For as long as cameras have existed children have loved photography. It is a fast and accessible way to create, and the ability to directly abstract the world in which we live is priceless. These characteristics make it a perfect medium for young artists to express themselves and investigate the world around them. Parents often ask how to go about introducing their children to the subject and how to help them make better images. Here are a few tips that I implement in my photo classes for kids and that will help yours learn about the art and their camera.
1. Get a camera. Depending on the age of your photographer, camera choice doesn’t matter as much as it will after they have been shooting for a while and start to develop preferences. Younger photographers are more interested in a camera that fits their hands and doesn’t weigh too much, as opposed to the newest and best DSLR. Older photographers can handle the weight of the larger cameras, but as beginners it’s still not necessary to break the bank on an expensive piece of technology.
Do you have an old digital point and shoot lying around or an old smartphone collecting dust? These are great starting cameras for beginning photographers. Once they start shooting and developing a visual language they will be more attune to the type of camera that suits their needs.
2. Look for inspiration. Look at photographs together and discuss what you do and do not like about them (and not just images in photo books!) Photographs are a part of our daily existence, in newspapers, on billboards and in store windows. Taking a moment to acknowledge and engage with the images we see everyday makes your photographer feel like they are becoming part of something larger than them and will eventually help them be a more trained and critical observer of the world. The photographic community is a wonderful place to explore for all ages!
3. Chose a location. Go to one of your favorite places and bring a camera. Since they are already familiar with the location they will feel more comfortable engaging the space in a new and more critical mindset than a place that is totally foreign.
4. Find your subject. When first starting out, finding subject matter that continues to hold one’s interest photographically can be difficult. Encourage experimentation and shy away from making strong subject matter suggestions. If your photographer wants to take photos of the sidewalk and close ups of car tires that’s cool, your job is to encourage them to continue to photograph and to help them understand their interests in the subject matter.
5. Pick the right moment. One of the main reasons kids love photography is because it allows them to create a large number of objects (photographs) in a small space (inside the camera) very quickly. This is a great thing about photography, but at this early stage also a potential hindrance to their photographic development. When most photographs were made on film one had to make more careful photographic choices because you had between 24 and 36 photos you could shoot at a time. In this current digital age where we are able to take hundreds of images at a time, the value of each frame has decreased. Limiting the number of images your young photographer can take (not advocating a return back to film, but small memory cards work great for this!) will force them to consider each frame as a special composition. Not every image they make will be precious, but some will, and there will always be more to make!
Hopefully these tips will help you in your early discussions with your budding photographer and their growing photography needs!
At Church Street School we have photography classes for kids that help students learn about cameras, composition and more. Have an old camera collecting dust and no budding photographer to pass it along to? Consider making a tax deductible donation to our art department. If you have any questions about our photography classes and would like to talk to the registrar, call 212-571-7290.
By Azikiwe Mohammed. Azikiwe Mohammed is an interdisciplinary artist who lives and works in New York City. He recently was awarded a residency at Mana Contemporary Fine Arts in Jersey City and when not teaching at Church Street School can be found painting in his studio. Come say hi!