Young Shutterbugs Focus On Photography and See What Develops

By David Rosen

“Mom!  Dad!  I’m bored!”

Those words reverberate through the house during summer vacation.

You may be tempted to panic. Don’t!  There’s an affordable, fun and creative way to keep your children busy. Send them on photography adventures.

I’m not talking about photographing endangered wildlife in the jungles of Borneo. You can do that next summer. This summer, introduce your children to photography basics at home. They may discover a new and exciting hobby while you maintain your sanity until fall.

Why Photography?
Whether your children are in elementary school, junior high, or high school, a photography hobby does more than occupy their time during the summer.Photography can contribute to their personal and social development as well.

“Children need a variety of experiences to help them explore their environment and photography can provide children with an opportunity for creative expression and self-discovery,” says Cecil G. Powell, Ph.D., a nationally recognized specialist in childhood development.  Powell recently retired from his position as the director of Research and Evaluation for National Head Start Association in Washington, D.C., and is now a private consultant. 

“Although no two children are alike, they all seem to exhibit an excitement to learn about things that interest them and a curiosity to explore their surroundings,” Powell says. “ Photography can help kids slow down and look much more carefully at the world around them.”

Photography also helps shy children interact, working as an icebreaker and giving them self-confidence.

 “Each photograph can create a sense of achievement for your child, something unique that they created and can be proud of,” Powell says. “This can be a big boost to a young person’s self-esteem.”

Getting Started
Photography benefits are great but photography equipment doesn’t have to be. The camera doesn’t create good photographs– the photographer does.

The type of camera used doesn’t matter. It can be a 35mm single lens reflex camera with interchangeable lenses or a simple, fixed lens, “point and shoot.” It can use film or be a digital camera. Just pick a camera that is easy to learn and use.

>Digital cameras are easy to use and allow children to see their creations immediately, but there are advantages to using film.

“We live in such a fast-paced society where everybody expects everything now and as a result, the concepts of ‘waiting’ and ‘being patient’ are foreign to many kids and adults,” Powell says.

“Having your child photograph with a film camera, as opposed to digital, is one way to teach your kids how to be patient. They can’t get that instant gratification with film. In fact, they may have to wait an hour or two, or maybe even a whole day to have the film processed and see the prints.”


Other things to remember are:

  • Know how to use the camera. Review the instruction manual before teaching your child.
  • Limit teaching time. Let children apply what they have learned.
  • Don’t worry about your child damaging the camera. Cameras are pretty durable, and can take a lot of abuse.
  • Model proper behavior. Keep the strap around your neck and treat the camera with respect.

Where Can My Kids Shoot?
After selecting a camera and going over the basics, it’s time to shoot! Where can your kids take pictures? Anywhere!

Kids should have fun so let them photograph subjects and places that interest them.

Josh Anderson, 14, of Sacramento takes photography classes through Hemispheres Arts Academy (see related story). He’s taken a lot of photography field trips.

“Lots of trips down to Capitol Park,” Josh says. “We even worked with studio lighting in our dance room!” 

Other photo field trips that work well include the zoo, a baseball game, a nearby park, a circus or carnival, and even a shopping mall.

If your children enjoy nature and wildlife, the American River Parkway in Sacramento provides numerous photographic possibilities.

Your backyard probably contains many hidden wonders for the creative young photographer to uncover.

What Will We Do With All The Photos?
Once your child has taken pictures and had them developed, it’s time to do something with the finished product.

He might enjoy sharing his pictures with others. Josh shares his photos with his parents.

“They give me feedback,” Josh says. “They give me ideas but tell me this is what I like, you should do more of this.”

Feedback is important. Sit down and look at your child’s photos with him. Talk about the shots. Discuss some of the technical aspects but don't dwell on things that didn't work.

Provide lots of praise because positive feedback keeps kids interested. 

Place the photos on the refrigerator or get a frame and display them on your wall, showing that you’re proud of her creations. You and your children will treasure these pictures for years to come.



National Geographic Photography Guide For Kids, by Claire M. Johnson, National Geographic, 2001. Click! A Book About Cameras and Taking Pictures, by Gail Gibbons, Little Brown & Co. 1997. 

Photography (Make It Work! Science Series), by Kathryn Senior, et al, Two-Can Publishing LLC, 2000.

Investigations: Cameras (Investigations Series), by Chris Oxlade, Lorenz Books, 2000.

I Wanna Take Me a Picture: Teaching Photography and Writing to Children, by Wendy Ewald and Alexandra Lightfoot, Beacon Press, 2002.

On the Web

Photography-related links specifically designed for children. - Follow the link to “Taking Great Pictures.” Lots of information, tips and fun ideas. Everything you need to know about digital photography.  - This illustrated, easy to understand glossary defines basic photography terms such as aperture and shutter speed.

David Rosen of Woodland is a professional photographer, husband and father.