How did you discover photography? When I was young, an aunt gave me a toy camera. The photographs it produced seemed magical. I was around 7-8 years old at the time and creating these images as I travelled left a lasting impression on me.
A Defining Moment
I remember looking through my father’s Tokina 110mm telephoto lens and trying to focus manually on a nearby bird while on vacation. Looking back, I think that was one of the defining moments that shaped my photography.
I was 10 or 11 years old at that time.
I have more memories, of trying to get motion to blur, but failing because I had no control over shutter speed… Of developing my first B&W photograph in school, guided by an experienced press photographer… Of developing photographs with a pinhole camera made out of cardboard and a bit of photographic paper in a spare bathroom when I was 15… And lots more… They all combined to create a magical world of photography while I was growing up.
Introducing Your Child to Photography
What about your kids? How are you shaping their discovery of photography?
Small things that you do can have a lasting impression on how they think about photography. Here are some thoughts that I have on the topic.
1. Film is good, because the experience engages their imagination
The gap between your kids pressing the shutter and them seeing the result when it comes back from a lab is the space where their creativity and imagination lives, breathes and grows. Without that gap, photography is no longer magical. And when you’re young, the longer the gap, the more magical the result.
2. Give them a camera with few or no controls and unleash them at an early age
Don’t get too technical, but do explain basic concepts as simply as possible. Sit beside them and flip through the photographs, if some pictures are not what they expect, try to explain why they came out that way.
I remember flipping through my pictures and not seeing the photograph that I expected to see… I expected to see my sister blur as I took a photograph of her digging furiously on the beach, but it was sharp, my dad explained that it was because of the camera’s shutter speed.
Today, it still boggles my mind that I could visualise what that image would look like with motion blur. Let them explore photography concepts on their own.
You could also restrict the digital features on an existing camera – like this.
3. Expose them to great photography
Show them photographs that boggle the mind, pictures that inspire, photographs of wonderful and defining moments in history. You don’t have to be sitting beside them all the time while they look at these pictures, just make sure you subscribe to some pathbreaking magazines.
4. Teach them to ‘really’ see the world around them
It’s important to be an observer of things, for being a photographer is about seeing things that others would miss… Help them learn how to become more observant day by day, and you’ll be giving them an extremely useful tool for life.
5. Let them stay playful.
Some photographers are able to grace us through the depth of their imagination. They’ve never really ‘grown up’.
Just because they’ve got a camera in their hands is no reason for them to grow up. If you’re worried about the camera itself, buy your kid a shockproof/waterproof camera, or just get them something cheap. That said, giving them a ‘real’ camera is an opportunity to teach them how to take care of equipment, and become responsible.
An opportunity to turn back time yourself
This is an opportunity to explore your own imagination. If you’ve been in a creative slump, use your child’s imagination as a take-off ramp for yourself. Don’t hold yourself, or them, back.
How are you shaping your child’s perception of the world and photography? Do you have more tips that you’d like to share? Do leave them in the comments.
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Published: September 12, 2010 | Last Updated: July 27, 2021