A few weeks ago, I spent a few hours helping my kids with the basics of composition. We took their point-and-shoot cameras out in the yard, and looked for simple detail shots. Beginning photographers almost always try to include too much in their images. It takes training to begin to realize that less is more. So, rather than focusing this fun little lesson on technical basics, I decided to work on composition. I showed them a series of images from my own collection – pointing out basic compositional rules, and making simple suggestions about even lighting and getting in close to the subject.
Then off they went. Each child chose a subject and took a single shot. We talked about the image together – I asked what the most important element in the photo was, and then asked what they liked about the image and what they thought they could improve. I offered some basic suggestions – try using a diffuser to soften the light and eliminate distracting shadows… get even closer to your subject… remove a distracting element from the frame… pay attention to the edges of the frame…
And off they went once again. In the end, each child came away with a photo they were really proud of. Here they are – for your viewing pleasure!
Damian is 8. As you can see from his photo (above), he likes to play with colors. He worked on getting in close to isolate a single, interesting object. I held the diffuser for him while he took the photo.
Anna (10) found it hard to get her focus correct with the breezy weather. In the end, she chose this shot as her favorite despite the soft focus on the main flower and the harsh shadows. She preferred this composition to others where the main flower was cut off at the edges.
Nora (12) spent some time looking for a simple background for her leaf portrait. She decided to include the little hole in the rock as a secondary point of interest. She used Photoshop to clone out a small, distracting spot at the lower edge of the photo. She used a diffuser for even lighting.
Nick (14) took a few shots of this flower on it’s stem, but decided the background was too busy. He used a hosta leaf to create a simple background for his shot, and placed the setup in the shade for even lighting.
And one more from Damian. Just because I like it. Once again, he had a bit of fun with the colors. We talked about isolating a single, interesting object within the frame – and he chose this flower, which stood high above the rest. I think this is one of my favorite compositions.
After a quick lesson on photo processing, we printed their favorite photos on 4×6 photo paper, and put them on the walls for display. They’re thrilled to have their work on display, and they can’t wait for the next lesson!