and taking pictures is the best teacher there is.  

2. Focus, focus. Every picture needs a focal point. It can be anything you want, but if you learn to see that focus through the camera, someone else looking at the image will, too. The raccoon paw print is a perfect example.  

3. One step at a time. Have them start using the camera in a fully automatic mode. Let them gain some confidence by using the camera in its simplest form before getting too technical. They can work on things like composition and focus before tackling any other modes. The first creative mode that should be introduced is aperture or typically shown as (Av) on a camera. Aperture setting is a great way to improve composition skills, and is the easiest to both understand and see the immediate impact of.  

4. Camera care. Before digging into any of the above items, spend some time teaching them how to properly care for and maintain a camera, even if it isn't theirs. My daughter loves to help me prep and clean my gear, and she is learning something about the equipment every time she picks it up, whether she realizes it or not. 

Some ways to introduce and encourage photography with your children:

1. Have a family photo contest. Pick a theme and give each person 2 or 5 minutes to take pictures of the same theme or subject. View the pictures together on the computer afterwards and discuss the images and what you all like about each one. Pick a winning picture and award a prize. 

2. Have your child pick out a picture they really like in a magazine, online or in your home. Get out the camera and help them try to recreate it with their own twist. 

3. Take turns taking pictures of each other, writing down the settings on the camera before each picture and how you thought the picture looked on each setting. Once you've uploaded the images, match up the pictures with the notes you both took and see if you can see the differences between the images. 

4. Check out some great photography books at the library and spend time looking at them with your child, or search for specific photographers and their images online. Works by Ansel Adams, Minnesota wildlife photographer Jim Brandenburg (a personal favorite), and even Galen Rowell are sure to spark some interest in just about anyone looking at their images.  The list goes on and on! Another great way to search is to pick a specific type of photography that one or both of you are interested in (portraits, i.e. pictures of people, landscape, animals, etc), and search for famous or local photographers by that genre.  

Fall is a perfect time to discover the joy of photography with a child. MEP is hosting a FREE fall color photo walk on Saturday, September 29th, at 9:30 a.m. right here in Hanover, and is open to budding photographers of all ages and stages.  Register here if you'd like to join us.  We'd love to have you! 

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Maris Ehlers September 24, 2012 at 02:18 AM
The photo credit of the image of my daughter in her frog hat taking pictures is by Angel Petit for Maris Ehlers Photography.

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