How To Encourage Your Children To Take Photos.
If, like me, you've got school age kids, you approach the summer holidays with a mixture of relief and trepidation. Relief that you've got them through another academic year and are spared the school run for six weeks, trepidation about how to keep them happy, occupied and out of trouble for August.
One idea is to get them more interested in photography. While you may indeed lead a horse to water and find it won't drink, they might surprise you....
1) Get them their own camera
Nothing is worse for kids than having a hovering parent nearby, wincing as they foul-up the exposure or accidentally bump a precious new lens. A second-hand digital SLR and kit lens is perfect, or even a film SLR from the 80s or 90s, which can be picked up for a song on eBay or Gumtree.
2) Find out what they are interested in
Likewise, don't assume that just because you like landscapes and nature, they will. Teenagers hardly ever think their parents are cool enough to want to copy them, so encourage them to photograph the subjects which they're into. Sport, fashion, music, pets for younger kids – maybe even landscapes and nature...
3) Let them make mistakes
Chances are you learned more through trial and error. So don't knock their confidence by pointing out obvious errors in exposure or focussing or composition – they are not going to be sitting an exam (and often it's just you showing off).
4) Help them edit and share
It's really important too that you encourage them to process and share the fruits of their labour as soon as possible. Picasa is a FREE and simple imaging software program from Google and has a ‘Do I Feel Lucky Button’ which gets things right 90% of the time.
Kids easily get distracted and if you don't urge them to get the pictures off the card, they're likely to forget about them and move onto something else. If they do take a great picture, and you help them edit it so it looks even better, their confidence gets a big boost.
Most kids are totally savvy using social media, so encourage them to share it. DON'T post a youngster's image on your site. They will cringe and it looks like you are showing off. Just as teenagers need their own music and fashion, they need their own type of photography, too – something separate from you.
Don't forget also to help them print the pictures. This is particularly important for younger kids, who will need less persuasion to hang pictures on their wall.
5) Don't assume they want digital
Boots, the high street chemist, can't keep up with the demand for back and white film at the moment, and many of the customers will be young 'hipsters' with a taste for the analogue and retro.
You might be impressed with your 50 megapixel digital SLR and Lightroom skills, but they might be more into mechanical cameras, old-school film effects and brands like Holga and Lomo. So don't force digital on them.
Photography is photography and you might end up learning something from them as they explore analogue techniques.
6) Don't dismiss smartphone cameras
Encourage them in this by buying books about iPhone-ography for Christmas or birthdays, or smartphone accessories like mini tripods and clip-on lenses. The results you can get with a smartphone are really impressive with a bit of forethought and technique, so don't dismiss it as not 'real' photography.
7) Encourage them to enter competitions
This is a great way to boost their confidence – another adult will be giving their work validation, and they will love the prizes and fuss made. Many of the big annual competitions for landscape, travel, portraits and even food now have junior categories.
Winning a competition, however small, could boost their confidence much more than your warm words, which they expect anyway. If one of your kids does win a competition or competition category, make sure you contact the local paper or TV/radio station so they get mentioned.
8) Encourage them to photograph their friends
While your average teenage boy might not be into this idea, girls may be more receptive, as they can photograph each other's clothes and make up. If their friends play in a band, both boys and girls will like the idea of going along to photograph the gig. For younger kids, they could photograph a friend's birthday party, or a day out with their mates.