A picture conveys more than a thousand words. It captures a particular event in time, a special feeling, a unique state of mind, making it into a cherished memory.
As a parent, you probably have specific memories of experiences you had during your own childhood, and probably you also have photo albums to remind you of those innocent days. Your parents owned a Polaroid camera or a film camera, and they weren’t so permissive about you using it until you were much older. This was because cameras were expensive, as well as the film. Each photo had its cost, and it wasn’t cheap.
Today, it is quite different. Thanks to the digital revolution, cameras have improved in terms of features and affordability, the cost per photo has dropped to almost nothing, and photos are taken so frequently that sometimes it looks like photography has replaced the human memory. This has ignited an interest in photography among young children. As a parent, it is important to take initiative and grow your child’s talent in photography – to guide and support them, and educate them beyond the ‘point and shoot’ photography taken with your smartphone or camera.
Teaching Photography to Kids: Selecting the Right Approach
When teaching photography to kids, as with any other subject – cooking, biking, gardening, etc. – it is always a combination of an educational session and a great opportunity for some more quality time with your kids. The best outcome you can and should expect is your kid to develop – to learn something, to improve their skills – and to have fun at the same time. Prepare and do your best to accomplish this outcome – both your kid and yourself will benefit.
A critical element in achieving this outcome successfully is selecting the right approach, as a parent. No matter how big your kid’s interest in photography is, and no matter which stage your kid is at in their photography journey, the way you engage them, teach the basics and give feedback plays a significant role in this mutual experience. So if you are not sure what approach to take, if you are not sure how to balance theory with practice and how many pictures to let your kid take, the following 9 tips are for you.
Selecting the Right Approach – 9 Tips
Ignite the initial interest
How many times have you bought your kid the best and most attractive toy out there only to find that they lost interest in it after 10 minutes?
If your kids are like mine, you also have a room full of unused toys at home. You probably agree that most of these toys started their career in the top 5 list, and were very soon left out in the cold.
As parents to kid in the digital age, we all know how fast kids get distracted and how quickly they lose interest in what they’re doing. This is why you always need to think about attracting and motivating them.
If your kid has expressed their interest in photography on their own – you are lucky. If not, you need to find your ways to attract your kid (to each and every session). Otherwise, the camera’s fate will soon be like all those toys…
You planned to have a 60 minute garden photography session, and ended up after 20 minutes of explanations about the Rule of Thirds?
Never mind. Be flexible. Let your parent-kid time go where it goes. At the end of the day, there is so much we want to teach our kids about, not only in photography, that any lesson or insight you share with your kid is useful. Just to be clear – I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t have a plan or that you shouldn’t set up some guidelines. These are definitely necessary. All I’m saying is that being too tough might end up in lack of engagement from your kid’s side.
Photography is an endless world of art, technology and fun. There is so much to learn, experience and enjoy. Therefore – don’t rush. Don’t try to teach your kid too much in one session. Take your time. It’s a process. Try to keep things gradual, with a clear link between one lesson to the other. Start with the basics and continue to some more advanced techniques. A teaching that is structured properly, from the foundations to the top, advanced, level, will be truly implemented and well-practiced.
How many great, amazing, unbelievable paintings did your kid do in their lifetime? How many of them made you extremely proud of your young Von Gogh? Hundreds, right?
How many of these are just some wavy lines, in various colors, without any structure or meaning?
The point I’m trying to make here is that photos are no different. You tell your kid that their painting is amazing because you want to encourage them and their creativity. Photography is exactly the same. Be positive and empowering. Give compliments even if the picture is blurry or dark. Don’t forget to give some constructive feedback, but whatever you say or do – always keep in mind that developing your kid and improving their photography skills are the purpose here. Nothing else.
Take a lot of photos
As a parent, you probably know how this was impossible back in the day when your dad owned a film camera. Not only was the camera and the film expensive but the processing too. Even at the photo studios where many families frequented in order to have a family photo taken, only one photo was taken. This was done as the photographer counted down from 3…2…1. With digital photography, you can take lots of photos. You need to encourage your child to take lots of photos of different subjects. By doing this, they will improve their skills. However, don’t forget to give your kid feedback, any small comment on lighting, composition or shooting angle can be beneficial. Just taking many photos without reviewing it won’t necessarily lead to any improvement.
Repeat until the concept sinks in
A good teacher is only able to impart a lesson by repeating it as many times as they can. As a parent, you need to adopt this concept. Remember, you are not doing this as a punishment but to ensure that your child grasps the concepts to help them develop a skill and become a better photographer. This is why you need not be afraid when it comes to repeating yourself during the theoretical lessons or redoing an example during a practical lesson. You can also encourage your kid to repeat your explanations and concepts back to you. You can try to explain a concept in different ways but make sure the most basic version sinks in.
Avoid teaching theory for a long time
As a parent, you already know your child’s attention span is quite small which means their focus will diverted. This is why teaching your child theory for a long period of time will not create a positive learning experience. To ensure that your child is able to assimilate the theory lessons, you need to balance theory with practice.
It is highly suggested that you spend no more than 30% of the time teaching theory while 70% should be converted into a practice lesson. Doing this will allow your child to practice what you have taught them while the information is still fresh in their mind. During photo sessions, encourage practicing what you’ve taught in theory.
Adults like complex things. We also like to complicate everything. In order to teach photography to children you need a different mindset. The most important element in your teaching is that they understand a single concept first – and understand that well. From this foundation, you can then slowly build upon and teach other elements.
Kids will be kids, and they won’t always get things the way you hoped they would. The most important thing you can do as you teach is to encourage their creativity. Don’t point out all of the things that are wrong. Point out one thing that they can improve upon, and encourage the things you see them doing well in their photos.