Little Ones Behind the Viewfinder: Getting Your Kids into Photography


Kids are really smart and teaching kids photography is an amazing thing you can do with them.

New technology seems like something they just pick up and get on with, don't you think? And where does this ‘digital intuition' come from anyhow? I can't work it out.

Okay, if you're reading this, you're a photographer and you probably have kids (or at least nephews & nieces). So let's begin by acknowledging that photography is an expression and should be available to all – young, old and all folks in between.

First Camera Experiences

Remember having to ask your mom or dad for permission to have a hold of the ‘family camera'?

My dad used (now I'm going to guess this) something like a Minolta x-300 SLR with a 50mm Prime.

It was great fun to play with the split-screen viewfinder turning and turning the focusing ring, pointing it in the dog's face and clicking away with a giggle. “Don't use up the whole film!” I'd hear from the other room.

“Yeah, yeah, dad” I would inevitably reply, like any other kid.

teaching kids photography
Image by PublicDomainPictures

Teaching Kids Photography in the Digital Age

These days smartphones and tablets have made digital photography very accessible. Hey, is 35 too young to even use that phrase? I've got a 3yr old girl who loves the iPhone camera and Daddy's big camera, so I'll just go along with it.

Anyway, I think this is great for kids because they almost always have access to a camera and importantly, one they can easily grasp – both actually holding it and using it.

I love photography and importantly capturing my girl as she grows up, from birth to her first vacation to Slovenia at 6 weeks to hanging out with friends running around at the local playground. It's a great excuse for me to pull the DSLR out (iPhone in pocket, at the ready too).

I used to look at people in disbelief carrying a heavy DSLR around their necks, with a smartphone at arm's length in front of their subjects taking pictures on a tiny camera, then I catch myself doing exactly this.

Today, photography has become a part of all our lives, mainly due to high-end technology becoming so accessible, and this is a great thing. Even Instagram has enabled ‘non-photographers' to become photographers as shooting with smartphones can get people interested in photography to a point where they will consider buying a digital camera.

teaching kids photography
Image from Pexels

Today let's focus on some simple and practical ways to get kids into photography – starting by getting them a great first camera. Realistically, from about the age of 3/4 upwards is a great time to introduce kids to holding a camera.

Alternatively, there's a great app on iOS for $2.99 called KidCam. Let's look at some quick tips for teaching kids photography.

1. Colors and Shapes

Get kids to be on the look out for a certain color and get them to photograph the object they find around the home, garden or out at the local park – same goes for shapes. When this is exhausted, move on. It really gets them thinking and observing their surroundings!

2. Initiate a Family PhotoWalk

Make a theme of being out with the camera. Go around the local town or city, head to the woods and get into some nature.

This is a great opportunity to get kids of ALL ages really engaged in photography, thinking about what they're photographing and discussing afterward why they took the pictures they did?

This leads to some great ideas for next time and what they really enjoy most. Here are some great tips for a successful Photowalk.

teaching kids photography
Image by LaterJay Photography

3. Make Stories

Okay, they're framing and composition skills may not be at that level yet, however you can get children to shoot certain objects – whether pets, trees & flowers or family then write a short story.

This can really enhance their creativity and think forward to what they'd like to do next time.

teaching kids photography
Image by Rob Briscoe

4. Other Tips to Get Kids Excited About Photography

  • Get them to choose their favorite toys and shoot some close-up portraits
  • Make a scavenger hunt list. This really gets the excited going, perhaps down the local park choose odd-shaped trees or clouds, or perhaps a certain color flower or other more vague targets like “something funny” (this is sure to get some giggles!)
    You could always have objects hidden in your backyard for them to find too – anything like this creates real anticipation!
  • Get them to make a list of A-Z and write the word next to what they find, how simple is that?

Let us know if you have any quick tips you can share to get young ones interested in photography and excited about one day owning their very own camera…

Further Resources

About Author

Russell is a self-taught photographer who loves travel and capturing life as it unfolds. Having lived in the far east for a few years with some long term travel, this catalyzed his new-found passion for photography.
Lifestyle, Food, and Event Photography are areas he enjoys most.

Russel is absolutely spot on. It’s amazing how adept children can become at photography, and develop style, taste and aesthetics way beyond what they could achieve in other visual art forms at the same age.
My daughter regularly beats me in competitions and already has some clearly defined style -although it is constantly developing.
Even though she is only 10 it really feels like we are sharing a hobby.
There are other creative adventures tat can be shared with your children – music, gardening etc. But as far as visual arts go I really think that photography is something unique – and I can’t recommend it highly enough,

I wonder if old cell phones can still be used for the camera function? When mom or dad gets a new cell phone, maybe the old one could be the kids camera.

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