Photography for Kids

How and why to get your kids excited about photography. Includes photography games and photography activities for children.

We've long had a family tradition of giving the kids disposable cameras before a big event (birthdays, vacations, Christmas) so they can tell the story in their own visual way.

What's interesting about it is how each of the kids gives us a completely different perspective on the same event. Different things are intriguing, appealing and interesting to each of these different little people. But, I guess, that's art.

So we love our personal cameras for the kids, but it wasn't until I got my first SLR that I started to think about getting my kids interested in photography as both an art form and a science.

Benefits of Photography for Kiddos
There are lots of reasons why you might want to get your kids excited about photography.

First and foremost, in my mind, is this: Photography helps kids to see their world in a new way. Have you ever taken a photo and, afterwards, been amazed by the beauty of a place or of a detail that you had never noticed before? Introducing a child to photography is like opening a door to new perspectives for your child.

Photography is a very accessible art form. A child can pick up a camera and be making artistic choices the very first time out. And digital cameras make this learning process even more fun because your kids will be able to see the resulting images immediately, which can help them to fine tune their process while still "in the field."

This one's kind of a practical advantage: Photography can help a child feel more a part of a situation. If your child doesn't want to go to her sister's basketball game, for example, appoint her the official photographer. Challenge her to take photos of certain things and to document the game in her own unique and artistic way.

Photography can also help your child get excited about using the computer. You can help your kids to use photo software to create photo journals and to make stories out of their photographs that they will treasure forever. And you get some fabulous family mementos in the process.

Digital Photography Equipment for Kids

Very small children can use disposable or durable "drop proof" cameras that you can find in toy stores or online. Although these cameras take photos with relatively low quality, it will still get your little one used to the idea of taking pictures and you'll be spared the nervousness associated with giving a child an expensive piece of equipment. We haven't had the best of luck with cheap digital cameras, however. And it becomes frustrating for the child if they take the photos and then can't upload them to the computer – or if the camera breaks the first time out.

That said, I think it's best to wait until your child is an older elementary school student to really get them involved in the process of taking good photos. At this age, they can understand how to hold a camera (and their hands are big enough to get a good grip.) They can understand to be careful near the lens and the display screen, and they are old enough to start composing their shots in creative ways.

You can get a good point and shoot digital camera for under $100 for elementary school children. If your children are really interested in photography, consider spending a bit more for an SLR that will last them a little longer. If you're a photography buff yourself, this is a perfect time to give your child one of your old cameras and give yourself an upgrade!

Photography Games and Activities for Kids

When your child first gets the camera, he'll probably take photos of everything (as in everything.) Once the initial novelty wears off, you might want to encourage their creative use of the camera with a variety of different projects and activities.

1. Have them take their camera everywhere and talk about daily tasks as photographic adventures. See how they document a trip to the park or to the grocery store.

2. Challenge them with scavenger hunts. Give them a list of things in the neighborhood to take photos of – or challenge them to take photos of as many things as they can find in a particular category (red things, things with wheels, etc).

3. Have the kids take close-up shots of a common everyday item and see if the other family members can guess what they are.

4. Keep your eyes and ears open (both online and locally) for photography contests for kids. Encourage them to enter their favorite work.

5. Ask your children to document a day in their life or a special occasion in a way that they perhaps hadn't imagined before. Maybe they will take a photo of the family from the perspective of the family dog – or a closeup of the kitchen stool. Once the photos are printed, ask your kids to write creative captions, journal entries or fictional stories to go along with their visual art.

6. This is a particularly good assignment for the holidays. Ask your kids to photograph things that represent an abstract idea, such as gratitude or love or kindness.

7. Once they have a few photos that they love, make them into stationery or other merchandise from an online photo site. Or frame their favorite photos to hang in their rooms or to give as gifts.

Beyond the Basics

If your budding photographers are in the older elementary grades, you can sit with them and review their work. Teach them how to frame their shots and how to evaluate the resulting photos. Teach them basic composition concepts, such as the focal point and the rule of thirds.

If this is confusing to your child, simplify. Ask them to experiment with taking photos with the subject of the picture off to one side instead of smack in the middle. Teach them to get creative: to get down on the ground and shoot up at a subject or to get above the subject and shoot down. The effects will be striking and will encourage them to try new things with each shot.

The nice thing about digital cameras, of course, is the instant feedback. Encourage your kids to take lots and lots of shots to experiment with different techniques, camera modes and settings, and perspectives.

You can continue to help them enhance their skills by seeking out photos that professional photographers have taken. Look at newspapers, photography websites and photo books or visit photo art galleries. Talk about what each of your kids finds most appealing in their favorite photos. What composition, lighting and other effects are at play in the photography to create the mood?

A passion for photography is a great thing to share with your child. If you aren't a photographer yourself, consider taking a course with your child or buying some books so that you can share tips and offer encouragement and suggestions for each other's work.

Even if photography is a passion that passes as your kids get older, think about all of the photographs that you will have to document their young lives. And if their passion for the art form grows, your child will have a hobby – or a business – to enjoy for years to come.

You might also enjoy:
Journaling for Kids
Family Fun and Activities