Intro to Photography for Kids (and Adults!)

At the end of Dex’s school year, they asked parents to come in and give workshops on topics they were comfortable with. Since I didn’t think the kids were ready for Blogging 101, I did a basic photography class.

I ran through some slides and then we did a photo walk around the school. I was so proud of the photos they took, and how they changed their perspective in one quick session!

Check out my slides + notes below and I would love to see some of your recent photos in the comments!

Introduction to Basic Photography
(for DSLR, Point & Shoot & iPhone)

1. What is Photography?
Came from Greek words:

  • “Photos” for light
  • “Graphos” for drawing
  • It is not what the eye sees
  • It is what you paint with a camera!

Why do I mention this? Many people think the camera will catch exactly what they see and honestly, nothing could be further from the truth. First, we should accept that the camera will catch the scene based on the combination of factors in front of it, plus its own settings – and then we learn to manipulate those factors!

2. How Do We Hold The Camera?

  • Standing people or headshot = Vertical
  • Group of people or cropped in on people = Horizontal
  • Crop people on natural body lines (chest, waist, knees)
  • Hold the camera straight (unless you are getting funky)
  • Look for the horizon or buildings to help you line-up
  • Hold the camera still as possible, especially in dark light
  • Use a tripod or place the camera on a table
  • Lean on something steady (a person, a wall, etc)
  • Spread your legs slightly and lock elbows in (become a human tripod)

The take-away from this, however, should not be to just always hold your camera horizontally or vertically. Think about moving it around, taking photos from above, below, and from all sorts of interesting angles.

3. Get the Three Types of Shots.
If you want to “cover” a scene really well, the following are the three types of photos to get. I tend to move back and forth between them to really get everything within the moment.

  • Close-up
  • Medium
  • Way Back


4. Go for Depth of Field.
Depth of Field or “DOF” is when one area of the photo is in focus and the rest is out of focus. Technically, it refers to the area that is in focus, meaning a photo like below has a “small” depth of field. But in common language, small depth of field makes the photo attractive (especially for portraits where the person is in focus and the background is blurry), so many people just refer to the effect as “depth of field” in general.

The way to achieve this on a DSLR is to shoot with a low f-stop like 2.8, 1.8 or 1.4. This setting is completely dependent on the type of lens you have, not your camera body. On a point and shoot, the “portrait” mode best mimics this. On an iPhone, or other smartphones, you can touch where you want the phone to focus and then force the background to be blurry.

5. Look for “Framing.”
Framing is a way to make your photo interesting by using the surroundings to lead the eye into the photo. You can do this with Depth of Field as mentioned above, cropping, composition, and just generally looking for interesting angles for your photos. I am a big fan of shooting “through” things, as you can see below, where I took a photo of the wedding couple between the strings of their wedding balloons.

6. Use the Rule of Thirds.
Most cameras these days have a grid system you can turn on. There is a reason for that. Designwise, if you move the focal point of a photo to line up along the cross-section of the lines, it is more visually appealing than always placing your subject in the center. Of course, you will develop your own style, but using the rule of thirds is a great way to experiment with composition.

7. Shoot A Lot – But Stay Safe!
The great thing about digital photography (especially for kids) is you can just photograph and photograph and not spend any more money unless you print the photos. Of course, you need to take the time to edit or delete the photos – which can be laborious if you need to find something specific and it is buried in millions of photos.

The other thing kids should remember is that safety is more important than “getting the shot.” They should not go into the street, they should stay out of a thunderstorm, they should not climb a tree with a camera, or otherwise compromise their safety or the safety of others.

8. Play With Modes
There are a lot of pre-made settings that can help you take great photos! Check out the following, especially portrait (people), macros (close-ups), landscape (far away), night (dark), and sports (fast-action). The other modes like Beach, Snow, Foliage can really help with color correction when shooting in those types of situations. Also, with 4th of July coming up – definitely try the Fireworks mode if you have it. It holds the camera lens open longer to catch the whole stream of the fireworks! On your DSLR, take baby steps towards manual mode with P, AV, TV. Aperture Priority is great because you can set the f-stop and your camera will do the rest for you.

9. Play with iPhone Apps

We all have our favorite apps, and below are some of mine. Which ones do you like to use the most?

One thing the kids noticed was missing was Instagram. I told them all (10-11 years old) that I felt they were a bit too young for it yet, which was met with a round of groans. Much like the groans I got for my teen cell phone contract, but oh well. This subject is fodder for another post, but I have seen a ton of questionable judgement with kids this age in terms of what they are posting, what they are saying to each other and who they are following – not to mention the vast amount of copyright infringement. I would just caution parents to make younger kids private and tightly monitor their accounts.

OK. For reals. I don’t want to end on a down note. Photography is way fun and I love that digital photography makes it accessible for kids to express themselves so quickly and easily. It is really about fun and experimentation and I hope they have a blast!

Note: This is not a sponsored post in any way.

This article has 10 comments

  1. Sue at nobaddays

    LOVE this! So want to work through this with T, if I can extract his brain from of Plants vs. Zombies. Arg!

  2. Aimee Giese

    Thanks friends! and yes, I almost always end any photo talk with the “HAVE FUN” slide! 🙂

  3. William

    great post!

  4. Aimee Giese

    Mike, I actually never liked Hipstamatic – I can’t handle not seeing what I am shooting!

  5. Kimberly Hosey

    This is wonderful! I actually do a nature photography workshop for kids, and my last slide is “Have fun!” Glad to see that great minds think alike! Great stuff here. Just the right amount of depth for a beginner talk, and good idea to talk about how to hold the camera (I didn’t even think to include that the first time, until we were on our walk)!

    And isn’t it fun to see how kids see the world?

  6. mike3k

    I used to like Hipstamatic, but I’ve stopped using it after the company fired several developers I respect in a big meltdown.

  7. Kriddie

    What a great way to get kids excited about photography, while giving them some real insight & tools to use to make whatever pix they take better! & thanks for sharing the basics, it helps us ‘older kids’ too! Love it!

  8. monstergirlee

    I have a friend who will be buying a new camera to take pictures for her landscaping business. I plan to send her here for your tips as soon as she makes her purchase.
    Great stuff Aimee!

  9. northierthanthou

    Cool write-up. This adult found it useful.

  10. Ellie Write

    Great article, it was very helpful! I just started in this and I’m getting to know it better! Cheers, keep up the good work! Photography for kids

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