13 Lessons to Teach Your Child About Digital Photography

13 Lessons to Teach Your Child About Digital Photography



Today while sorting through some old boxes I found a photo album filled with the first ever photos that I took as a young budding photographer. I was around nine years old when I first started using our family’s film point and shoot camera and I still remember my Dad’s ‘training’ on how to use it. Basically it consisted of this advice:

‘Don’t take too many shots’

Remember, this was back in the day of film photography where film and processing costs made my Dad’s advice pretty sound. However looking back over my early images I wish he’d taught me a few other things about taking photos. Here’s some of the advice I could have benefited from hearing.

Note – before I start I should say that you can probably teach a child too much about photography and ‘kill’ some of the playfulness that I think makes the images that a child can take special. My main advice would be to instill in your child the first lesson below – of experimenting and having fun:

1. Experiment

ExperimentLooking over many of the shots that I took in those early days shows me that I took a lot of shots of almost exactly the same things. I approached my subjects in much the same way with every shot and as a result ended up with very similar results. Teach your child how to vary their shots in a number of these ways:

  • shoot from different perspectives – up high, down low etc
  • getting in close – stepping back for a wider angle shot
  • moving around your subject to shoot from different sides
  • experimenting with different settings (teaching them about different exposure modes)

2. Check your Backgrounds

BackgroundsA very simple concept that can enhance an image is to check out the background of a shot to check for clutter or distraction.

Teach your children to scan the background (and the foreground) of an image quickly and to change their framing if there’s too many distractions – otherwise their shots will end up like mine used to with all kinds of objects growing out of the heads of those I was photographing.

Read more about How to Get Backgrounds Right

3. Hold the Camera Straight

StraightThe other obvious problem with many of my first images is that they rarely lined up straight. In fact after viewing my first album for a few minutes I began to feel quite dizzy!

While shots that are not straight can be quite effective (they can be playful or give a more ‘candid’ feel to them) it is good to teach your children to check the framing of their shot before hitting the shutter.

Read more on Getting Horizons Horizontal and Getting Images Straight

4. How to Hold a Camera

Holding-CameraIt is easy to assume that everyone knows how to hold a digital camera – however while many people do it intuitively some will not – particularly children who are unfamiliar with them. In fact I’ve seen a lot of adults who could do with a lesson or two on how to hold a camera and whose images must suffer with camera shake as a result of poor technique.

A quick lesson on securing your camera could help a child get clear, shake free images for years to come.

Further Reading on How to Hold a Digital Camera

5. Get in Close

Get-In-CloseAlmost all of the shots that took in my first rolls of film have my subject somewhere off into the distance of the shot. This is partly because the camera that I was using didn’t have a zoom lens – but it was partly because I didn’t understand how getting in close would help capture the detail of a subject.

Teach your children how to use the zoom on your digital camera – but don’t forget to teach them how using their legs to move closer can achieve the same results!

Learn more about Filling Your Frame

6. Take Lots of Photos

Lots-Of-Shots-1While my Dad’s advice did save our family a lot of money at the time – with the advent of digital photography, taking lots of pictures is no longer something that is too costly (although there are costs in terms of storing them all). Taking lots of images is a great way to learn different techniques of photography.

While you probably will want to encourage your children not to take 100 shots of exactly the same thing – encourage them to experiment with lots of different shots over time and as they do you’ll see their photography improve.

7. Getting the Balance Right Between Photographing People, ‘Things’ and Places

People-PlacesI still remember coming back from my first overseas trip as a teenager (a school trip) and showing my parents my photos. Their first comment was that I had hardly taken any shots of people. All my shots had been of buildings. While some of them were interesting – I missed one of the most important aspects of the trip – those I was traveling with.

I chatted to a friend with two children recently and she told me that one of her children did the same thing with me – but the other came back from a school trip with hundreds of photos of their friends but none of the sites that they saw. I guess some children get too focused on photographing sites and some too focused upon photographing people. If you see your child doing this – perhaps reflect back to them that they think about different types of photography.

8. Find a Point of Interest

Points-Of-InterestInteresting photographs have interesting things in them – they need a visual point of interest (a focal point). Teach your child to identify what this point of interest is before hitting the shutter.

Once they’ve identified the point of interest they can then think about how to highlight it (by positioning themselves, using their zoom etc).

Learn more about Finding Points of Interest in Your Photography

9. Rule of Thirds

Rule-Of-Thirds-1A simple principle of photography that I’ve taught a number of children is the Rule of Thirds. While I’ve talked numerous times about how breaking this rule can also be a powerful effect – it is something that I’ve found really can lift a child’s images – particularly when they are photographing other people.

Even if the child doesn’t completely understand to position their subject right on the intersecting third points – to teach them how to place their subject off centre can be enough.

Read our Rule of Thirds Tutorial

10. Review Your Children’s Images with Them

Review-Photos-Together-1One thing that you can do to help your children drastically improve their photography is to sit down at the computer with them after they’ve been out with their camera to go through their shots.

As you scroll through them pause to affirm them with what they’ve done well and to point out things that they could do better next time to improve their results. Pay particular attention to the shots that they do well with as this will give them positive reinforcement and inspiration to keep going with their hobby.

11. Focal Lock

Focal-LockOne important technique that children will do well to learn is how to use focal lock. While most cameras do well in auto focusing upon subjects there are times when you’ll end up with shots that are out of focus because the camera doesn’t know what the main subject is (particularly if they are placing subjects off centre with the rule of thirds).

Teach your child how to press the shutter halfway down to focus and then to frame the shot while still holding it down and they’ll have a skill that they’ll use forever!

Learn how to Use Focal Lock

12. Different Modes for Different Situations

Digital-Camera-Modes-2The day that i discovered my family film camera had a little dial for different ‘shooting modes’ on it was a day my photography improved a little. Most digital cameras these days have the ability to switch a camera into modes like ‘portrait’, ‘sports’, ‘macro’ etc. Teach your child what these modes mean and when to switch to them and you’ll be taking them a step closer to learning about how their camera works and how to learn about manual exposure modes (see the next point).

Just knowing that different situations will mean you need to use different settings is an important lesson for kids to learn as it helps them to become more aware of not only their subject but things like how light, focal distance and subject movement can impact a shot.

Read our tutorial on Different Camera Modes

13. Exposure Settings

Exposure-1Once your child has a good grasp on the above techniques it might be time to teach them some basics of exposure (this might be one for slightly older kids). Learning about the three elements of ISO, Aperture and Shutter Speed are a useful place to start your lessons and giving them an introduction to how changing these settings can impact a photo.

The best way for them to learn this is by introducing them to Aperture and Shutter priority modes.

Learn more about different aspects of exposure including Shutter Speed, Aperture and ISO.

What do You Teach Your Children?

Of course deciding which of the above lessons for kids on photography to teach your child will depend upon their age and experience. Some are obviously more appropriate for some children than others. I’d be interested to hear what readers do when it comes to this topic? What have you taught your kids?

With my own son (who is 16 months old) we’re obviously not up to any of these – however I am teaching him to become familiar with cameras – showing him images once they’ve been taken on the LCD, letting him look through the viewfinder and even pressing the shutter. This familiarization is really nothing more than that – but in doing so he’s becoming more comfortable with cameras – and I’ve noticed when I’m photographing him (which does happen a lot) he’s much more happy to pose for me.

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Darren Rowse is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals. He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

Some Older Comments

  • Maddi May 1, 2013 04:42 am

    Speaking from little to no experience, this page was a lot of help to me. I come from a family consisting of a single mother and 4 kids while she makes minimum wage so college is not exactly where i see myself ending up, unfortunately. I am the oldest, and as a 15 year old girl whose going to be starting 9th grade, i clearly need to start getting my future plans in place. I hope to go to Keystone college on scholarship for photography, as it seems to come as a natural talent for me. With an $80.00 FujiFilm digital camera that had barely any settings, I was able to capture pictures that even i - one who lacks self confidence in high amounts - was impressed with. But i do have trouble with a lot of the things above. ( Especially taking photos from the average view over and over again. ) I always seem to get the best shots, but always from the same angle. My mother started, but was unable to finish college for her photography courses and other art courses, so she was of very little help. Thanks VERY much for this advice. :)

  • David March 5, 2013 04:53 pm

    I have just taken up digital photography and am studying at Photo Image in South Melbourne Vic. I love your blog Darren, it helps me better understand the things I am learning in class. Keep it up mate.

  • Veronica March 3, 2013 04:56 am

    I love this website! It helped me a lot! I am going to make a link to this website on my blog.

  • Jasher the Photo Teacher November 9, 2012 12:13 pm

    These are great basics to cover with students! I also like to challenge them by asking them to come up with a story to tell through their photographs. Or, even more fun, is to have them take photographs and have them make up the story afterwords. This challenges their creativity, and helps them think outside of simple technical skills.

  • Jeff E Jensen August 24, 2012 11:13 pm

    My kids frequently join me on shoots. It is a lot of fun to put a camera in their hand and let them go at it. As time progresses, we talk about a lot of these things, bit by bit. It has, and will continue to be, a fantastic way to spend time with my kids.

    Here's some recent work from my 8 year old, some self portraits:


  • Amy May 12, 2012 09:23 am

    Thanks! We are totally going to use these tips to teach our homeschooled children about photography!

  • will May 11, 2012 02:03 am

    This is way, way over complicated. You really shouldn't tell a kid more than experiment and try to fill the frame sometimes. The experience will be completely ruined if you bother with so much information. I tried to offer a photography class that wouldn't teach half of this, and the kids didn't want it. They love the freedom and joy that comes from not caring, letting the camera do the work.

  • William Cruz April 6, 2012 05:59 am

    I have three girls ranging from ages 3 and half yrs old, 2 yrs old and four weeks old. My oldest daughter loves the camera and is always asking to use my canon. I allow her to hold it and train her on the camera and let her take some shots. After that, i provide her with my old digital camera and go around taking pictures. My two year old, she is learning also, the canon is to big for her but she uss a point and shoot camera. Both enjoy taking pictures and finding new things. My oldest loves setting up shots and my younger one loves to be up close and personal with people and objects.

  • Sander March 20, 2012 07:31 am

    First of all, how cool must it be to still receive comments on your article which you wrote 5 years ago!
    Second, your tips are great and I'll be checking out the linked articles as well. I'm not a photographer by a long shot, but I try to help my 11 y/o son with learning the different options on his camera. Just last weekend he bought a Sony a300 from money he saved and he is making tons of pictures of his friends. So now I spend evenings learning all the technical stuff, so I can explain it to my kid when he asks about it.
    So, anyway, thanks for this article!

  • Mike March 3, 2012 03:44 am

    This HAS to be an excellent article! I think it also applies to anyone who is not happy with their results!
    Thanks for the continuing great content
    Bye for now

  • Mel December 23, 2011 10:25 am

    "Get in close" is one of the most important principles that will improve anyone's photography I think. Excellent article by the way.
    Here I put some general advices that I know of, some may find helpful I hope:

  • Kasie December 13, 2011 01:01 am

    I love this. thank you. My 13 & 8 yr old are both getting new digital cameras for Christmas this year. I'll be sure to reference this article again!

  • Sherrie Rosen November 18, 2011 05:31 am

    I go to our local cemetery to take pictures of headstones to put on the memorials that I have created for Findagrave. My Great-Granddaughter spends her summer and school vacations with me . I have given her my previous digital camera for her use and I take her to the cemetery with me. We started her out with a kiddie camera but that was not worth the trouble. I tell her she may take photos of anything she likes and as many as she wants. She is nine and we have been doing this for several years. It is interesting to see how she has progressed and what kind of shots she takes. We look at them on the computer later. She takes pictures of some of the headstones, flowers, sticks, me taking my pictures, etc. Her composition and her close ups are pretty good and her variety is amazing. She likes to think outside the box as most kids like to do and that makes for interesting pictures. All along I have offered her tips for her to try to take better pictures or answered her question instead of trying to tell her how she should do it. That has kept her interest and love for photography and she is still learning.

  • Darlene November 18, 2011 01:05 am

    I learned that the kiddie cameras are frustrating. My little girl saved up almost $40 for one of those tuff things & expected to get shots like mom.... We gave up on the tiny screen and blurry shots, and instead, I teach her how to use my smaller nikon. :) It's so neat to see the world thru her eyes. She thinks of different angles than I do, and wants to take interesting pics of things like smoke from a beautiful candle blown out. Now my son is starting to take pics, because he sees the images right there, and gets some cool angles of his toys, using lamps for lighting. They are 7 & 8 now, so I can use some of these right now and continue to teach more as we go. The tips are perfect!

  • Tony November 18, 2011 12:50 am

    I let my 3 year old use my DSLR to the fear of other family members. But I've found that he treats it very well and holds it like Daddy does and just enjoys taking and looking at his "work". Like a previous poster, I won't be going over too many of these rules, I'll wait a few years or so, before I bore him with talk of the rule of thirds.

  • Diane Abell November 17, 2011 11:16 pm

    Excellent article. I just led a workshop this past weekend on the Basics of Nature Photography, and my presentation was amazingly similar to what you presented here. With regard to taking lots of shots, I tell people that since we are no longer having to deal with film and such, take lots and LOTS of shots. When you do, and if you're paying attention to your camera settings, two things will happen: 1) you'll invariably get better and better, and 2) throw enough sh*t at the wall, and something's gotta stick. :-)

  • Pete November 17, 2011 10:26 pm

    While I agree that rules are importanat, I won't be following these for quite a while. My 4-year old daughter loved taking pitcures with my old Sony. She takes pictures of everything! I'm afraid if I start beating her up about composition and "the rule of thirds", it'll feel too much like work. Later on, when she asks me how to take better pictures, we'll cover the rules. But for now, she's having fun and that's REALLY what its all about...isn't it?

  • barbara November 8, 2011 08:47 am

    thank you!

  • Ned Gwinner November 4, 2011 07:26 pm

    Great advice and very informative. I was given my first camera ( Kodak Instamatic ) at age 8 and promtly told that I was going to pay for all film and processing. That was my first lesson in photography and economics rolled into one life long pursuit of happiness that included 600 weddings and millions of images and experiences that will never be forgotten. I have passed the torch along the way when permitted by inquisitive youth of all ages. I feel blessed that my parents gave me a vocation that will be passed on to many generations to come. Thank you for allowing me to express my thoughts on this subject.

  • Preston Barrows October 27, 2011 02:38 pm

    There are some wonderful lessons here. Many of them apply to every aspect of life not just photography. I have some young children that are just getting old enough to start introducing them to my love of photography. Many of the ideas you have shared here will help me teach them I am sure!

  • Jennifer October 7, 2011 08:41 am

    Just found this.
    My son LOVES to take pictures...as early as I can remember. I finally lent him my old Canon 45 when he was a little over 2. With so many buttons and sliding front, etc. it was too enticing for his little fingers.
    I have another older digital camera I lent him...but I'm hovering now.
    He'll be getting his own KID camera on his 3rd birthday...in a few days. I cannot WAIT to see his world through his eyes!
    These are great points to think about (for his Momma) to use as a guide but not necessarily 'rules' for a 3 yr

  • Jen October 4, 2011 06:49 am

    I bought my kid a very basic photography kit when he was just 5 years old and he loved it. Now he's 8 and I'm about to buy him something better. Thanks for these tips... Very helpful!


  • reed hutchison September 30, 2011 06:04 am

    glad to see this.

    i might add that this approach could aid many an older student as well.
    i've been shooting for 40+ years and whenever someone wants
    advice about photography i begin and end with "learn the aperture/shutter relationship".
    (i'm not much of a teacher, i lack deep patience)
    it's surprising how many are intimidated by this and feel it's beyond them. it's not.
    it does however have an endless learning curve and i still find myself with an image in my viewfinder
    re-visiting the basics to capture what i see.
    i shoot in manual on a dslr which is a great way to see the effects of various combinations given the settings data attached to each image.

    watch the light.


  • seema nasreddin September 7, 2011 05:10 pm


  • seema nasreddin September 5, 2011 08:29 pm

    hey jazz wazzup ikr, its so scary......... i cant even scream!!! sorry bout ur watch sux, its was freakin 7 bucks man!!!

  • Jim September 2, 2011 03:04 am

    The most amazing thing you can do is teach your child about photography. Thanks for all the tips! Will apply them.


  • Seema Nasreddin September 1, 2011 04:45 pm

    This is awesome, this helped a lot with my media studies class!!

  • Jessica July 23, 2011 04:06 am

    My ALMOST 2 year old loves to mimick what mommy is doing. Although MANY people have gotten mad at me for doing so, I let her use my DSLR camera from time to time. I'm right there with her, but I let her do the choosing. I put the camera on "live mode" so she can see what she's looking at without using the view finder, which is a concept yet to learn. She is currently learning how to choose "good" subject matter to shoot. She enjoys her toys at the moment and I help her to light them interestingly. She has a little kid toy camera that she uses when I'm using mine and, although she can't actually take pictures with it, we pretend and smile and help her think about what she's doing. She helps me hold my reflectors when I'm out shooting too, which she understands is a BIG job and does her best. (However, she's only 22 months so I'm not expecting too much) In my oppinon you can start your kids as young as you want, you just need to be willing to teach at their level. :)

  • Naomi June 26, 2011 02:45 am

    Thank you. I have been teaching my fifth/sixth grade student photography in the last few months. They started out slowly not wanting to take "bad" pictures. Now they are click happy. I've used your tips when teaching them; they really help.

  • Sherrie Rosen May 20, 2011 05:25 am

    I go the our local cemetery to take pictures of gravestones to add to memorials. I have been taking my Great Grandaughter, who is now 8 years old, since she about 3 years old. After the first few trips, she wanted to take pictures. She tried pictures with one of those little kids cameras but was not happy with it. I loaned her one of my older digital cameras for our cemetery trips. I did explain a little about how to take a good picture, explained what she could do better on some of the shots she took. Anyway, I let her take what pictures she wanted and looked at them afterwards. She took pictures of headstones, close up of flowers, leaves, twigs, bugs, trees and me taking my pictures. She takes pictures in our yard of flowers including close ups. She actually takes some pretty good pictures as she has a good eye and some are rather interesting from her point of view. Now is time to start teaching her more about photography.

  • utsuri May 17, 2011 02:20 am

    So awesome! Another DPSer linked me over to this page when I asked for help on teaching a camp full of kids about photography. This wrote out in simple terms what to teach kids and took out of my head all the complex 'adult' things I was thinking. Thanks Darren!

  • Alycia April 7, 2011 03:32 am

    Thank you so much for this wonderful site! I have a group of fifth and sixth graders that is eager to learn the art of photography so that they may produce a yearbook for their after school club. Everything I need to help them do this successfully was here...and I picked up a few tips for my own photos too!

  • christi March 12, 2011 07:22 am

    Your Post 13 Lessons to Teach Your Child About Digital Photography is interesting.I like reading Posts on cameras for kids...Please keep posting on cameras for kids.

  • Alice February 2, 2011 03:31 pm

    This is just what I was looking for. I am a daycare teacher. My class has kids from K thru 4th grade. Last summer I bought a reasonably priced digital camera the kids could use. While I always brought my digital SLR, I wasn't too sure about them using it on a regular basis. They took pictures most of the summer and we made a little scrapbook of sorts. This year I want to do the same but with a more educational focus. I however didn't have a clue how to get started teaching kids to take pictures. I'm hoping for long term love of photography from this class and I think this article will give me the ability to head them into the right direction. Thank You so much

  • Alissa January 8, 2011 11:28 pm

    My eldest child turned 9 in November. For her birthday, I gave her a point and shoot camera. It turned out to be a piece of junk so I returned it and "loaned" her my Canon Rebel. (I shoot with a 20D or a 40D depending on the day you ask me.) Since she is homeschooled, I decided to make an art project for her a picture a day in the month of January. Being that we are one week in at this point, it's been fun to see what she thinks she should photograph. I was most impressed the day she decided to take an "artistic" shot of a friend holding a empty frame out in front of her. I SWEAR I did not put the thought in her head - she came up with it all on her own. She is not old enough to go blog hopping yet, so I know it was genuinely her original idea. The picture didn't turn out as well as one would hope, but given that this was her third day into the project, I was thrilled that she was adventurous enough to try something other than the boring old headshot. It's super fun to watch her and be able to advise on small aspects of her photography. I will put some of your tips into her project for the remainder of this month. Thanks!

  • Del December 15, 2010 07:03 am

    I never heard of "the rule of thirds," I like that.

  • Gretchen Caldwell June 24, 2010 06:11 am

    This is absolutely fantastic!!!!!!! I am travelling with my church to Guatemala in a few weeks, and we will be teaching at a school, 5th-9th graders. Most have never used a camera before, and I was having a hard time figuring out how to introduce them to the idea of photography. These points are absolutely SPOT ON!!!! I've been shooting since I was 14, but only seriously for about 4yrs. Trying to get away from discussions on shutter speed and aperture, DOF and other things was leaving me with "what DO I tell them?" And of course, I need to get it all translated before our departure.

    I used your points as basics for my first day lecture, and will make a Proshow slideshow of my own photos to illustrate the points. I can leave my notes behind as a handout for the kids, and the slideshow disk (a self-executing file) for them to review on the computer.

    I thank you so much for this wonderful lesson, and look forward to bringing the joy of photography to a group of under-priviledged kids who may never have even see a photo of themselves before. :) :) THANK YOU!!!!!!!

  • Jackie Keyes March 3, 2010 08:02 am

    Hi- Can you PLEASE help me!! My son is 11 and for his birthday, he wants a camera that he can shoot nature photography with. He is always outdoors (camping, fishing, ect) So, we are looking for an easy to use camera with ultra zoom. I know nothing about cameras! Any suggestions on what camera to get him???

  • photomatt7 January 8, 2010 12:38 pm

    I teach photography to my fifth grade students (and blog about it). We begin with a meditation exercise that helps students visualize their neighborhood, which is what they will eventually photograph. They go through the experience and then write furiously about all the details they recall. After, I have them condense the details into one sentence to describe their neighborhood poetically. This gives them a personal connection to photography and gives them a goal as to what they're going to capture.

    When I send the cameras home with the students for the first time, I ask them "How many pictures do you think you should take tonight?" Inevitably they answer, "2, 3?" And I say, "NO!!! Take at least 30!" Some come back with 30, but others come back with 50. I explain the reasoning behind this - that you can take a ton of pictures and still not get the one you want, so you really need to snap many photos. Aside from learning the genres of photography, this lesson is perhaps the one I try to impress upon them the most.

    Once they've brought photos back, we sift through them looking for the ones that best epitomize the aforementioned sentence. Eventually, they narrow it down to one and we print it. It's a wonderful process and they love it.

    I will also add that they flip out for rule of thirds. To illustrate it concretely, I project various photos on the board, and using a yardstick, draw lines to divide the image into a tic-tac-toe board. Then we discuss whether the picture meets the rule of thirds. For their own engagement, I distribute large photos that I've taken, along with 4 straws. In groups, students use the straws to check for rule of thirds. Also a very fun lesson that sparks a lot of conversation about whether the rule of thirds MUST be followed.

    By the way, we also spend an entire lesson on learning how to hold the camera properly, including how to pass it to someone and store it properly. They love this because it's the first time they get to touch the class cameras.

    Last suggestion. To get them thinking about composition and the limits (and benefits) of viewing the world through a frame, I have students cut a fairly small rectangle (maybe 1.5" x 3") in an index card. They then go around the room with their 'viewfinder' moving it away from their face and toward their face to see the different possibilities. I have them sketch what they are seeing. Very effective because it is concrete.

    I love teaching my students photography. Definitely the highlight of my school year. They really take to it because it's a passion of mine and it's something they can make a highly personal connection with. Thanks for reading and good luck!

    Please check out my blog for updates on our Mosaic Project as we progress this year.

  • Best camera guy November 11, 2009 01:16 pm

    I'm so glad my dad is a t.v producer. I started using pro video equipment at age 13 (I'm just 14 now). I already have 6k worth of video equipment. I learned using aperture, iso, and shutter on my video camera (the camera only had a manual mode) and I'm glad I learned it. I'm getting interested in photography. And pictures I have taken with other ppl's camera (I held a job in video/photo journalism company over the summer btw) are great. I love the 5d mark II. My dream 2.8k camera. I'm doing a video job for my dad and he promised to get me a canon 7d (my dad almost had a heart attack lol but I convinced him plus I'll be putting up about 600 bucks to for it). Can't wait to finish this video project.... I know this article says to not boss your kids around, but if your kid is really interested in photography/videography he or she will learn about the most advanced controls inevitably. Honestly I think alot of kids just like taking snaps rather than photographs.

  • fotiliterit September 21, 2009 11:57 pm

    Fortunately for me you guys put this up. Not for the kids but for me. After looking at the site i realize its not my Canon SD1100 its me. I always new i had a great camera, i just didnt realize how bad i took pics. Thanks for enlightening me. Its not time to upgrade my camera, but time to upgrade my skills with my camera. Thanks again for saving my family from more mistaken memories lasting a lifetime.

  • KidsDigitalCameras September 11, 2009 07:54 am

    Great post and advice for getting kids into photography. I agree with the comments that having fun should be the focus rather than getting too technical at first. One of the fun things to do is just letting your kids play with the camera during family gatherings. You'll get some great candid pictures because people tend to ignore kids playing with their 'toy'.

  • Why August 7, 2009 02:59 am

    This is the best post about photography I have read in awhile. Found it through Google, after a cousin of mine asked me for advices. He wants to buy a camera and start. This will be more than enough.

    Thanks a lot!


  • kmc June 1, 2009 08:23 am

    Amanda i'm curious to what you shoot with because I'm fifteen as well.I have also taught myself a little bit because I started liking photography at a later age (11) I didn't get my first camera until then. I still have a lot to learn but some of my photographs are good. any tips?

  • Amanda March 1, 2009 04:06 am

    As a primarily self-taught fifteen-year-old photographer I agree with most of these [:

    I started photographing quite literally everything when I was about three or four, after getting sick of always being the model! The first thing I was ever told about photography was 'don't waste film.' I have never been a fan of that phrase - I started buying my own film when I was eight or so, just to get my parents off my back! (This was, of course, after I realised they had begun to remove the film from the camera before they gave it to me...)

    We got our first digital camera when I was about nine or ten, and I taught myself everything I know since then. I still own that point-and-shoot and although it's completely broken now and the quality, etc. was terrible, I took some of my best shots with that camera.

    Re: keep it straight: One of my favourite shots I have ever taken is one where I titled the camera. Granted, that was on purpose - but it's one of the few shots that I've ever had up on display and liked looking at.

    Most of the best photos I've taken where ones when I completely threw the rules out to the wind - when I was eight-thirteen years old, before I bought my DSLR, I didn't really care about photography in the sense of doing it 'correctly' and I got tons of great shots - I had fun with what I was doing!
    I think the best tip you can be given as a child is to have fun with the pictures you take - be spontaneous and don't try to conform. Children look at things creatively, just as an innate part of their nature. Don't try to stifle that.

    Of course, most of these rules are GREAT tips, too! I took hundreds of photos and acquired a collection of three-four 1200 memory cards by the time I was twelve, because I was a believer in 'the more photos you take, the greater the chance one will stun you.' Plus, you can never have too much practice! Taking so many photos then is the reason I can take such nice photos now. Trial and error is a great way for kids to learn. Don't take the camera away from you child - especially in the age of digital photography, having them take tons and tons of photos is one of the best ways to get them interested in photography in the long-term.

    I agree that you should teach children about different camera settings, as well. I started with film and that was just part of learning how to take a good photo - but when we got our first digital I started forgetting about that. Luckily I was reminded by a family friend-photographer that I should be taking advantage of all the camera settings available. Never leave your camera on Automatic, if you can help it! It also teaches kids how to correctly format and set up a photo, because quite honestly it took me years to get to the level of post-processing I'm in now in Photoshop... knowing all those essential camera basics eliminates a lot of that need, and it's a really great way to teach kids the basics of photography before they get serious about it.... then they don't feel as silly asking questions.

    So, in a nutshell: let your kids have FUN with photography - don't stifle them or it will just become a chore. Even so, teach them techniques and such early on, because it will rub off, even if they don't notice it happening!

  • Ameliaranne Stiggins February 20, 2009 10:43 pm

    What a great article.

    I remember on a school trip to France my Mum telling me...don't waste your film taking photographs of your friends.

    The result being that I had probably 24 pictures of Paris identical (although no where near as good) as I had in my guidebook and not a single one of the friends I traveled with.

    When my son went on an outwards bounds holiday recently I told him to make sure he got plenty of his mates in the photographs and the memories are so much more special.

  • Scan-Tipp February 7, 2009 11:05 pm

    >>> 12. Different Modes for Different Situations

    many people don't know about these (easy) modes & settings... I think lesson #12 can be learned and used veeeeery quickly!

  • Digitalisierer January 4, 2009 10:38 pm

    That are nice rules -- well, thanks, I use them for my own now.

    Hope that's OK :-)

  • serendipityrose November 26, 2008 03:15 pm

    Absolutely awesome and to-the-point tips! Exactly what I was looking for to show some kids in our homeschool co-op. Thanks for this great post!

  • Cynthia November 21, 2008 04:24 am

    I *don't* recommend buying a camera made for a kid. The picture quality is so bad most times you can't even determine what they were pointing at; the buttons make such wonderful noises you'll be lucky if the kid doesn't delete all the photos. The pretty "tough" camera that is everywhere right now is over $50 and the nicest thing I can say about the photos is maybe they look abstract.

    Go on Kijiji or CL and get a old $20 digital - that's what I did. My three year old has a 5 year old 3.0 megapixel Sony Cybershot - point and shoot. Just have them wear the wrist strap and it should be fine.

  • TBasco November 8, 2008 11:14 pm

    i've always knew these things but somehow lack the terms for some points. THANK YOU! i've learned a lot. not to mention, my new adventure -- teaching photography, 35 kids ages 10-13, will surely be a lot easier and fun :) i'm so glad to have come across your no-air-n-nonsense site. here's to more wonderful inputs!

  • Digitalism November 6, 2008 03:17 am

    This is very helpful. We had to read this to learn for yearbook. Very good again. 10/10. 5 Stars

  • Sahul October 12, 2008 04:34 pm

    Great and relevant article for adults as well. I was in this photography class and the instructor whilst teaching emphasized to us to think like a child in getting creative pictures and also encouraged us to lend our camera to the child or buy them one and teach them how to shoot. After that observe how they tend to compose the shot and shoot.

    My instructor even showed the pictures his 5 year old grand daughter took. Greats pictures they were.

  • PHugger October 10, 2008 11:43 pm

    The entire premise for this article is *very* dumb. Why would Darren limit these tips just to children? These sound suspiciously like my internal checklist....... (c8

  • Da Goddess October 10, 2008 02:31 pm

    Good advice for parents AND kids. I love watching my son discover new things through photography and to be able to see the results of his thoughtful work. He's already leaps and bounds beyond where I'd imagine him to be at this point.

  • web October 10, 2008 10:52 am

    Good reminder of the basic rules of photography, not only for children, but for anyone who takes bad photos and would like to take better ones.

  • liewzy October 10, 2008 06:52 am

    You're teaching me although I'm not a child :D embarrassed

  • Mike October 10, 2008 06:19 am

    Great read! I really enjoyed it!

  • want2butwont October 10, 2008 05:18 am

    Great lesson, just basics of the basics. I get too technical with my 6 year old daughter. She's teaching me to break the rules and enjoy the creativity of photography.

  • Chris Morin October 10, 2008 12:25 am

    These are great tips for everyone actually, but I especially agree with the tip of not bossing them TOO much... One of my favorite shots that my daughter took at 4 year old is a slightly crooked shot of my husband and I with her baby sister on Easter morning. I was wearing reflective sunglasses and there in the shot is the reflection of her in her Easter dress taking the shot.... and then pictures she took of she and her sisters hands and feet and shoes... SOOO adorable especially now that they are all grown up.

    She ended up being very artistic and creative and is now a hair stylist and she does a good job of taking photo's of her "do's" for her blog.

    She's also still taking fun pictures for me... last night she sent me a picture of a pan she wanted to cook in to see if it was ok to put it in the oven... Mom DOES know some things now that she's over 20. :)

  • Pete Langlois October 9, 2008 11:39 pm

    My 8 going on 9 year old son uses my old Canon S45, which is a great P&S, to snap pictures. He loves getting close to insects and other small creatures. I think he's going to be a macro photographer.


  • Mark October 9, 2008 10:42 pm

    Maybe a bit controversial, but I think this is pretty much bunkum. 13 rules of photography!??? Come on...

    Hold the camera straight...???? No. Take the shot, enjoy the moment, capture it... crop it later if you need to. Or leave it crooked.

    Personally I think the best advice is just to take lots and lots and lots and lots of pictures, then, crucially, look at them and see what you enjoy, what you like, what it is that you don't like about your own shots.

    Kids will soon learn the things that are important to them, and they'll develop their own style. The "academics" can come later IF they develop a passion and become sufficiently interest to ask. Primarily when they start to ask "but why isn't my picture...?" and "how come their picture is...?"

    Until then the rules will just turn them off, I believe.

  • Raymond October 9, 2008 05:18 pm

    Great advice, and most people can use it -- not just kids!

    For myself though I'm sorry I taught my son the "rule" of thirds though -- in fact I'm sort of sorry I know it myself! I think it's a bad influence. Getting a real point of interest into a rule-of-thirds point (or golden ratio point to be more accurate) seems to kill the flow so often.

    Maybe just tell them "it doesn't always have to be centered" and let them find different ways to position things -- and maybe even center them!

    Rule-of-thirds should be renamed to "suggestion-of-thirds" maybe. Just a suggestion. :-)

  • Lindyannajones October 9, 2008 02:30 pm

    One DPS member posed this question: "What would it have been like, to have moments we experienced as kids preserved through *our *eyes, not the snapshots of parents?" I remember those things I found beautiful, interesting, funny as a child--but I only hold them in dim memory. I am happy for this new generation of digital age children who will be able to preserve their memories in photos, holding them in literal hands, able to share of themselves with loved ones.

    This past weekend I gave my grandson his first camera. (Posted here yesterday). He is just shy of 3, so his first hours were spent fascinated with BUTTONS. At the end of our first photo shoot, he had the rudimentary idea of "taking a picture of something" vs. mimicking me pointing "at something". I caught his first "aha" moment when he took a picture of a sign of his candidate for president in a neighbor's yard. Cute on so many levels.

    My favorite moment came at the end of the day when he came to me and said: "Nanna, thank you for my wonderful camera!" Yes, Taj, and may the development of your "third eye" open vistas to you!

  • Deirdre October 9, 2008 11:19 am

    This is great. I'll just add a few things I try to encourage in my children (9 & 11).

    - take your camera everywhere and take photos of everything.

    - once you see your photos on the computer, go through them selectively, and get rid of most. This has a lot to do with recognizing what's in a good photo.

    - find inspiration -- enter contests, go on scavenger hunts, etc.

    My 11-year-old did a photo-a-day project for many months and has also won a few awards at the county fair.

  • Nathan Jones August 1, 2008 03:20 pm

    Current goals:
    - Teach my son (almost four) to take a photo OF something - ie. "it's point and shoot, not just shoot"...
    - Teach my daughter (six) to hold still when pressing the shutter.

  • Ben December 23, 2007 01:57 am

    Target sells a digital camera for 3-6 year olds made by V-Tech. It was on sale for $40 when I saw it (usually $50) and it has two viewfinders so your child can use it like binoculars. It even has an lcd screen and you can hook it up to your TV to see the pictures!

  • samccoy November 9, 2007 08:03 am

    This was a marvelous lesson. The lessons were spot on, and I laughed quite a bit. Now, that's what learning is all about. You do have a great sense of humor!

  • Spencer November 3, 2007 04:52 pm

    Great post! Kids can take the most amazing shots if you stick a camera in their hands and give them freedom.

    I learned photography back in the film days. Got my first camera at age 6 (Kodak Brownie). Started developing and printing my own sometime in my teen years. I had a darkroom right off my bedroom (was a kitchen when that space was an apartment).

    The best advice my father (photographer and Kodak exec) gave me was "film is cheap." This is particularly true when you're developing it yourself, but the expense of redoing or missing a shot is much higher than the cost of another frame of film.

    The great thing about digital is that "bits are free". It makes it so much easier to "experiment" and take "lots of shots."

  • gLaNDix November 2, 2007 01:40 am

    I bought a Canon PowerShot for my 6yo son last Christmas and he absolutely LOVES taking shots. It's so fun to see what kind of interesting stuff he takes pictures of! He's really big into doing macro-type shots where they're so close, you have to look at it a few times to figure out what exactly it is. Thanks to that camera, most of his shots are really crisp and have an awesome DOF!

    Eventually, I want to teach him more of the above, but seeing as how he's only six, I like just letting him run with it and take whatever shots he wants. He comes up with some pretty neat artistic shots!

  • Jozef Nagy November 2, 2007 01:34 am

    I have a sample of what not to do when giving a camera to a younger family member.


    You don't want to leave the camera in either of the 2 priority modes unless the person knows what they're doing. I should've left the camera in fully automatic since it's usage that day was just point and shoot.

  • smartipants November 2, 2007 01:20 am

    Thanks for a wonderful article! I've had my granddaughter out shooting since she was 2 1/2 years old. Here's a pic of her at age 3 setting the camera [http://www.megalink.net/~rkluz/pix/Riley-and-camera.jpg]. The hardest part at that age was getting her to wait for the digital camera to finish focusing before she pressed the shutter button. I cannot tell you how much *I* learned by seeing the world from her level. She's now 7, and I have her doing video. She loves to walk around her world and narrate what the viewer is seeing. =)

  • Kelly November 2, 2007 01:11 am

    michael g-
    My niece showed a real interest and knack for photography, so I bought a used Canon PowerShot 2 or 3 year old camera from B&H Photo. It was about $60 and banged up just a bit, but not bad at all. Perfect, IMO for a 9-year-old, which is what she is. She loves it and it's got a lot of functionality for the price, since it's used. She doesn't care!

  • Bilka November 1, 2007 11:52 am

    This is an excellent step-process tutorial. There are some very good ideas here. I wish more young people would become interested in photography. It has much more to offer than just the artistic side. Your 13-Steps has the potential to launch many new, young shooters.

    Personally, if I were teaching a young person your 13-Steps I might consider exchanging the order of step 12 and 13. Teach manual setting and manipulation first then work with automatic settings. Too many of us (me included) fall back on the ease of auto settings. We need for this new wave of photographers to understand what it is to control exposure manually. Empower them with the knowledge of how to stop and think about an image before taking it. Allow them to discover that their brain can be infinitely more flexible and creative than an automatic setting. Auto settings tend to make for "lazy" beginners and seasoned pros as well.

    Show how to set up depth-of-field by varying aperture and shutter. Help them discover selective metering for complex shadow and highlight scenes. Teach them about manually setting their cameras for flash photography by calculating the distance, ISO, and shutter speed against the aperture. Teach them how to manually set “Sun Sync” to use fill flash properly with sunny day photography outdoors. Explain Ratio Lighting and how to use it in making dramatic portraits and product shots. Allow them to explore the technical side of photography then let them loose with their cameras to break all the rules.

    Fiat Lux!


  • Bobumc October 31, 2007 08:36 am

    Michael - I got my daughter a Fuji S602 for a great price (under $125) on Ebay. It is a very versatile camera, even has a B&W mode, several scene modes and full manual, AV, Tv, and macro modes. At age 15 she took two blue ribbons and a third place at our local Fair. With a 6X zoom and the feel of a small SLR it is a great camera!

  • goshort October 30, 2007 11:58 pm

    a very good idea to bring the children nearer to the camera. many a children, despite their parents encouragement, do avoid taking photos. this photoblog will at least put their parents at rest while coming to the teaching basic techniques of taking a good photograph. very encouraging. thanks.

  • Chlobo October 30, 2007 11:38 pm

    I feel kindof weird now.. a couple things there I don't even know much about at all!

  • Olivier H October 30, 2007 06:51 pm

    Excellent article. I have no child of mine for the moment, but my nephew seems to show interest in photography.
    These points are a good reminder of what I could teach him.

    Also, it's would be much useful for adults (hey, Mom ;)).

  • Christof October 30, 2007 03:43 pm

    5) This sucks the most. Whenever I give my D80 somenone else to make a picture of me I am far to small and 90% of the pic is just fore- and background. I even get better results holding the cam myself with a stretched arm.

    Just a few of my pals know how to shot right. It's always a pleasure to give the cam to them!

  • Darren October 30, 2007 01:18 pm

    michael - one camera you might want to consider is the - it's not cheap - but it's tough!

  • MyGoodFinds October 30, 2007 12:20 pm

    I'm enjoy taking better pictures now, the only problem is how to teach my hubby to take better photos of me! Maybe I have to take my own pictures too.

    I guess I become more demanding when it comes my own photos. Ah I just need to loose weight to look good at all angles ;) .

  • Amigone201 October 30, 2007 10:19 am

    Now if only someone would teach my mother how to use focal lock...

  • michael g October 30, 2007 09:29 am

    do you have any suggestions for a beginner digital camera for a 9 year old girl? While she certainly has an interest in photography and the photos that we all post on our slideshows, she really doesn't seen all that ready to take care of a camera...i.e. charge it, not drop it, keep it clean. Taking care of the camera can certainly be part of the fun of learning to take pictures..

  • Reggie October 30, 2007 08:07 am

    Teach them...
    ...to love the blades of grass
    ...to see a story in the light
    ...to feel the joy of colours
    ...to sense the mood of a scene
    ...the wonder of an intricate detail
    ...to anticipate a magical moment
    ...the patience of post-processing
    ...the fun of sharing a photo
    ...the benefits of listening to comments
    ...how to put people at ease
    ...the beauty of order and patterns
    ...an appreciation of the greater artists who create the architecture or gardens or scenery

  • Sharon October 30, 2007 07:30 am

    Some good stuff there - but I think it depends on the kid how much "coaching" you should do. I have just started lending my son the point and shoot and he really enjoys using it (and I like seeing what he thinks it is interesting to take photos of - some quite surprising). I don't think he would take well to "instruction" at the moment (he likes to do his own thing) but I am hopeful that he will be interested enough to ask some questions. This will be a useful reference. Thanks :)

  • Jeremy Hall October 30, 2007 07:24 am

    Here's one from experience...don't try to sneak up on a skunk to get a great shot. A couple of years ago my son was using my old digital camera taking photos while camping. He spotted a skunk (having no idea what it was) and wanted to get up close for a better shot. Needless to say the camping trip ended early we had to flush out his eyes and scrub him down for the rest of the day. The camera wasn't usable for over a week either from pure stench.

    Moral of the story, teach you kids the precautions to take when trying to photo animals :)

  • Arwen October 30, 2007 06:18 am

    Those are all good points, but I think you may have missed the most important one: Play and have fun!

    These are kids, after all. It doesn't really matter how technically good their photos are. If they're enjoying what they're doing, they'll learn and remember far more than if they've had 'obey the rule of thirds' drummed into them.

  • Kimmy October 30, 2007 06:05 am

    I have been working with my son and his camera for 2 years now. He's 5 now. He has an incredible eye and I love just letting his imagination flow. I have tried to teach some basics that you mention here. Thanks for reminding me of new things to try with him.

  • henriette weber andersen October 30, 2007 05:43 am

    thank you for a great blogpost.
    We have a daughter on 3 1/2 who has our old little digital camera to shoot with - she absolutely loves it.
    Now we have a lot of great tips on how to educate her in photography - awesome !