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Getting Your Kids to Click with Photography

by Tracey Clark


Tracey Clark

Tracey Clark is a photographer and mom of two who created the photo blog Shutter Sisters. Her daughter, Julia, is shown above. Read more »

Sorry, Tracey Clark is no longer taking questions.

Photography is a fun and immediate art form that gets kids excited and more in tune with the world around them. The ability to capture something of interest to them in a photograph (whether a friend, family member, something from nature or anything at all), lights an artistic fire within them that will help keep them engaged and captivated by their surroundings.

As a professional photographer and a mother of two sharp-shootin' daughters, I offer these simple suggestions to parents looking to spark their own children's creativity though photography. 

Give up the camera.  Cameras are high-ticket items, so it's understandable that most parents are hesitant to hand them over to a preschooler. But speaking from experience, if you teach your children how to properly handle a camera, use the wrist strap and set a few guidelines, they will rise to the occasion and gain the camera confidence they need to find their inner shutterbug. And if you're still not convinced, consider one of the many cameras made especially for children.

Don't edit the photographer.  It's our nature as parents to want to guide our children. Unfortunately, when it comes to their individual artistic flair, our best intentions to guide them can often influence and even squelch their vision. Since I believe that there is no wrong way to take a picture, I encourage parents to give their child the room to do it their way. Seeing the world through your child's eyes can be enlightening. Give them the freedom to capture what they see as photo-worthy and be prepared to be inspired. Keep in mind that sometimes the experimental or even accidental photos can be the most interesting.

Take it outside.  Since photography is one of the few creative mediums that travels well, encouraging your children to shoot pictures while out and about keeps them busy and entertained no matter what kind of adventure you're on.   Consider bringing your camera:

-  on a neighborhood discovery walk (a favorite of ours)

-  to a sibling's sporting event

-  to an apple orchard or pumpkin patch

-  to a local nature center or wildlife preserve

-  while playing at the park

Click it up a notch.  Even professional photographers can feel uninspired sometimes. To keep your little shutterbug snapping away, consider challenging them to keep photography engaging and fun.  Here are some ideas to help motivate your kids along their photo journey:

-  Offer a specific theme for your child to photograph (using colors, shapes, textures, letters, etc).

-  Write a list of items for your child to find and snap for a photo scavenger hunt.

-  Enrich imaginative play by having your kids shoot photos of a dress-up fashion show or family rock concert.

-  Encourage your child to shoot a series of pictures that tell a story.

-  Get your child to look at the little things and zoom in and capture the smallest details of their world inside the home and out.

-  Have your kids do a portrait session with their stuffed animals or action figures.

-  Teach them how to use the self-timer for self-portraits or group shots.

Put pictures to good use.  The beauty of the digital age is that you don't have to spend the money on every snapshot your child takes. The downfall is that too often our photos remain trapped on our computer. Once the pictures are taken, it's important to parlay at least a few choice shots into something tangible. Simple traditional frames, photo albums or scrapbooks of your child's handiwork will give them something to be proud of.

Unique photo gift items can be found at a variety of photo websites or kiosks at your local convenience store. These are fun ways to honor the work of your little photographer.

The possibilities are endless when it comes to the family fun you can have with photography. Don't be afraid to experiment with your camera and let your kids do the same.  Take tons of photos and learn with your kids as you do. You can develop your talents as a shutterbug at any age, you just have to click.

So tell me, what do you and your little shutterbug like to take pictures of? 

Sorry, Tracey Clark is no longer taking questions. Feel free to comment on the article and let us know what you think about the topic.


Comments

Aimee Greeblemonkey writes...

Great post and ideas! Thanks Tracey!

Tracey? writes...

Thanks Aimee. You're welcome. : )

Nicole writes...

What a wonderful post, Tracey. My 2 and 4 year old are always asking to hold our camera. It's a Canon PowerShot that's about 4 years old. IOW, it's not really great, but I've been known to keep it out of their reach; particularly the 2 year old.

I finally started to give in and let my 4 year old use it about 6 months ago. It's amazing how much she loves taking pictures of the smallest things. And, she's always so excited to view the results.

I'd like to give my 2 year old a chance, but wonder if I'd be better off buying a kid's camera for him instead. At 2 (and as a boy), I wonder if he's really ready to follow my point and click instructions without trying to break all of the buttons. I dunno. :) What do you think? Thanks.

Tracey? writes...

Well, I've never been one to worry too much when my kids have used my cameras so i guess my advice would be to give him a try, lay down the rules and encourage him to stand over the carpet, or grass when using it in case it drops. I'm not sure if your powershot has a neck strap or not but if it doesn't (most point and shoots don't) I have used a lanyard as a make shift neck strap too. It keeps the camera a little closer to your child that way. I'm not sure what to tell you about the button pushing part. That could make for some problems. But, I really do think you could give it a try to see. You never know!

megan writes...

i really like the ideas for kids' shooting: scavenger hunt, theme, etc. my younger one really likes to get ahold of my camera, so i'll send him on an adventure with it next time. thanks for the tips!

Tracey? writes...

I'm glad this gave you a few ideas to try Megan. It's always fun to get your child engaged in something fun and creative!

RookieMom Heather writes...

Nicole, I think if your kids can share, they can keep using the grown-up camera.

We let our two-year-old (boy) have our old camera and it's been great for him.

We don't have a kids camera, but I understand that since they're lower end, they tend to be even harder to focus.

Tracey, I'm curious to hear your thoughts on the suite of kids cameras. Which are worth the money? I have boys age 1 and 3.

Thanks!!

Tracey? writes...

I'm not a big fan of kids cameras because the few "toys" I have bought haven't really worked and so they've been a waste of time and money. I do know however that there are some kids cameras that are decent. There's Fisher-Price Kid Tough camera that gets great reviews. I've considered that one because my daughter's friends have it and love it but she's 5 and really is much more interested in grown up cameras. Some kids are turned off by kids stuff. But for a 1 and a 3 year old, it might be $60 well spent. I think they even sell a case for it! For an additional $15 of course.

Heather writes...

Thank you so much this article. I am going to let my 8-year-old daughter have my old point and shoot camera today. She's going o love it!

Tracey? writes...

You're right, she is going to LOVE it! If you want, pop over to my blog Mother May I and participate in our Little Perspective Day this Friday. You can share some of her photo handi work in our photo group too! I can't wait to see what she comes up with.

Mariah writes...

Thank you for the great recommendations! Capturing their world through photography is very empowering for children. Photographs taken by children can also be great writing prompts for journals.

Tracey? writes...

That's an aweome idea Mariah! Now you've got my wheels turning. Thanks for sharing that. I am huge fan of journaling so that is right up my alley. I bet my kids would love it!

Cara writes...

Great post, I have a 2 year old that I am already letting use the point and shoot to take great pictures of the cat. I am looking forward as he get older to doing some of the suggestions in your post.

Tracey? writes...

I have some great ones of our cats from my kids too. Our pets make for great subjects! It allows our kids to take photos of something meaningful in their lives. I encourage you to frame one that your son took and put it up in his room. It will make him feel very special!

Julie writes...

I love the idea of getting a kids camera. I'm not so excited about letting my 4 year old touch my camera. It got me to thinking that I am always looking for great birthday present ideas. Some of those kids one's in the link would be good for buying a present with a few families for a special friend.

Tracey? writes...

Yes, I agree Julie. It's nice to make the purchase a "special" one so the children recognize the value of the gift. I know that my daughter takes much better care of her own camera because the value of it hits her close to home since it was her own money that bought it. : )

Hannah Cora writes...

We would really like to take pictures too. What kind of camera do you suggest our parents buy for us?????

Tracey? writes...

Hannah and Cora-I think you girls might be perfect candidates for a "real" camera...a point and shoot to share would probably be a good call. You two would share nicely, wouldn't you? I have no doubt.

Danielle writes...

Wow, great article! I love the suggestions, it would really get kids to think creatively, which is always a good thing. I think it would be very beneficial to see this included in a school hand outs; all parents need more tips like these ones!

Tracey? writes...

Thanks for that comment Danielle. It would be great to see the schools support these kinds of creative outlets. And no time better than right now with all of the budget cuts in the arts. Anything we can do for our children at home in the creative enrichment department can only be a postive!

Jessica writes...

This was a GREAT article with many helpful tips, that I will be sure to use!! My kids are 13, 12, 10 & 1. I have a Nikon D70, D50 & a point & shoot. Ever since I had my youngest, I have been really appreciative that my older kids take over camera duties. They actually capture some amazing moments, that I would be otherwise too busy with the baby to catch. I also find that they often take photos of me in them too! (which I would NEVER get if I didn't let them be photographers) It's kinda cool & funny when I download the photos at the end of an outing & they have the best photo of the day!! AWESOME, I Love That!!

Tracey? writes...

I know what you mean. I adore the pictures that my kids take of me. It proves than I am there with them, enjoying myself too. There's nothing worse than getting a ton of pix back from an event with not a single one of mom to show for it!

Tim writes...

Great article. Thanks Trace

Tracey? writes...

You're certainly welcome Tim.

Angela writes...

Congratulations Tracey-
One more reason to love PBS, they know talent when they see it!

Tracey? writes...

Thanks Angela. *blush*

melody writes...

Fabulous article crammed full of usable tips. Thanks, Tracey.

PBS, excellent choice of experts.

Tracey? writes...

Thanks for the comment Melody! : )

CindyC writes...

Great to see you here, Tracey! Love your ideas. We are now homeschooling, so we have time for all kinds of photo ops. Thanks!

Tracey? writes...

Cindy! Indeed, homeschooling makes it that much easier to incorporate photography into the daily routine. There's so many ways to help children learn by using alternative methods; photography can really help learning come alive. Photography can just be one more tool in effective teaching and reaching our children. I am inspired by the possibilies!

Elaine writes...

Thanks so much for all the great tips!

Some of my favorite photos have been taking by the 5 and under set. And when Lily (5) was having a rough time with me leaving her at school recently, handing her the camera and asking her to take photos of her day helped her focus on something other than her desire NOT to be there that day.

Tracey? writes...

What a brilliant idea Elaine! That seems like the perfect way to distract her in a postive way from her discomfort and giving her a creative way to change her focus (nice pun huh?). Thanks for sharing that with us. I just love that idea!

Chris Wehner writes...

Hi,

My daughter Dolores,at 2 years old, has been useing my cell phone to take photos. I am also teaching her how to dial 911, just in case, since I am multiple head injury survivor.
Just another idea to share.

Tracey? writes...

A cell phone camera is a great idea! I never really think of that but know that my daughter knows more about my cell phone than I do and she has used my camera for taking photos as well. it's a great idea! now, if i can just figure out how to get them from my phone to my computor! Thanks for the idea Chris.

cynthia writes...

okayy..im 13 and i really want o get into photography. i kno your parents are supposed to tell you this but they are rlly trying to get me into it && they say im rlly good. i could send a few pics ive taken at the zoo && park && other places. i probably wont get any real help with this because im only 13 but, i'd rlly appreciate it!!(:

Tracey? writes...

Cynthia, I'm so glad to hear from you! It sounds to me like you're on the right track with photography. I want to encourage you to keep shooting a lot of pictures to keep improving your skills. You can check into photography classes for your age group. Sometimes classes are offered through city porgrams, at local community colleges or local museums or libraries. There might also be opportunities to get into the yearbook committee in middle school or high school so be sue to check into that too. And remember that any art classes can be helpful when it comes to expressing yourself and learning techniques in composition, color which will help you to take better photos as well. I took many more art classes than photography classes and they all have all worked together to make me a better photographer. Good luck to you on your path into photography! Thanks for your comment and keep up the good work!

Victoria Sowder writes...

Good morning -- really great ideas on getting kids interested in building a lifelong interest in taking photos! Do you know of any websites geared especially for kids to post photos that they themselves took?

Thanks very much -- and keep up the good work!

Tracey? writes...

I wish I did. It would be such a fantastic idea to allow kids to share their photos with one another. I have started a Flickr group where moms can share pix that their kids took. It's called A Little Perspective at http://www.flickr.com/groups/alittleperspective/. Join us if you'd like. Thanks for the comment and question Victoria

joy writes...

I too am a professional photographer and my son (age 3) is already following in my footsteps with the camera....he is doing very well with the camera too.......he gets lots of compliments on his photography and people are amazed that at his age he is carrying a camera almost everywhere, like his mommy!

Tracey? writes...

It is such a thrill to watch your young children grow creatively. I'm glad to hear that your son is a little shutterbug like you.

Amy writes...

I love this idea! I do not have kids, but I have two nieces and really enjoy doing creative activities with them. I've passed this article on to my sister in law. Thanks for the great perspective on photography with children.

Tracey? writes...

Oh great! Yes, keep these ideas in mind for some special Auntie time too! : )

John writes...

Great ideas here. I loved taking my son for indoor photo scavenger hunts to the Harvard Museum of Natural History where they have over 500 animals from all over the world..and his favorites --the dinosaurs. Their website is www.hmnh.harvard.edu for directions and free hours for Mass residents.

Tracey? writes...

What a great idea John. Sounds like a super fun and creative way to spend the day with your son!

Mick writes...

Thank you very much for such a great article! My one year old doughter doesn't yet understand what she is clicking and doing but she likes to watch the taken pictures later. :)

Mick
http://www.kids-cameras.com/

flower girl writes...

well really a nice blog , had alot fun reading and i must say its always a plaesure talking about kids .

KidsDigitalCameras writes...

Great post and related resources. I myself am very excited about getting kids interested in photography. Now that they're starting younger and younger as the technology improves it's a great time to introduce them to photography. Some of the "toy" cameras out there actually take good pictures but the really important part is getting the kids interested in taking pictures.

I've started a blog called kids digital cameras dedicated to the subject because it is so interesting.

As others have commented, you'll find some of the most interesting shots will come from your kids cameras so shooting with them can be great fun as well.

Julie writes...

I bought the pink Fisher-Price Camera Blue for my 4 year old daughter and the blue one for my nephew when they came for a visit last month. The kids just love it and they email pictures they took to each other. It is a really great toy. They love it.

"Don't edit the photographer" I 100% agree with that. Parents tends to distract their art of work. So, let it be their genuine art of works.

I enjoy every moment with my kids when they play with their own camera. It is really amazing what kids can do with their photos.

john smith writes...

This is such a great activity for kids. As a parent i think this is such a great idea. This will make the kids think and learn a lot from this. Keep up the good work on this. silver eagles

kobirana writes...

I too am a professional photographer and my son (age 3) is already following in my footsteps with the camera....he is doing very well with the camera too.......he gets lots of compliments on his photography and people are amazed that at his age he is carrying a camera almost everywhere, like his mommy!
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terahapatti writes...

You can check into photography classes for your age group. Sometimes classes are offered through city porgrams, at local community colleges or local museums or libraries. There might also be opportunities to get into the yearbook committee in middle school or high school so be sue to check into that too. And remember that any art classes can be helpful when it comes to expressing yourself and learning techniques in composition, color which will help you to take better photos as well. I took many more art classes than photography classes and they all have all worked together to make me a better photographer.

danny writes...

You can check into photography classes for your age group. Sometimes classes are offered through city porgrams, at local community colleges or local museums or libraries. There might also be opportunities to get into the yearbook committee in middle school or high school so be sue to check into that too. And remember that any art classes can be helpful when it comes to expressing yourself and learning techniques in composition, color which will help you to take better photos as well. I took many more art classes than photography classes and they all have all worked together to make me a better photographer.
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Miami movers writes...

These are some great tips. The camera you buy today is outdated in a year anyway - why not give it to your kid and let them use it.

hid lights writes...

I don't agree with everything in this article, but you do make some very good points. I'm very interested in this matter and I myself do a lot of research as well.

dog gate writes...

I'm not a great deal into reading, but somehow I got to read plenty of articles here. Its superb how interesting it is for me to visit you very often.

circle y saddle writes...

I’ve been searching for some decent stuff on the subject and haven't had any luck up until this point, You just got a new biggest fan!

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