Child’s Play – Feature article for Digital Photography Enthusiast Magazine
I took these images to accompany and an article I wrote for Digital Photography Enthusiast Magazine about getting children involved in photography. They were taken on a children’s photography workshop held at the Suffolk Wildlife Trust Reserve at Lackford Lakes and was hosted by wildlife photographer Kevin Sawford. Part of this article is copied below.
A recent report found that children today spend 60% less timeoutdoors than their parents did at the same age. In these days of TV, video and computer games where youngsters look to simulated adventure for their enjoyment, it is becoming increasingly hard to find activities to encourage children to venture outside. The countryside is often seen as boring and wildlife as uncool, but if our environment is to have a future as a cherished and respected place then we need to start encouraging our younger generation to get outside and get involved. And what better way to do this than through photography. Maybe the simple art of taking pictures can provide the link, for today’s children, between technology and the great outdoors. For me, getting a camera at the age of 8 was a momentous occasion. Digital was a thing of the future, but I remember being so happy with my basic Kodak lm camera, which did little more than point and shoot. From the moment I took my fist photograph I was hooked and from then on I went everywhere with my camera and viewed the world through a 35mm lens. The buzz that I got from taking those first pictures has never gone away and over the years my hobby has turned to a profession and has given me hours of enjoyment along with some treasured memories to look back on.
A new dawn
The march of technology and the advent of the digital age have now made photography more accessible than ever. Simple cameras can be picked up for less than £50 and DSLR’s for not much more than £350 or even cheaper secondhand. There are none of the old shooting restrictions imposed by the use of film, digital images can be collected in their hundreds and then reviewed and deleted at a later date. Most homes now have their own computers making this process very easy. From an equipment point of view, there has never been a better time to get young people involved.
Get them early
So if you are thinking about encouraging your child to take up photography, how should you go about it? Your first task will be to choose a suitable camera. It may sound obvious, but look for something suitable for your child’s age. Young children will need a lightweight camera that is easy for small hands to hold and fairly robust as it is likely to get plenty of knocks and bumps. There are a range of children’s cameras on the market which are ideal from the age of 5 upwards, but bear in mind that they are designed for child friendliness, rather than optical quality, and are probably best suited to the youngest children.
Teach the basics
For older children, the choice is much wider and includes compacts, superzooms, bridge cameras, SLR’s and compact system cameras. Your choice will ultimately come down to personal preference and price, but you may like to consider the type of photographs your child is interested in taking, whether a large zoom is required, how technically minded they are and whether they can physically manage a larger camera. Remember that it is not necessary to spend a fortune on state of the art equipment for children to enjoy taking good photographs. With the equipment sorted, it is now a case of familiarising your child with their camera and teaching them a few basic techniques. Start by describing the main components; the lens,view finder and shutter release and talk through what they all do. Show them how to hold the camera correctly with two hands keeping the strap around their neck or wrist at all times. Explain how to look after a camera, but then encourage them to have fun and take lots of images. It is only by experimenting and practice that young children will learn. Photography is such a great platform for expression and creativity that you will nd there is no holding them back once they get inspired.
For older children, it will be possible to teach them a few more technical details. Key things to include may be how to hold the camera still and level by hand and using a tripod. Discuss how to frame a shot and what to include. Describe ISO, aperture and shutter speed and explain how these affect an image. Spend some time thinking about basic composition including points of interest, backgrounds and simple rule of thirds. Encourage creativity by discussing colours,
lighting, depth of field and shooting from different perspectives. Each time you introduce a new concept, give your child a task to do which illustrates your point. Get them to photograph a flower using a range of apertures and discuss what this does to the background or encourage them to shoot an object from different angles, placing it in different parts of the frame. At the end of each task, review the images together and discuss which are the most striking or interesting and why. Stick to one or two new ideas at a time and don’t use too much theory in one session as this can be overwhelming. After all, you want your child to have fun and catch the photography bug; too much theory may have the opposite effect.
Once your child is familiar with their camera then the fun can really begin. Encourage them to think about subjects for their images by writing down a ‘shooting list’, which should include anything that interests or inspires them. Use the list to work out where to go for your first photographic outings. If wildlife features strongly then plan a visit to the local zoo, or perhaps a children’s farm. Captive animals are much easier to photograph than wild ones and this way you should ensure that limited patience does not run thin. Whatever your child’s age it is important to let them choose the subjects they wish to shoot, don’t offer too much guidance at the start. It is always best to let a child develop their own artistic streak, instead of imposing one upon them. However, if inspiration is running low, try giving them some simple themes to kickstart their creativity. Colours, letters of the alphabet, shapes, or textures are good places to start or design your own scavenger hunt with the object of collecting images which best represent a season or place. The possibilities are endless.