Help your children hone their digital photography skills by encouraging them to be creative with the camera, says Diana Noonan.
Anyone in my age group (the fifties!) will remember the childhood stress involved in taking a photo. Digital cameras were unheard of, and each photo had to be a “worthwhile” one. Parents gritted their teeth at the cost involved in having the photos developed, and silently sighed or were overly sympathetic when the images came back from the lab and Aunty Jenny was missing her head or only the tail of the family dog was visible in the picture.
How freeing digital cameras have made the world of photography today, especially for children who can play and experiment with them as long as they please without so much as denting the family budget. With that in mind, why not make the most of the camera you have and let your children dabble in fun photography as much as they like? Here are some activities to get them started. Give them the camera and who knows? You may one day have a professional photographer in the family!
Going on a family outing? Whether it’s for a walk to the park or a weekend away from home, it’s nice to have a record of the event. Give your child the camera and put them in charge of capturing the special moments. Suggest to them they look for a variety of photo opportunities such as “something funny you all laughed at”, a special meal or treat, or a new or fun experience (such as building a sand castle at the beach or playing mini golf). When you return home, photos can be displayed in a plastic file or photo album so you can enjoy the experiences all over again.
It’s a wrap!
Encourage children to think about design by letting them photograph patterns which can be printed out and used as unique wrapping paper. Create patterns with everyday objects such as cutlery laid out side-by-side on a tablecloth or the carpet, buttons placed on a colourful background, flowers laid on the grass, or shells arranged on the sand. These patterns can also be the basis for cards.
Take your child to a photography studio or an exhibition of photography to give them a feel for what constitutes an exhibition. Then, encourage to them to select what they think are some of their best images. Mount these on cardboard, place them in picture frames (which are always available for next-to-nothing at thrift shops), or glue them to free-standing cartons. Deciding which image goes where is all part of the decision-making involved in holding an exhibition, so stand back and let you child make their own choices. Children may like to create an exhibition catalogue in which they name their images and, possibly, place a price tag! Invite guests to view the images (children may like to design and make invitations) and include a few drinks and nibbles for the occasion as an “exhibition opening”. Don’t forget to ask one of the older people in your home or extended family to write a review of the exhibition!
Illustrate a story
Encourage children to write a story which involves family members (including grandparents), pets, and familiar settings such as the rooms in the house, the garden, school, the local park and playground, and the library. Divide the story into sections and choose a photo to illustrate each one. This may well involve a photo shoot where the photographer arranges the characters in their setting (such as Mum at the letterbox holding an exciting parcel). Stories can be printed out along with the images, or the whole business can be done onscreen. Stories and photos can be very simple (for little ones) or more complex for older children.
Write down a list of objects (a red hat, for example, or a tap) and situations (such as Dad doing the dishes or the cat eating its food). The list can be long or short depending on the age of the child. Give the child the camera and see how many of the items on the list they can capture on camera in a given time. Photos taken in a hurry are often some of the best, so go through the images with your child and consider printing and displaying some.
Click & collect
Get you child interested in noticing details: Ask them to collect photos based on a theme. For instance, ask them to take photos of different smiles, pieces of jewellery, shoes, and hairstyles. Can they snap 10 red cars or eight bicycle helmets? Collections of “similar but different” objects can make bold, exciting statements, especially when they are displayed together.
Catlins author Diana Noonan is one of New Zealand’s best-known writers for children. A former editor of the iconic School Journal, she writes for a wide range of educational resources, and takes a strong interest in the NZ curriculum.