I’m often asked for tips for teaching kids photography, because as my friends know, it’s one of my favorite things in the world. Whenever my son asks to use my camera to take a photo, I do whatever I can to maintain my chill. Meanwhile, inside I’m giggling, clicking my heels together and singing: Move over, Ansel Adams, a new talent’s coming for your top spot. See? It’s like, Calm down, Mom. The child is just snapping a pic of the apple juice box with the cartoon fruit on it.
There are definitely times that my 5-year-old does capture a really great photo of something, framed and composed near expertly. (Exhibit A, below: One of my fave photos of my husband and me, snapped by our son. I just added a quick IG filter and frame, but the rest was all him.)
Yes, these are probably lucky shots, but I still smile when it happens. And I also think, with a few quick pointers, perhaps this young guy could produce some lovely images that make him excited about doing it even more. So, here are 6 of my favorite tips for how to teach photography to your kids.
1. Hold the camera straight: It seems as basic as it gets, but it’s so key. Also, so hard for kids. Before you start playing with angles, first, work on holding the camera or smartphone so the straps and fingers are out of the way of the lens. This also helps kids with lining up the image and keeping a steady hand while pressing the shutter.
2. Check the background: Sometimes a cool image can look a little less cool because of the distracting plastic bag or pile of dingy socks that unintentionally photo-bombed your rad LEGO castle. Show your kids how to take a quick scan of what’s behind or around the subject of the photo, so that the main subject of the picture remains the focal point. Of course, there are times where unexpected background adds a fantastic layer to a photo, but rarely is it a pile of socks in my experience. (Also, hey, maybe it will get them to clean their rooms.)
image via NatGeo Kids
3. Experiment! Taking a lot of shots is one of the greatest benefits of shooting digital. Show your kids how the same image can look wildly different with a single change. For example, take the same picture with flash, then without. Move in super-close and then stand back or off to one side to capture a still object. Or if you’re using a point-and-shoot, experiment with the zoom. Seeing is definitely believing here, and better than any yawn-y lecture we might think to offer about depth of field or light intensity.
image via Kids With Cameras
4. Use your body as the zoom. Speaking of zoom lenses, as we mentioned in our tips for getting great Instagram snaps of your kids, skip the zoom on your smartphone.Yes, kids like to play with it, but it messes with the pixels and isn’t a real zoom. Instead, suggest that your kids try getting up close and personal with their photo subject. The details that they might see from that perspective could upgrade the whole image and imbue it with personality and charm.
image via 100 Cameras Project
5. Get out of the way and let them be. Kids have a natural eye, and they can see things that we adults don’t, which allows them to tell their own stories. Example? Check out some of the gorgeous images from the 100 Cameras project that we recently covered — and totally fell in love with. Besides, sometimes a shot that doesn’t seem great to you at first could end up being one of your favorites when you see it on your computer later on so just let them keep snapping without too much input.
6. Review, Record, Repeat. After kids have taken all their shots, sit and scroll through them together on a big screen. (You’ll see different things than you do in the teeny preview screen of a digital camera or even a smartphone.) Ask them about their faves, which images they don’t like as much, which came out better or different than they expected. Then help them make mental notes of what they did to get any given shot, what worked and why. Finally, figure out a time for your next photo adventure so they can do it all over again.
Check out the Cool Mom Tech archives for other photography tips, like how to take better selfies with your kids so you’re actually in some of those family shots!