Children see the world through a special lens. There is a purity to their imagination that at some point most adults lose. If you have ever put a camera in the hands of a child you will soon discover that what they see in life is very different than the adults perspective.
How can you harness the creativity of a child through photography? I recently embarked on an experiment to this very goal. As I taught this group of children, I found myself learning lessons also, and am very happy to share some tools that will help you do the same.
1. Simplify, Simplify, Simplify
Adults like complicated things. We like to complicate everything too. To teach photography to children you must get out of this mindset. The most important element in your teaching children is that they understand a single concept first – and understand that well. From this foundation you can build upon other elements slowly.
2. Start with the Basics
The most important concepts in photography are universally known to be “Fill the Frame” and “Rule of Thirds“. In theory, you could combine these two ideas into a single session, but once again keeping with the “Simplify” concept, it works very well to do each as a single session. Begin with “Fill the Frame”, and emphasize that above all your subject must fill the frame to remove distractions. It’s ok to show examples of subjects quite literally “filling the frame” with very few other elements. Once they practice and master the idea of removing distractions, you can go on to explain that other elements can be in the picture to support your main subject.
3. Allow 30% Theory and 70% Practice
Kids will only sit still for so long before their focus diverts. For this reason spend the majority of your time allowing the kids to practice. You don’t have to send them out on a photoshoot; you could bring a bag of random objects and allow them to play right inside your classroom. Assign them a number of photos, and encourage them to come back to you for feedback. Invaluable practice comes from re-shooting the same subject to get the concept down.
4. Repeat, Repeat, Repeat
Don’t be afraid of saying the same phrases multiple times to be confident the concepts have stuck. Have the kids repeat the phrases back to you. Explain the same phrase in different ways, and do so multiple times.
Kids will be kids, and they won’t always get things the way you hope they would. The most important thing you can do as you teach is to encourage their creativity. Don’t point out all the things that are wrong. Point out one thing that they can improve upon, and encourage all the things you see them doing well with their photos.
6. Have Contests to Spur on Creative Excitement
Everyone likes to compete. Set a contest for “most colorful” or “most interesting”. Give an appropriate amount of time for their goal. When the kids come back from shooting, walk them through the creative elements of their photos. Foster team spirit by having the kids vote on which photo most fulfills the contest.
Not everyone is cut out to be a teacher. But everyone can invest in the lives of children and inspire the next generation of creative artists. You never know who will grow up to become a well known and appreciated photographer because you gave them the first opportunity.