I’m often asked whether I think photography is a suitable hobby for children and the answer is always a resounding Yes! Of course I’m biased since photography is not only my business but also my favourite way to unwind, it’s a perfect distraction from everything that’s going on around us.
Providing an escape from everyday life is one of the many benefits of photography for children, especially at the moment when the news can feel overwhelming. With home learning and zoom lessons our children have spent more time than ever in front of a screen, photography can be a great way to get them outdoors (or at least moving around the house if the weather is bad), engaging with their environment and thinking creatively. It can also help them to make sense of the world around them and give them a way to communicate their thoughts and feelings. Taking some time to look through the photos they have taken can be a great way to open up conversations with them and it’s always inspiring to see the world through the eyes of a child. With younger children photography can also be a fun way to reinforce learning, try asking them to take a photo of something red or something beginning with A. Whatever age your children are learning a new skill can offer a boost in their self esteem and one of the great advantages of learning photography is that it mostly just feels like fun.
Once we’ve established that photography is a great hobby for children the next question is how to get them interested. First of all they’ll need something to shoot with and a phone is a good way to start. If they are too young for their own phone an old one with a working camera is all they need to get started. Alternatively compact cameras can be very inexpensive, they don’t need anything sophisticated to get started and equipment can always be upgraded if they show a real flair and lasting interest. Once they’ve got something to shoot with a great way to get them started is with a list of items to find and photograph, this can be tailored to the age of the children. With small children it can be as simple as ‘your favourite toy’ and ‘your dinner’. As children get older the list can be more abstract with prompts such as ‘something that makes you feel happy’ or ‘something that reminds you of Grandma’. You can even encourage older children to create a series of images to tell a story.
During the first lockdown I shared a series of photo prompts on my Facebook Page as a fun photography challenge. The first was a Treasure Hunt that is suitable for children of all ages although some of the prompts may need adapting to suit the season.
The next two sets of prompts help to improve observational skills and introduce some compositional ideas and photographic rules while still feeling more like fun than learning.
These prompt sheets are available as a free download to encourage your children to start shooting and can be printed or saved to your phones. Please click here to access the files. I’d love to hear how you get along with them, you can use the hashtags or better still give me a quick mention on Instagram and I’ll definitely see your photos (you can find me as @barbaraleathamphotoartist).