Children are naturally curious and are always eager to explore the world around them. They're often hunting for treasures, watching insects crawl, playing with mud or staring at people. You can turn this curiosity into a lifetime photography hobby or even a full time profession someday.

If you give a child a point-and-shoot camera, chances are they’ll have a blast running around photographing everything they see. But does this truly help them understand photography? While it definitely allows them to practice their compositions without having to think about the technical aspects of the photograph, knowing how to use all of their camera’s functions will transform their images into beautiful, professional looking photographs. Whether you have a budding photographer in your own home or teach a kids photography club, below are a few tips for how to get young photographers started and how you can encourage their interest in photography. 

  1. Choose the right camera. The best camera for a 9-year-old might easily be destroyed by a preschooler, while a grade school child will refuse to use a camera that's designed for little kids. A tween will want more features but may still be prone to causing damage. Here are some guidelines for choosing the best camera:
  • Preschoolers: Choose something simple, indestructible and cheap. It should be easy to grip since their motor coordination is still developing. Look for a camera with an optical viewfinder.
  • Early grades (K-4): Younger children may still need something more durable but by the time they are between seven and nine years old, they'll be ready for a camera with more control.
  • Middle school (grades 5-8): These kids are ready for low-end, point-and-shoot cameras that offer a modest zoom range and a variety of shooting modes. At this age however, your camera might be in competition with the built-in cameras on their cell phones. Choose a model that offers ease of use plus more features than a cell to get their interest, features such asan optical zoom lens, close focus and creative modes.
  1. Teach them how to use a camera. Instead of just handing a child a camera, show them how to use it. Your instructions can be as simple as showing them how to look through the viewfinder and which button to press. You might be wondering if a child would even be interested in the technical aspects of taking a photo, but I've found that kids are very eager to learn something about everything, and if you make learning fun, they’ll actually absorb what you’re saying to them.

Go on a photographic safari around the neighborhood and demonstrate how to frame and compose photos. Let your child take a photo and then find something positive about it that you can praise them for. Then show them how they can improve upon it a little more. 

  1. Make the experience fun. Plan out a few games that will help teach your kids about photography. Items such as crafts or coloring sheets work really well. Use some cardboard to cut out a frame that can be used like a lens. You might even want to use this makeshift lens to teach them how to frame things before they even pick up a camera. A second option is to challenge them to a photo scavenger hunt where they need to photograph something that begins with a certain letter in the alphabet or objects that are a certain color.

Give your child room to explore, make mistakes and learn, but most of all to have fun and develop a passion for photography.

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