KWAC – Kids With A Camera!

by Jodi Arego

When my oldest was just a toddler, she spent many hours in her room playing with her dollies. Tenderly rocking her baby, swaddling her in a soft blanket, singing to her and putting her to bed, my daughter was mimicking the activities she experienced me doing. Why? Because she wanted to be like mom.

My youngest daughter loves to play with her baby dolls too, but now I notice an activity added to her play time is photographing her dollies. She’ll gently lay her baby on the bed on a pretty blanket and snap away. I giggled the first time I saw it, but really, it makes perfect sense to me. She too wants to pretend and do what her mommy does, which these days includes taking lots of pictures. And now that my oldest has moved on from baby dolls to her beloved American Girls, I’ve witnessed many of her photo shoots around the house, “capturing the moment” while Samantha, Kaya, and Felicity drink tea together.

KWAC   Kids With A Camera! photo

Not only do I want to encourage these role playing activities as much as I can, I also want to use these opportunities to challenge my kids’ creativity, teach them about a new form of art, encourage working together, and at times even create a little friendly competition. There are so many ways we can bring photography into our children’s days that go beyond them being the subject in front of our lens.

Unless you’re comfortable with your kids using your camera (which I am NOT, thankyouverymuch), think about getting them one of their own for their next birthday or special occasion. There are lots of inexpensive point and shoots out there and even break-proof ones for the littlest hands. A quick search on Amazon or another online shop will show you lots of options in a couple of different price points. Sure, the quality of the photos may not be fabulous with the cheaper models, but these cameras and your kids are about the process, not the end product. Have them keep their camera in a special place and teach them how to handle it gently and care for it.

KWAC   Kids With A Camera! photoNikon Cool Pix

KWAC   Kids With A Camera! photoDiscovery Kids Digital Camera

Then, armed with camera in hand, they’re ready for the thrill of photography! And if you keep a running list of “assignments”, you’ll be prepared in a moment’s notice on the next empty summer day or rainy afternoon to expose them to this form of art that brings you so much joy.

Depending on the ages of your kids, here are a few “assignment” ideas to get you started:

Scavenger Hunts Using specific lists: think “I Spy”… a red button, a shoelace, etc or Based on general topics: items that we use at the beach, things that remind them of school, etc.

Day In The Life Taking along their favorite doll, stuffed animal or other lovie, they can photograph the details of their day together. • Colors Choose a color as the day’s theme and photograph 10-15 different objects of that color.

Emotion Agree on an emotion, such as happiness, and challenge your child to take pictures of things that make them feel that way.

Different perspectives of a single object Select one subject and encourage your child to shoot it from as many different perspectives and angles as they can… from far away, close up, a detail shot, from up high, from down low. Guide them in this process to see things from interesting and unusual vantage points.

Storyboards My 7 year old son loves to create a plot with his Lego people and structures and then document the important aspects of the story.

Don’t let the “lessons” stop once the shooting does. After you upload the pictures from their cameras, snuggle up with your children around the computer and review together what they did. Ooooo and aaahhhh, about the work they did in their assignments. Comment on the objects they chose to photograph. Point out angles that are interesting, details that are memorable, composition that’s creative. Use this casual time of looking over their photos to begin teaching them basic photography principles. Especially with your older kids, don’t be afraid to introduce terms and ideas that may at first seem a bit over their heads. They will soon pick up on the ideas you talk about with them, and it’s pretty guaranteed that they will begin to “see” things differently with each experience they have.

KWAC   Kids With A Camera! photo

{This picture was taken by my 7 year old son. Sure the quality of the photo is nothing to rave about, but
we can have a nice little chat about lines, shooting from above, storytelling, etc.}

Then, definitely consider displaying their current work around your home. I’ve seen lots of easy displays around the web that would make changing out pictures a cinch. Imagine your kids’ pride as they see their work hanging on your walls to be shared with your friends and other guests. When someone comments on one of their pictures, publicly praise your child by saying something genuine like, “I know… I thought that detail Mary captured was just so creative” or “Yes, the way she saw that was so interesting. She took that picture in a way I just wouldn’t have thought of. She has a definite eye.” Hearing that kind of affirmation from the resident photographer in the home will create a confidence in their abilities and will nurture their love for what they can do with their camera.

KWAC   Kids With A Camera! photo

KWAC   Kids With A Camera! photo

Photography can be a great bonding experience for your family, especially if your kids view it as a special part of your world that share with them rather than something that keeps mom preoccupied and secluded at her workspace while she edits. Introduce your kids to photography, experience it with them, and you just may find that their work becomes quite inspiring to you.

KWAC   Kids With A Camera! photoJodi Arego, Texas
Non-Profit Coordinator, CMU Instructor, CM Mentor
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Jodi Arego is a natural light photographer living in Houston, Texas with her husband and three children. All too aware that “the years are long, but the days are short,” she views photography as a way to celebrate life, connect with others and to express the stories of the heart. With camera in hand, she draws from her own deep sentimentality to show beauty in the simple, the ordinary, and the imperfect. She also enjoys working with high school senior clients as they celebrate the milestone of their graduation. Tex-mex on the patio, working out, black coffee and Pinterest are among Jodi’s favorite things. She is the instructor for one of CM’s newest courses, Shooting 211: Photographing with Heart and Vision.

Read all photography tutorials by Jodi Arego.

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