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How Your Childhood Inspired the Future of Your Photography

If you’ve had a camera in your hand since you were a child, stop and consider how that camera helped to shape your future. How did it bring you to where you are today?

There are a few ways that your childhood love of photography may have inspired the future of your photography.

Image: My obsession with photography began when I was just ten years old. I was in Niagara Falls the...

My obsession with photography began when I was just ten years old. I was in Niagara Falls the moment I realized I must get a camera!

Exploration

As a child, you were a natural explorer. There is a lot to explore in this world, and there is a good chance that whatever you loved to explore as a child still inspires you today. Some kids grab a camera and sneak a bunch of candid photos. Others go to where the action is or discover the macro world that is usually invisible to the eye.

You explore, then study your photos, then explore some more. A photograph anchors you in the experience you had as a child and keeps calling you back to continue the adventure.

There was a lot to hold us back as kids. But the joy of growing up is the ability to step out the door and explore the world around us.

As a child, it may not have been that you brought your camera on adventures, but that it was your camera bringing you on an adventure!

Image: As a child, I would photograph anything that grabbed my attention and made me look. Dinosaurs...

As a child, I would photograph anything that grabbed my attention and made me look. Dinosaurs were one of those things!

Seeing

Along with exploration is the ability to see. Seeing doesn’t just mean looking. Seeing means piercing deeper than the surface level scene in front of you. It’s noticing patterns and humor and beauty.

With a camera in your hand, you look at the world in a different way. That deeper ability to see shaped you as you grew up. No doubt, your friends and people you work with are fascinated by the unusual things that you notice.

You don’t just see, you imagine. You bring your imagination to life for all to see through the images (photographs) you make.

“The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.” Dorothea Lange

Image: When I really started to learn about photography I had to be very conscious about getting cle...

When I really started to learn about photography I had to be very conscious about getting clean backgrounds. Notice how this dino is framed by the objects around it rather than overlapping with them.

Image: The scariest part of a dinosaur is its teeth. I used a wide angle to bring the viewer right i...

The scariest part of a dinosaur is its teeth. I used a wide angle to bring the viewer right into the jaws!

Image: I share the love of Niagara Falls with my kids. We couldn’t help but imagine the chaos...

I share the love of Niagara Falls with my kids. We couldn’t help but imagine the chaos of the dinosaurs coming to life. While riding the Ferris Wheel, I timed this shot to be able to see the T Rex in the background. In black and white who’s to say it isn’t real?

Your own form of magic

Think about this medium that you discovered as a kid. You explore and bring your imagination to life. Through print or a digital medium, you get to show everyone else what you saw. You can make a portrait of your father and pass it on for countless generations. It doesn’t have to be a standard portrait either, but your father as you saw him and knew him.

Through photography, you transfer the image in your mind into the minds of people you may never meet.

Image: When I was a kid, I visited air shows with my dad. The planes always appeared as little speck...

When I was a kid, I visited air shows with my dad. The planes always appeared as little specks in my photos. I look back at those photos and remember how inspired I was by those planes. Now that I’m a dad, I share that love with my kids.

Image: I would never have noticed the potential beauty of light and texture as a kid.

I would never have noticed the potential beauty of light and texture as a kid.

Savoring the moment

The heightened attention that you learned as a child makes life meaningful today. Not only did you learn to see but you learned to capture that on film (or pixels). You could sneak into any situation and come away with a little slice of the moment to carry with you.

Even when you don’t have your camera, you can look at a scene and know this is a moment worth capturing. You can stay in the moment, recognizing something special, knowing this is a moment to be savored.

“Taking pictures is savoring life intensely, every hundredth of a second.” Marc Riboud

Image: I loved to take pictures of concerts as a kid. Back then I had no appreciation for angle, bac...

I loved to take pictures of concerts as a kid. Back then I had no appreciation for angle, backlight or decisive moments. Now, I roam around the audience and time moments for gesture and dramatic backlight.

Recall to adventure

If I could write a letter to my childhood self, I’d thank the little guy for pressing on with photography even when nothing really worked out for him.

Have you lost your sense of exploration and adventure? Is your life consumed with work and monotonous routine? Think back to when you were a kid. What adventure would that camera take you on today? What experience is there around the corner to savor?

Charge your batteries, clean your lenses and fall in love with photography all over again.

Taking pictures is like tiptoeing into the kitchen late at night and stealing Oreo cookies.” Diane Arbus

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Mat Coker

Mat Coker is a family photographer from Ontario, Canada. He teaches photography to parents and families, showing them how to document their life and adventures. You can get his free photography ebook, and learn more about taking creative photos.