Over the past three posts, we’ve gone over many of the things that you need to show a child about using a camera and composing images. But, as always, there is still more to learn. This week, I’m going to show you something more abstract. In a nutshell, I’ll show you some ways to encourage the child to keep on learning, even after your lessons are done.
The greatest challenge that any child will face is not one of photography, but the challenge of fitting in. Whether they’re at school or at play with their friends, every child wants to do what the other kids are doing so that they’re not labeled as an outcast. Carrying a camera along on field trips, to amusement parks or even on a trip to a local fair with their friends can make a kid feel like they don’t quite fit in with anyone else.
Of course, we older photographers know that this feeling fades with age and in fact, photography becomes something to be proud of — an art that we can share to brighten the lives of our friends and family. For the child that is afraid to be different, this is the challenge. To show him or her that their interest isn’t “nerdy,” but instead something that they should be proud to do. Help your child to be confident in their art, and you’ll see that photography becomes something that they’ll love to share with their friends, rather than something that sets them apart from whatever other kids might be doing. Who knows, your child’s confidence and enjoyment may even inspire some of their friends to pick up photography, too!
Chances are, when a child is comfortable taking photos around his or her friends or schoolmates, then they’ll want to have a camera around all the time so that they don’t miss out on any opportunities. This is an attitude that should definitely be encouraged because we all know that the more photos you take, the more you’ll learn and grow.
Does this mean that you should send your child on field trips or outings with a highly expensive DSLR and lens kit? That choice is up to you, or the parents of the child. If you’re like most parents, the answer is likely no because even though you may trust the child to be responsible with the equipment, there are still too many ways that it can get lost, broken or stolen. Still, you’ll want the child to keep learning and growing, so what should you do? Here are some options:
It seems like the purchase of an inexpensive “beater” camera is so that you and your child don’t feel so bad if something happens to the camera, but in actuality, there is another, larger lesson to be taught here. You see, the gear doesn’t make the photographer. The gear makes the photographer’s life slightly easier, but it is the photographer’s vision and knowledge that creates beautiful photographs. An inexpensive camera that the child can use while away from your watchful eye will help you to reinforce this lesson.
It’s one thing to be comfortable enough that you can conspicuously carry your camera everywhere you go, but it is quite another to be so comfortable that you can ask perfect strangers to take their photo. And, if your child is not taking photos of people, then they’re missing out on a large sector of photography — one that they could potentially turn into a livelihood someday.
This thought takes me back to a college photography class that I took. One assignment was to take photos of people. Not sneaky, surreptitious photos, but to actually walk up to a stranger and ask them if I could take a photograph of them. This was an invaluable lesson because not only did I learn about photographing people, but it also helped me to overcome the fear and embarrassment of asking a stranger for a photograph.
This is a great exercise that you can do with your kids to get them over any fear of taking photographs of people. Next time you’re at the park or out and about, ask your child to take someone’s photo. You can even ask the subject for an email address to send them copies of the images.
The key thing to remember here is to always be safe. Make sure your child knows that it is never safe to speak to strangers if you aren’t able to supervise them!
This is the end of the lessons that I have to give, but it is certainly not the end of the learning process. Keep encouraging your child to take more photos, read about photography and study their own work and that of photographers that they admire. You may even look for local, regional and state photo contests that they can enter. Above all else, do everything you can to make sure your child keeps learning well into adulthood and beyond!