Helping Your Child Discover Photography

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.

photo by Muha

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Published: September 12, 2010 | Last Updated: July 27, 2021

10 thoughts on “Helping Your Child Discover Photography”

  1. Some great hints there.

    Re your second point, I typically setup the camera, and hand it over to the kids, so they don’t need to worry about the controls. However, my 11 year old son is now expressing a lot of interest in learning how the camera works, so I’m currently teaching him about exposure, aperture, shutter speed, and more.

    Re point 3, that’s a great idea that I forget about too often. I should definitely do that more.

    I’ve got a few of my kids interested in photography, and they love going out on photowalks with me. Interestingly, my 10 and 11 year old kids were the only children photographers at the 2010 Worldwide Photowalk in Perth this year, and they really enjoyed it.

    I’ve got a few articles about getting kids into photography on my blog too.

  2. Martin,

    I just checked out your posts on getting kids involved in photography. Good stuff… There are some points there that I had not thought about, not being a parent…

    My thoughts here are entirely from my own experience.

  3. Biswajit Dey Photo Blog

    Thanks for the post and this topic….I think letting them view more and more good photos will create the mark in their heart and will make them feel for photography…..sharing them magazines as you said or taking them to photography exhibitions may be very helpful in this regard….

  4. i`m currently taking a class n photography, but im writing to say, This photo, moved me, its innocence and vast splendor combined. I wanted/want to make it my backgraund on my desktop. Do i hav ur permission?

    1. Althea, The photograph was not taken by me. Please find check with the photographer http://www.flickr.com/photos/muha/ for any permissions.

      Having said that, do note that the photograph is shared under the Creative Commons “Attribution” License. This means that the photographer allows people to remix, share, and use the work commercially, as long as the photographer is given due credit. I highly recommend taking a look at the CC license that I’ve linked to. Also, do check out Muha’s other work at the flickr page.

      Hope that helped.

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  6. Hey, Susheel! I know this article is about helping your ‘child’ discover photography, but it works just as well for 38-year-olds like me. Lol. Photography posts often intimidate me cuz they’re super technical. But you’ve done a great job at stripping away the technical stuff for a bit so we get a glimpse of what photography is really about. Btw, glad to see you’ve started posting regularly again! Looking forward to working my way through your site. Also, do you take on photography and videography projects? If so, what’s the best way to contact you?

    1. Hi Rohan, Thanks for stopping by, and I’m glad that you were able to take something away from this article that will be of use to you! Yes, I’m posting regularly once again and I do take on photography and video commissions by way of my company, ColoursAlive. You can always connect with me via the contact page on this website.

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