These days it is fairly common to see youngsters carrying around a camera. Technology has made it both simple and affordable for our youngsters to record and share their memories. Sadly, most of the photos our kids take are less than stellar. More often than not they’re off kilter, out of focus and poorly composed. But do they have to be? The memories our children are making are so valuable that they’re worth investing a little time and elbow grease to improve. There are a handful of quick tips and tricks to help our kids improve their ability to show us the images they want us to see.
Let Go of the “Hey, Cool Snap!” Mentality
The problem with most child photographers is that they generally don’t put a ton of thought into what they are photographing. My own children are guilty of running up to something of interest and snapping off a quick shot before they’re off to the next object of interest. The problem with this drive-by snapping philosophy is fairly evident when you stop to look at the photos; many times you can’t even tell why the photo was taken. The best way to remedy this problem is to get your child photographer to slow down and be more intentional about the subject of their photos.
Implement the “Stop and Think” Method
To do this I like to encourage my kids to use the “stop and think” method. To illustrate this technique I’m going to invite you on a little nature walk that I’m taking with my kids. When my oldest spots a tree of interest he’ll be tempted to run up and snap off a shot of it, but I’ll stop him and pull him back for just a moment to consider his subject. Together he and I will walk all the way around the tree looking up, looking down, moving in and out with our zoom lens. As we’re examining this tree I’m going to challenge him to take ten different photos from different perspectives. When he’s done we’ll plop ourselves on a little park bench to go through the photos and discuss each one. Which shots worked the best? Which ones turned out a little weird? Then I’m going to let him pick out his favorites and delete the rest. After all, no one really needs ten pictures of the same tree, right?
What Story am I Trying to Tell?
Many times we take photos to tell a story– such as the day we went sledding, or our trip to the apple orchard. Sometimes our stories are of momentous occasions like winning the baseball game, and sometimes they’re everyday stories such as the day we played dress up with Grandma’s old clothes. Encourage your youngster to think about a story they want to tell with photos. What type of photos do they need to take in order to tell the story they’re thinking of?
Think back to that trip we took to the park a few moments ago. What happened before we found that interesting tree? After? What shoes did you have on that day– the brand new ones with the flashing lights? The sandals that kept getting rocks in them? Who was with you? Encourage your youngster to document as much or as little of the story that he or she wants to tell. Afterwards, think of a fun way to share that story with a blog post, scrapbook page or an email.
What am I Photographing?
“What am I photographing?” is another useful question to ask your child to help them focus their photographic efforts. You would think it should be fairly obvious, but many times it isn’t. To help us think about this question let’s take ourselves on a little trip to the zoo. If the photos your children take are anything like my kids’ photos you’ve seen a lot of photos of animal enclosures where the animal is partly hidden or just lost in its environment. When our children are photographing something in a busy environment, it might help to ask your child what he wants to have in the photo. Those people who standing between you and the exhibit, are they a part of your picture? Can you zoom in to get rid of them? Do you really want to take a picture of the zebra when it’s hiding behind that rock or should we wait until he’s a little more visible? Help your youngster remember to look for different perspectives. And remember it’s okay not to take the shot if you can’t get a clear perspective.
Your child sees the world from a drastically different perspective than you do. That perspective should be nurtured and cherished. With these simple tools you can help your child develop his vision and share it with the world. Be prepared for some spectacular shots; your child has amazing things he’s been trying to show you for a very long time.
Go forth and photograph!
Elissa Peterson is a happy homeschooling mama who always has a camera always within arm’s reach. You can see the fun and interesting ways she manages to keep her children away from the television on her blog.