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Encourage your budding Baileys and mini Marios to capture family memories on camera

Posted: 20 April 2010
by Coral Garlick

Photographer girls
THANKS TO THE immediacy and cost-effectiveness of digital photography, the world of photography has become a far more engaging experience for children. Photography is a wonderful way to encourage your child’s creativity, whilst capturing enduring family memories. But how can you unleash this creativity?

An uptight Daddy screeching “Be careful with the camera” is unlikely to bring out the best in your child’s inner David Bailey. Although you want to teach your child to respect the fragility of a camera, you also have to remember that children are children, so it’s best to start with a solid, sturdy camera that’s specially made for them. The Fisher-Price Kidtough Digital Camera, £90, and the VTech Kidizoom Multimedia Digital Camera, £50, are both good choices.

There are certain limitations with using a child’s camera. The quality of the images can be variable, and there is often an annoying delay between pressing the button and the photograph being captured. However, they do serve a positive purpose in getting very young children used to the idea of taking pictures and perfecting their skills.

As your child becomes more adept, you may want to consider investing in a well-priced adult camera – something like the Panasonic Lumix FT1 or the Olympus Mju, which are both shockproof, freezerproof and waterproof. Good places to browse are The London Camera Exchange (not just based in London) and Jessops. Before getting started, explain the basic rules of using a camera: always use the wrist strap, don’t touch the lens and turn it off when not in use. It really is as simple as that.

By the age of three or four, most children have worked out that they have to point the camera and press the button to get a picture. Teach them how to open the shutter, look through the viewfinder and view the LCD screen to see how their picture will look. Encourage your child to take lots of photographs of anything they like. Remember it’s not your photo: art is subjective and if he thinks a one-eyed dolly makes a good subject, then it does. As confidence grows, encourage your child to work on projects in an area they are interested in. My eight-year-old daughter, Lucia, loves writing stories and using her photographs to make a storybook. A little boy I know is obsessed with cars and has built a scrapbook of his favourite models.

People often ask me for technical tips to pass onto their children but I strongly feel that photography for children should be a fun experience. The basics, like focusing on the subject and holding the camera still, should be stressed, but worrying about beautiful lighting and perfect composition will inhibit creativity. By taking lots of photos, your child will instinctively develop a feel for what makes a good and bad photo. Although I have taken some gorgeous photos of our children over the years, my most treasured photo is one taken by my husband of our children visiting their new baby brother in hospital. Even photos which are not technically perfect can provoke an emotion and have meaning in life.

Photography for children is about developing a creative eye and an interest in the medium. Another fun thing to do is make photos into postcards to send to people. Not only are these lovely keepsakes, they also give your child a great sense of achievement. Encourage your child to get involved in recording special events like holidays, birthday parties and family days out. By building albums and scrapbooks, you are creating wonderful mementos to look back upon in years to come.

Even as a professional photographer, you are always learning. If you want your child to appreciate and enjoy photography, it is an ongoing process, not something that you can teach in a day. The most important thing is to have fun – you never know where it may lead ■

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