Teaching Photography to Kids

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!

8 replies
  1. Melli
    Melli says:

    So neat.
    The other day my cousin showed me pictures she’d taken. She said, she was trying to look for special angles, just like I do it in some of my photographs and she also tried to do really simple compositions. So if you have more tips on how to teach kids photography, keep them coming. (Could be a niche for you??)

  2. Nunzia Ciricosta
    Nunzia Ciricosta says:

    Hi Varina

    My name is Nunzia I studied photography in Italy. I’m interested in teaching photography to children. Can you please give me some advice how to do it?



    • Varina Patel
      Varina Patel says:

      Hi Nunzia. :) I’m not sure I’m the best person to ask for advice – but I’d suggest making sure that the experience is very positive for the children. Explanations should be kept brief and clear – and children should be encouraged to try out the techniques you teach right away. They need plenty of opportunities to try the same skills in a variety of situations. However, children have an amazing capacity to learn. When I work with kids, they often pick up concepts much more quickly than adults do. So, trust that they CAN do it – and present it in such a way that they can understand the concept. Each child learns differently, so be open to different ideas – and always listen to the kids… you’d be surprised at how much YOU can learn from THEM! :)

  3. Christoph
    Christoph says:

    I really like the last picture – colours, bokeh and composition are great! :) Today is a great time to be a child and try photography, thanks to the digital revolution – I’d love to be a kid again and learn it all over!


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