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Teaching our Kids to Shoot

Teaching photography to kids is tons of fun. They pick up on concepts very quickly, and have no preconceived ideas about photography to hinder their learning! Here are some photographs that our kids took. There are some really good tips here – you can learn a lot from a kid!

Nick was 14 when he took this shot of the Washington Monument on a class trip to Washington DC. Notice that he didn’t center the composition, which makes it more appealing. He also took the shot with some pretty dramatic storm clouds – which adds interest. Those clouds also filter the light, so there are no harsh shadows or blown highlights. It’s a beautiful view of the area, and the exposure and colors are really nice.

For this shot of the Air Force Memorial, he pointed the camera straight up. The view is unique and interesting – and the blue sky makes a beautiful backdrop. Notice that his composition isn’t quite symmetrical, which adds to the appeal.

Nora is 13. She took this shot in Everglades National Park in Florida. When we saw the bird grab the fish, she started shooting right away. I told her to check her histogram – and she did. She saw that her first shot was underexposed, made a very quick manual adjustment, and took several more shots as the bird swallowed the fish whole. Quick thinking and an understanding of her histogram made for a beautiful action shot! The image is beautifully sharp, and she zoomed in to fill the frame as much as possible.

Here’s another shot she took during the trip. This time, she waited for the bird to turn his head toward the camera as he soaked up the sun. She captured the details on the birds wings, and his wonderful pose as well. Once again, she zoomed in to fill the frame with the bird and eliminate as much distraction as she could.

Eian took this shot at Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada when he was 13. He worked to get his exposure right in camera – capturing the brilliant light on the distant sandstone cliffs as the sun went down. We teach the kids to shoot in manual mode and keep an eye on their histogram for every shot.

This abstract shot shows some of the incredible detail in the sandstone. Notice that Eian placed the lines at an angle for a more dynamic composition. He also chose a single deep crack as a counterpoint to the lines running at right angles to it. This provides a clear point of interest, and lets your eye rest within the frame.

Teaching kids photography isn’t difficult. Choose a few simple ideas to get started. Don’t provide too much information all at once, and let them get creative. Then, have them tell you about their image – and why they made the choices they did. Ask how they can improve their photograph, and make some gentle suggestions of your own. Ask them to critique your photos as well – and share your own ideas for improving your work. Challenge them to improve upon their own shot, while you work to improve yours. Above all – make sure learning about photography is fun!

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8 replies
  1. Anthony Rodriguez (Visual Fusion Photography)
    Anthony Rodriguez (Visual Fusion Photography) says:

    I love this post. I have 5 year old son who is so interesting photography. of course young children like to do with their parents do, So teaching my son photography was inevitable . once he began taking photos I was amazed at how well he’s able to handle the camera. being that he is only 5 years old I keep it on auto for now so that he is able to just frame a shot properly. You are right though , teaching the kids is pretty smooth because they take in and just do. Keep up the work and you have a new fan. Thank you. Anthony Rodriguez (Visual Fusion Photography)

  2. Jackson Frishman
    Jackson Frishman says:

    Great post Varina, and great shots form all the kids! We just had our first last fall, and I’m definitely looking forward to teaching him to shoot down the road. And once again, I’m grateful I’ll be doing it in the digital age; the instant feedback surely makes it so much easier to demonstrate exposure, composition, everything.

  3. Jane
    Jane says:

    Sorry, I think that parents do not need to teach children how to photograph (since certain age). The teaching and putting them into a frames will spoil their creativity and unique way of seeing. It is our perceptions of wright and wrong.
    I have found that children have this unique and inborn sense of composition themselves. They have made stunning pictures also rule of thirds comes natural without telling. I am afraid to loose it by putting them in some kind of frames so I do not teach how to – except “push this button”, “do not put fingers on the lens”, etc.
    They are 3 and 5. Maybe when they will get older I will introduce with all the “stuff” but for a while I will enjoy unspoiled beauty of child’s point of view.

    • Varina Patel
      Varina Patel says:

      Thanks for your comment, Jane. I believe that spending time with your kids is critically important. So, I spend as much time with mine as possible. We do art projects, play outdoors, read together… and we do photography together. Photography is an incredibly diverse field – and children can learn a whole lot without losing their beautiful point of view. Teaching them to understand how their camera works and how they can use basic photographic techniques to create an image opens up a world of creativity. I see nothing wrong with teaching a child how to use a camera. A camera is a tool for artistic expression. Knowing how to use your tools means you have a much broader range of capabilities. More knowledge means more freedom of expression. You are no longer hindered by a lack of knowledge.

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