What Are the (Not so) Subtle Ways You’ve Gotten Your Kids Into Photography?

What Are the (Not so) Subtle Ways You’ve Gotten Your Kids Into Photography?

I’m always trying to connect with my kids through shared interests. Video games have been an easy one. Mani-pedis, not so much. They’re at the age now where I can make an honest go at real photography, though.

I’ve long provided my kids with old cell phones for the purposes of photography, but as I predicted a few years back, often, they’ll get distracted with other apps, even if it’s something as simple as the calculator on the phone (yes, really). My nine-year-old can’t get enough of that.

But more than the devices themselves, here are some of the ways I’ve goosed my kids’ interest in photography. If you have a little one you want to take on shoots with you, these tips may help.

Contests and Albums

Whenever we go out to someplace scenic, I give both my kids a prompt to compete in a photo “contest.” The stakes are pretty low. The winner gets to choose which ice cream place we’re going to for the night or where we are going to get pizza. Either way, everyone wins, right? Sometimes they still get fiercely competitive about it.

That said, it’s on our most recent trip where I really started to see the limits of the cell phones I’ve been giving them. We went to the city to photograph multiple Christmas trees. My son tried to zoom with his fingers in on decorations for the tree and my daughter attempted to hold the camera steady, but in this case, their iPhone SE and iPhone 5, respectively, were not up for the task. Here’s what they got.

My son's photo of Christmas decorations on a tree in the city on the left (taken with a 2nd-generation iPhone SE) and my daughter's take on the same on the right (taken with an iPhone 5).

I’ll file my daughter’s photo under the category of “happy accident.”

When we're done with the contest, I print out the best two of theirs, one of mine and then file it into an album with all the pertinent info and winner written on the back of the photo. It's a visual record of our travels and their progress.

Which means that what she really needs is...

A Real Camera

With the death of the Canon EOS M system, this holiday season saw massive price drops on what was left in inventory. I snagged an EOS M200 for only $299 with the 15-45mm kit lens. While almost wholly devoid of controls and very reliant on a touch screen, it’s perfect for my five-year-old who was frustrated with the limits of the old iPhone. I gave it to her as an early Christmas gift, and she’s off to the races.

Simply participating in the unboxing and setup process, as well as showing her how it works with my lenses, too, has sparked an unprecedented interest in her to use it for photography. She’s been asking to take it everywhere we go now and has been snapping away. She did initially try to shove it into her face wondering about a viewfinder, but once she realized that it didn’t have one, she got used to using the rear screen for composition.

I’m no child psychologist, but I think that seeing how “real” the camera is with lenses, and parts that look and work similar to my cameras have elevated the level of importance she places in photography. Let’s hope it sticks.

My daughter's photography got markedly better with better gear.

Make It Not Just About Photos

My son’s a tougher nut to crack. Whereas his sister is all about making pretty pictures, photography has always served more as documentation to him. Trying out different angles and working a scene has never been that exciting to him.

But one of the modes on his phone has really captured his attention, and that’s time-lapse mode.

He seems fascinated about how the phone can automatically create such a cool visual. Here’s his take on the Magic of Lights display at Jones Beach. I didn’t even think to take a video that way:


Whatever way he gets into visuals is fine by me. Ultimately, if it brings us all closer together in the shared hobby of photography, so be it.

Have you gotten your kids into photography? What were some of the techniques you used? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Wasim Ahmad's picture

Wasim Ahmad is an assistant teaching professor teaching journalism at Quinnipiac University. He's worked at newspapers in Minnesota, Florida and upstate New York, and has previously taught multimedia journalism at Stony Brook University and Syracuse University. He's also worked as a technical specialist at Canon USA for Still/Cinema EOS cameras.

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