Today while sorting through some old boxes I found a photo album filled with the first ever photos that I took as a young budding photographer. I was around nine years old when I first started using our family’s film point and shoot camera and I still remember my Dad’s ‘training’ on how to use it. Basically it consisted of this advice:

‘Don’t take too many shots’

Remember, this was back in the day of film photography where film and processing costs made my Dad’s advice pretty sound. However looking back over my early images I wish he’d taught me a few other things about taking photos. Here’s some of the advice I could have benefited from hearing.

Note – before I start I should say that you can probably teach a child too much about photography and ‘kill’ some of the playfulness that I think makes the images that a child can take special. My main advice would be to instill in your child the first lesson below – of experimenting and having fun:

1. Experiment
ExperimentLooking over many of the shots that I took in those early days shows me that I took a lot of shots of almost exactly the same things. I approached my subjects in much the same way with every shot and as a result ended up with very similar results. Teach your child how to vary their shots in a number of these ways:

shoot from different perspectives – up high, down low etc
getting in close – stepping back for a wider angle shot
moving around your subject to shoot from different sides
experimenting with different settings (teaching them about different exposure modes)
2. Check your Backgrounds
BackgroundsA very simple concept that can enhance an image is to check out the background of a shot to check for clutter or distraction.

Teach your children to scan the background (and the foreground) of an image quickly and to change their framing if there’s too many distractions – otherwise their shots will end up like mine used to with all kinds of objects growing out of the heads of those I was photographing.

Read more about How to Get Backgrounds Right

3. Hold the Camera Straight
StraightThe other obvious problem with many of my first images is that they rarely lined up straight. In fact after viewing my first album for a few minutes I began to feel quite dizzy!

While shots that are not straight can be quite effective (they can be playful or give a more ‘candid’ feel to them) it is good to teach your children to check the framing of their shot before hitting the shutter.

Read more on Getting Horizons Horizontal and Getting Images Straight
4. How to Hold a Camera
Holding-CameraIt is easy to assume that everyone knows how to hold a digital camera – however while many people do it intuitively some will not – particularly children who are unfamiliar with them. In fact I’ve seen a lot of adults who could do with a lesson or two on how to hold a camera and whose images must suffer with camera shake as a result of poor technique.

A quick lesson on securing your camera could help a child get clear, shake free images for years to come.

Further Reading on How to Hold a Digital Camera

5. Get in Close
Get-In-CloseAlmost all of the shots that took in my first rolls of film have my subject somewhere off into the distance of the shot. This is partly because the camera that I was using didn’t have a zoom lens – but it was partly because I didn’t understand how getting in close would help capture the detail of a subject.

Teach your children how to use the zoom on your digital camera – but don’t forget to teach them how using their legs to move closer can achieve the same results!

Learn more about Filling Your Frame

6. Take Lots of Photos
Lots-Of-Shots-1While my Dad’s advice did save our family a lot of money at the time – with the advent of digital photography, taking lots of pictures is no longer something that is too costly (although there are costs in terms of storing them all). Taking lots of images is a great way to learn different techniques of photography.

While you probably will want to encourage your children not to take 100 shots of exactly the same thing – encourage them to experiment with lots of different shots over time and as they do you’ll see their photography improve.

7. Getting the Balance Right Between Photographing People, ‘Things’ and Places
People-PlacesI still remember coming back from my first overseas trip as a teenager (a school trip) and showing my parents my photos. Their first comment was that I had hardly taken any shots of people. All my shots had been of buildings. While some of them were interesting – I missed one of the most important aspects of the trip – those I was traveling with.

I chatted to a friend with two children recently and she told me that one of her children did the same thing with me – but the other came back from a school trip with hundreds of photos of their friends but none of the sites that they saw. I guess some children get too focused on photographing sites and some too focused upon photographing