Throughout Roll Around the Block for Melbourne Now at the National Gallery of Victoria, I’ve spent lots of time going through the shots in the photo libraries of my own children. Their galleries date back to 2009 when we took our very first rolls around the block, up until our most recent adventures of 2014. That’s five years of kids with cameras and a whole lot has changed in the way they photograph in that time. Today I’m sharing with you some tips I’ve used along the way that I hope will help you with your little photographer, whether they’re new to taking photos or have a number of years of practice in the bag.
1. Choose the right camera :: when it comes to kids it isn’t one size fits all for cameras and providing your child with a camera that suits their needs will make the world of difference. Small hands may struggle with a DSLR or a larger digital camera or tire from its weight/size and therefore prefer a smartphone, while older children may prefer the flexibility that comes with having a good zoom lens or being able to adjust settings on a digital camera.
2. Put your smartphone to the side :: Two hands can sometimes be better than one when it comes to photographing on a smartphone and a simple way to do this is to turn your smartphone on its side and take photos in landscape orientation. This lets your child hold on to both ends of the camera for steadiness and on an iPhone photos can be taken by pressing the volume buttons on the side of the phone, so your child can easily take the photo with two hands holding on. Using the volume button while holding on with both hands, instead of holding on with one hand and pressing the ‘camera’ icon, can also result in less blurry shots because sometimes the phone will move as the icon is tapped if only supported by one hand.
3. Get a different perspective :: If your child will show you each photo as they take it throughout the roll around the block, you can encourage them to consider a different perspective with gentle questioning. “What do you think that looks like from underneath?” or “I wonder if that looks different when you’re very close to it.” are simple ways to get them thinking. My favourite way to show them a different perspective is to grab a camera and do a roll around the block with them! Last year when I noticed Mr Tiny focusing on the big picture in a nature walk, I grabbed out my camera and started shooting things more closely. When we finished we looked through our photos together and on his next roll around the block I noticed that he mixed it up with closer shots. If you’d like to, you can check out the photos from that roll around the block here and here.
4. Seize the moment :: While it’s great to plan a roll around the block and let your child know in advance where you’re going and what they’re doing, sometimes it’s good to be spontaneous. If you see your little one engaged in an environment, seizing the moment and handing them a camera with a gentle “Would you like to take some photos of this?” can result in beautiful captures. There are times when the tiny and little crew do a roll around the block without knowing they are doing one – I simply hand them a camera and keep count myself, wrapping up the 24 by giving them an “okay, let’s just do five more shots then put the camera away so we can enjoy this wonderful space.”
5. Slow and steady wins the race :: Children tend to move quickly when they’re taking photos, especially when they’re excited, which can result in shots that are blurry or that don’t following the rules of photography. The temptation can be there to give lots of advice to help your little photographer improve through a quick list of things to try in the next shot. While we want to encourage children to continue to improve, giving lots of suggestions at one time can feel overwhelming so pick one thing to mention. It’s important to remember the age of the child will influence the amount and level of information. With a two year old who has taken a blurry shot while photographing their toes up very close on a smartphone, you might say “What would that photo look like from further away?” while with an older child using a DSLR you could be more technical like “What happens if you try a faster shutter speed to reduce the overexposure?” The other thing to keep in mind is that photography is an art and art is in the eye of the beholder, and breaking the rules of photography to create your own art is a wonderful creative outlet.
6. Be your child’s biggest fan :: When you’re looking at the photos your child has taken, talk positively about what they’ve achieved with age-appropriate language. For younger children this can be questions like “What’s your favourite thing in this photo?” or “What made you choose to photograph that?” Statements like “Tell me about this shot.” or “I really like the light in this photo.” or “What a fascinating perspective! I’ve never look at this object like that before.” can also open a conversation with your child about their photos while letting them focus positively on what they’ve achieved. It also encourages them to think about how and what they like to photograph for their next roll around the block.