Introducing your kids to digital photography

The last time we had a family vacation, AJ, who was just 3 at the time, asked if she could take some photos with our digital camera. After exchanging some concerned looks, Claire and I decided to let her take some photos under close supervision.

Our camera is a Sony Cybershot, which is perfect for this kind of experimentation because it’s just got a point-and-shoot operation with automatic focus and a good-sized digital display. There’s also little or no cost associated with it. If your camera is an expensive digital SLR, you might want to consider holding off until your child is older, or you might want to opt for a cheapo digital camera just for them instead. Alternatively, if your kids are a bit older and don’t need the instant gratification of seeing their photos on the preview display, all of these ideas can be applied to traditional film cameras or cheap disposables.

And yes, the thought of letting a 3 or 4 year old commandeer the camera that you paid a lot of money for can be nerve-wracking! We ended up making sure that the camera’s wrist strap was securely looped around her wrist while she was using it; we also made sure that she understood that she should not touch the lens. After a little while we were confident enough with the way she was using the camera to let her wander around and take photos on her own.

One of the amazing things about the photographs that little people will produce is that they are unencumbered by the kind of critical thinking that often inhibits adults. They have a genuine “beginner’s mind” approach to photography. The flip-side of this is that they will take plenty of photos that you won’t want to keep (definitely an advantage of digital cameras over traditional film cameras).

If you have the patience to let them experiment though, you’ll find that their perspective will produce some unique and interesting images. AJ went through stages of taking closeups (including some alarming foreshortening of her sleeping grandfather):

flower pattern sleeping grandfather

and images of things she really liked:

care bear party whistle

(this also yielded numerous photos of the cover of the Cinderella dvd). Then she shifted to taking photos of herself:

little feet AJ's eye

She even took a great portrait of me, in spite of my refusal to close my eyes and pretend to be asleep.

awake dad

The key to making this fun and successful is to relax and let them explore photography while at the same time providing adequate supervision to ensure that nothing goes awry. It’s also fun to spend some time with them afterwards, reviewing the photos they’ve taken, and finding out which are their favorites and why.

Finally, we’ve created a photo group at flickr for Kiddley readers. If you decide to try this with your kids, please add your favorites to the group pool!

22 Responses to “Introducing your kids to digital photography”

  1. Jo

    Great idea. My two see the camera, whip off the cover and off they go. Yes, I get a little nervous. But some of the shots they take…. I couldn’t get them if I spent an hour setting it up. We’ll be over to Flickr soon.

  2. madame butterfly

    this is a great idea. So is this Blog I’m really looking forward to visiting regularly,reading more and finding great things to do with my little one! Congratulations and good luck with your new venture!!!
    He’s a bit too young for this one yet ( 18 months), but he loves looking at the pics we’ve taken of him!

  3. PAULA

    yes! what an excellent article! nothing looks the same through their eyes!! i will do it! great blog!!
    pd: my girls are also great cinderella s fans!!!

  4. Neal Dench

    Interesting to read this post: we’ve just bought our youngest daughter a digital camera for her 8th birthday next week (ssh, don’t tell her). She’s always loved taking photos, and both her and her older sister have become used to having a disposable each when we’ve been on holiday. Because our youngest is particularly interested in this sort of thing, we thought we’d buy her the real thing this year. Of course, technological progress being what it is, the refurbished camera that we got for her at a knock-down price is better, in terms of specs, than our 3 year old digital camera, but that’s life :-/

  5. Mama Urchin

    We have an old digital camera that we let our 3 year-old use. (If you don’t want to let a kid use your nice digital look on ebay or in the classifieds for a cheap one) She’s been occasionally taking pictures for a few months. She has a little trouble keeping the camera still long enough but sometimes gets good shots. Great article.

  6. Verito

    Wow! your new bolg it’s so lovely!!!

    it’s a wonderful idea! thanks, nice design too…


  7. Natalie

    My daughter (3 next month) always wants to take pictures with my camera when she sees me with it. I’ve been thinking of getting her one of her own soon.

    She’s definitely of the “Digital Generation.” Even if someone is using a film camera, she immediately asks to see the picture that was just taken!

  8. Martha Winger

    This is a terrific blog. I can’t wait to make juggling balls with our church group and my Brownie girl scout troop. Thanks, Claire and Big P!

  9. ebeth

    Fisher Price is going to release a digital camera aimed at children. The great thing is that it will have two ‘eye holes’ and an oversized grip. I’m sure it’ll have an impressive price tag – so for now, we’ll continue letting our 3 year-old use our digital.

  10. irishmama

    I just found this website, it is great. I have a 2 daughters 5 and 8 and my son is 11, and already I have seen lots of things here to do during summer vacation. My 8 year old loves photography, so this posting gave me some great ideas for her. Thanks for doing this.

  11. Amy Frazier

    I believe so strongly in introducing children to photography at a young age, too. I think it sets them up for a lifetime of being comfortable with cameras and taking comfortable shots (instead of the intimidation that a lot of us feel about getting that “perfect” shot.)

    Thanks for sharing your daughter’s cute photos. I can’t wait till my girl is old enough to hold a camera without shoving it in her mouth!

  12. Matthew Miller

    I’ve seen a few digital cameras marketed as kid’s cameras, but generally, the design decisions seem to be based on “let’s make this thing cheap, ’cause it’s for kids” rather than on deciding what actually would be a good camera for kids.

    I’d really love to see a good camera designed specifically for young children. Feature list:

    – 2-3 megapixels. Because we’ll want to print some of these out, but no need to go overboard on cost

    – Fixed-focus lens. Autofocus is still too hard and more importantly too slow.

    – Optionally, a little flippy switch to go to macro mode for super close-ups.

    – Wide-angle lens — 24-28mm equivalent. No need to back out the doorway to get everything in the picture.

    – No flash. They’re hard to use well and suck up batteries.

    – Instead, use a sensor with very high light sensitivity and a wide aperture (which fits with the wide angle fixed lens).

    – Optical image stabilization would be really nice, but obviously adds to the cost.

    – Ruggedized foam/plastic housing.

    – Easily-removable clear (or UV) filter for scratch protection.

    – Charged via simple inductive system — leave it sitting on the base and it’ll charge.

    – Bluetooth file transfer. Combined with the above, camera needs no wires or holes for plugs.

    – Internal compact flash or smartmedia slot — accessed with screwdriver. Same with replacement battery.

    – Very simple UI — push the one button to take a picture, plus, a dial for scrolling through the pictures already taken. No other buttons at all. I don’t think it even needs a mechanism to delete pictures from the camera itself.

  13. Rev Dan Catt

    We’ve done this too. I gave Modesty my old digital just before her 4th birthday, taught her how to turn on and off, and which button to press. She keeps it on her table and uses it whenever the mood takes her. *Some* of them end up on flickr … … the rest are generally way out of focus 🙂

  14. lyn

    What brilliant pics.
    My children like to take photographs of my rather ample ‘booty’, which you’ll be relieved to hear I wont be sharing on Flickr.
    One little tip though, it’s a good idea not to leave lovely new cameras on the kitchen table after useage – just in case little daughters throw them to the floor in a hissy fit.
    : 0

  15. True Nature » pretty things

    […] and yay for the wonderful new kiddley by claire & co! this new site idea couldn’t have come with better timing, max is so ready for preschool! we’re really excited to try out some potato people, but i think we’ll have to wait on letting him get behind our digital camera. since the last one had to be replaced because he decided to give it a “bubble bath.” Posted at 3:41 pm | […]

  16. Moniker

    Great advice. I’ve been looking to buy a digital camera my child could use. Nice photos, too.

  17. Phil

    ebeth: thanks for the link to the fisher price camera.

    Matthew: that is a terrific spec for a kid-focused camera. Let’s hope someone pics up on it.

    And thanks to everyone who has added their kid’s images to the flickr photo pool so far. They’re fantastic!

  18. island Jen

    We’ve been doing this for about a year. The images that I download off the camera never cease to amaze me. Children seem to have an eye for the interesting and important (to them).
    I have a folder of her photos on my hard drive but I should move them up to flickr too (never thought of that!)

  19. Mami Delux » las “manualidades” contemporáneas!

    […] Los de Kiddley no se hicieron esperar con las buenas ideas… desde que los mencione en este blog, Claire y su marido Phil, no han dejado compartir cosas y proyectos para hacer con los niños… me gusto en especial la sugerencia que hacen de incentivar a los niños a que tomen fotos… incluso abrieron un grupo en flickr que se dedica a recoger y compartir las fotos de los pequeños fotógrafos. […]

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