Photography With Kids: Take This Photography Challenge

Photography With Kids: Take This Photography Challenge

Shooting The Moon

Shooting A Moonrise With My Daughter - Copyright Kim Carey

While we’ve had many posts giving advice on shooting photos of children (Successful Portraits of Children [Matrix Style], How to Photograph Children, etc..), here on DPS we haven’t expounded on the joys of shooting WITH children.  I admit for some of you out there without children of your own this idea may be a big turn off.  But it also might be a bit of help.  And for those with children and a camera, I’m sure you’ll find this experiment enlightening if you can find the patience to follow it through. 🙂 This challenge expands on the post 13 Lessons to Teach Your Child About Digital Photography and asks you to put it to use, letting us see the results.  Let me explain the challenge and let you decide.

The Challenge

The challenge is fairly straight forward and contains four parts:

1) This challenge is meant to be fun.  If it’s not fun, just go get some ice cream until fun returns.  Kids love learning when fun is involved so it’s up to you as the adult to keep it light and fun.

2) Now then, head out some place you, as the adult, would like to go with your child.  Give them a camera to use, keeping it age appropriate, such as a point and shoot for younger children and more expensive SLRs for older kids.  Let them take as many pictures as they like.  Set a time limit for taking photos at that location.  In this location, show them what you find interesting and the pictures you are taking.  Depending on their age, tell them why you’re shooting what you’re shooting and ask the same of them.  Show them how to take the photos you are taking.  This part of the challenge is mainly ‘Adult Teaches Child’ so lead it in that manner, but let the time take you where it will.

3) It’s the child’s turn.  Ask them where they’d like to go (within reason!) and invert #2 above.  Take a back seat but keep asking questions about what they are shooting.  Ask open ended questions rather than yes and no questions.  Shoot what they shoot and follow in their footsteps.  Again, keep it fun and set the time according to the child’s current disposition.  Younger kids may only want to spend five minutes while older children maybe want to spend half a day shooting.

4) Lastly, review the photos.  Either on camera or at home.  Each of you will then pick your favorite photo the other took and post a link here to both photos in the comments section.  Let us know why you picked the photos you two picked.

Why This Challenge

I came up with this challenge after spending many, many hours hiking with my daughter over the years.  She always sees things I don’t, in ways I don’t.  What interests her is worlds away from what interests me, but, as with most children, she has a keen eye for seeing things fresh.  And that helps a ton when looking for ways to photograph any subject.

Plus you get to spend part of the day just being a kid again.  For #3 above try to really get into it and abandon all you’ve learned about how to photograph and what’s ‘right and wrong’.  Just be a kid and have fun with the kid you’re spending time with, especially if they are your own child.

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Peter West Carey leads photo tours and workshops in Nepal, Bhutan, Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles and beyond. He is also the creator of Photography Basics - A 43 Day Adventure & 40 Photography Experiments, web-based tutorials taking curious photographers on a fun ride through the basics of learning photography.

Some Older Comments

  • Jeff Kalman April 2, 2011 04:45 am

    The key to photographing children? Patience, planning, and readiness.

  • Amanda July 7, 2010 03:42 am

    This is a great idea, I am going to go out and take photos with my little sis, she will love this!

  • Angela May 15, 2010 06:52 pm

    LOVE this idea! Shared this article on my blog. Thanks! :)

  • sheila bunker October 2, 2009 04:21 am

    My three year old daughter is a fantastic photographer!!! She fancies a Nikon coolpix that is several years old. She can zoom in and often says, "that's a good shot"
    How could I be more proud? We recently went to Grand Rapids MI to the Artprize walk, and she photographed artists.... very cool. Many people were amazed, but I told them she is good and thankfully hasn't dropped the camera!
    Great idea and we will post some photos!!!!

  • mona August 24, 2009 08:38 am

    Before I read about this challenge, I went with our grankids to Manhattan Beach pier in CA. I gave my camera to my 7 year old grand daughter and told her to take some photos. She started clicking away at the surfers, pigeons, gulls, and I then showed her how to use the telephoto. She said it made the ship off shore look like she could touch it! She just needs to work on holding the camera straight, but it was a bit heavy! I think she's ready for her own camera and the challenge!

  • MJ August 13, 2009 07:38 pm

    I had bought a very inexpensive demo p&s for my now 7 year old son last year. It is quite interesting to see his perspective-- most of his shots are "looking up"

  • Ari August 4, 2009 02:41 pm

    My son loves to take pictures with his mother mobile phone (3,8 yo). I can not give him my DSLR because it will be to heavy for him and I can't risk my only SLR camera as well. :).

    Perhaps next time I will share his photo shoot if it's this appropriate for this assignment, because we're only use phone cam instead of real cam.

  • Mike Williams August 2, 2009 08:34 am

    This is my pic of Gavin, my 5 year old Grandsom's best image. We were walking around a friend's farm and he looked over at the donkey and framed the pic himself and took. I was amazed later how good it was.

    Gavin's favorite pic of mine is this bee landing on a Sunflower in the garden at the farm.

  • Cindy B August 1, 2009 03:20 am

    Great idea & I can second how fun this is! On our recent family vaca at Cape Cod (6 adults & 6 kids age 7 to 13), two adults took all the kids out for a photo walk. The area is woods, beach, dirt lanes. The kids had a blast and fed off each others' imaginations. That evening each child picked out their 15 favorite shots and we all enjoyed the slideshow. It was cool to see each child's different perspective on the same object or scene!!

  • Joyce August 1, 2009 02:31 am

    I think it's so cute when Aaron's daughter said, “you don’t have to tell nature to smile.”

  • michelle bathfield July 31, 2009 08:41 pm

    my daughter is turning 4 next month... i would love to take her with me... haven't got a clue which camera i could get for her... i could use a few suggestions here!!!
    thx guys

  • James Berry July 31, 2009 08:00 am

    It thrills me to see an article encouraging our youth to learn skills in photography. My sister is Special Needs (Downs Syndrome) and a Special Olympian. Medals & Ribbons mean the world to to them! One day my brother in-law Pro Photographer was sharing his ribbons pictures with the family and when he left she says I want to do that. This is where it all began!!!
    Dad bought her a Kodak easy share point and shoot and we started to work with her on the basics. Then we would print and enter her photos in competitions at local fairs. Seeing how little we knew my wife & I joined a camera club to learn the skills to help Kay my sister. After we lost my Dad Kay came to live with me so the three of us are all members of the club. Kay now has over 16 awards with her photography and all we could think about was a Special Needs Camera Club! We talked to the Director of Adaptive Services for Macon-Bibb Parks and Recreation with our dream to have a special needs camera club. Her response YES!!! ShutterBugs Camera Club started in 2007 with 6 members and has been growing every since
    We now have 30 members. The club has 2 showings a year Douglass Theatre & The Cherry Blossom Festival in Macon Ga. If you would like to here more Pleas contact me at or 478-808-0375

  • mare July 31, 2009 06:46 am

    My son and I went for a "photo tour" the other day. We cycled and were stopping to take pictures, catch a frog and pick the apples. It was a nice day but he couldnt see much on his vtech camera display and was quite frustrated. We are going to make a similar trip again and I will try to follow your suggestions, I think they're excellent.

  • Dana July 31, 2009 05:27 am

    I let my daughter, who is 5, take photos with an Olympus digital. She does a great job! In fact, a picture she took of her sister won Reserve Grand Champion at our county fair last week. She's following in Momma's footsteps. Taking pictures together is great fun for both of us.

  • Paul Collins July 31, 2009 05:00 am

    I love taking my 8 year old daughter with me, I bought her a Fuji S1000fd, a tripod, and off we go, I love her prespectives on picture taking,the angles she uses, you see they are not hung up on rules ,they take pictures of what they think is nice, so take your children with you , it's brilliant fun,and you may learn something, I have.

  • Carol July 31, 2009 02:56 am

    My grandkids are too small yet, being 1 & 2 (although I may try it with the two year old) but I used to do it with my 4 kids when they were young. My #3 is a great photographer now, when she wants to be, and I think these photo sessions helped. It's great with digital 'cause you don't have the development costs and you can play more with settings and different lighting.

  • Tom Gill July 31, 2009 02:42 am

    I don't leave home without my camera kit. Every weekend we travel around local parks and beaches as a family. It's a great way for the family to see different things, spend time together ,and I get to take lots of photographs! Two of my three sons take cameras along as well. They are 7 and 9, and let me tell you, it's great to look at how they see the world. The 9 year old has a remarkable eye for photography, and is already taking excellently composed photos. Not many people believe the photos were taken by him until they see him in action. The 7 year old's photos are interesting - whatever he thinks is funny or interesting at the time. We sit down at the end of the weekend and review the photos - it's amazing how everyone sees the same thing differently!

  • Ashish Rawal July 31, 2009 01:56 am

    Fantastic idea !

    A great way of helping your children learn as well as get a fresh perspective on similar looking things.

    Cheers !

  • Maya Johnson July 31, 2009 01:13 am

    That is an awesome idea!! Totally going to do it with my kids next weekend!!!

  • Zack Jones July 27, 2009 10:16 pm

    Although my "kids" are all adults this is something I want to try with them. Thanks for the great idea!

  • Yesi :) July 27, 2009 09:32 am

    I did this with my best friend's daughter. It was quite an interesting day. I was amazed at some of the pictures we both came up with.

    The invitation I sent to Trinity was from my personal photos of our site. I printed and mailed this to her to make it feel really special.

    My best picture:

    Trin's best picture:

    It was hard to narrow our choices down. All we needed was a quick run through Picasa and a little creative cropping to come up with some real beauty.

    Yesi :)

  • Aaron July 27, 2009 05:42 am

    My 9 year old used her Casio QV-R40. This was my second digital camera. The type of photography that she likes is landscape, because, as she says, "you don't have to tell nature to smile." This picture was taken in the rose garden of the Henry Ford Estate in Dearborn, Michigan. I liked this one because it shows her passion for the outdoors. She loves being outside and loves nature.

    My picture is of the Rouge River behind the Henry Ford Estate near the powerhouse. My daughter liked this picture because it showed the water droplets and the stones. I used a Kodak Z712 IS.

  • Nicole/How to Photograph Movie Stills July 27, 2009 04:00 am

    There are a few little ones that I can do this challenge with. It's already challenging that young kids are very active, so that will be interesting to take photographs with them outdoors while trying to keep them in line.

  • michael July 26, 2009 01:18 am

    haha great idea! except that I'm 18, and I'm going to have to drag my parents on a photo shoot now! :)

  • Kirsty-Abu Dhabi July 25, 2009 08:14 pm

    My 3 year old has the V-tech digital camera and loves to go on "supermarket safari's" she comes back with pictures of cows on corned beef tins, sardines from tins and all sorts of crazy animals that she's spotted on her way around. It's great fun, and stops her from acting up while I do the weekly shop!

  • David July 25, 2009 07:56 pm

    My grandson already takes better more natural shots of his peers when I give him the camera, if I point the camera in the direction of any of my 9 grandchildren they just freeze and say 'Smile Grandad?", with the eirie un-natural smile they have developed for stock, that is why I have moved from sterile studio to more natural locations and outdoor activities for shoots!

    I might have a go at this one, should be fun even for grandads.

    David :-)

  • Chris July 25, 2009 01:24 pm

    Don't forget the grandchildren! This spring me, my daughter and her three year old son spent the day taking pictures. What a joy it is to be able to share your passion with multiple generations.

  • Martin July 25, 2009 12:16 pm

    I agree - kids definitely see things differently than adults, and will often see things that we miss.
    I love taking my kids on photography outings - lots of fun!

    I've previously written a few blog posts on similar topics:
    Getting Your Kids Started in Photography
    10 Reasons For Getting Kids Into Photography

    I also interviewed my two oldest kids about photography, with some humours results...

  • Amandalynn July 25, 2009 05:45 am

    I did this last week during the World Wide Photo Walk with my son (Dmitri, 4). The first half of our walk we(my husband and I) talked to him about everything that we saw, and what was interesting, and about midway through the roles switched naturally and he started pointing things out to us.

    This is my favorite of his, he intentionally composed it(he moved his body and worked the zoom very deliberately) in order to catch "The wedgie building"(the buiding shaped like a wedge).

    This is his favorite of mine, I'm not really sure an explanation is needed, it's a photo of his bear that he dropped at one point during the trip and he asked for me to take this shot.

  • Jesse Kaufman July 25, 2009 03:45 am

    I'm glad to see a post like this! I bought my son (now 8) a Canon PowerShot two years ago for Christmas and he just LOVES taking pictures! It's always interesting to see what kind of stuff he comes up with! It's especially cute when he tries to mimic shots I get. One of the proudest moments I've had was when he said "Daddy, when I grow up, I want to take pictures for a newspaper" :) ... Granted, by the time he grows up, they probably won't even exist, but hey, who am i to ruin his dreams of being Peter Parker ;)

  • TommyG July 25, 2009 03:44 am

    Children's birthday parties are a great place for catching kids who are not distracted by people with cameras.

    "Photography with kids" Challenge
    I used my Nikon D90 on 7/18/2009 at my niece's birthday party
    Shutter: 1/60
    Aperture: f/5.6
    Focal Length:105mm
    ISO 200

  • Anne July 25, 2009 03:37 am

    My 6 year old has been taking pictures for about three years now. She started with disposable cameras, then a Fisher Price digital, then a couple of point and shoots. She recently moved up to a Nikon D100 with a 50mm f/1.8 lens. I wrote a little about it in my blog, along with illustrations on the different looks of a 50mm lens on a full frame vs crop sensor camera.

  • ms July 25, 2009 03:28 am

    Aw, what a great challenge! I bought my son a camera about a month back but it dirt cheap and not even worth it - now I we are moving cross country so I can't buy him a camera :( But when we get to utah I will definitely get him one that actually works; he is 5 and has always said he wants to take pictures with me! lol.

  • Jeffrey Kontur July 25, 2009 03:26 am

    I've been doing stuff like this for years. Except, more often, my daughter steals our only camera and I have to beg to get it back from her. I regularly use some of her photos in my workshops and people are always impressed at how old she was when some of them were taken.

  • Victor Augusteo July 25, 2009 02:56 am

    ugh... i wish i have kids around me... cant try it out even if i wanted to :(

  • DM|ZE July 25, 2009 02:47 am

    This is a great idea, I already take my daughter with me shooting. I even bought a refurbed point and shoot canon for her to use. She really enjoys it, but I never really thought to give her full control. I will have to try that on our next walk and see what she comes up with. Thanks for the great idea!

  • Claire Roper July 25, 2009 01:53 am

    My son has had a camera since he was four. He loves taking pictures and often gets better, more interesting shots than me! I'm definitely up for this challenge. We share photography a lot, It's a family thing in our house. And now he's eight we've bought him a better camera that he's still trying to get used to. I can use this challenge to encourage him. Thanks guys! :)

  • Peter July 25, 2009 01:50 am

    Well, we don't have kids as of yet... But, this challenge seems to have a HUGE list of benefits attached to it that involve parenting... May be I can find a young friend of mine and try to encourage them...

    Excllent post! On many different levels... thanks DPS...

  • Sarah Hubbell July 25, 2009 01:26 am

    Fabulous idea!! I will try this with my 4 year old this weekend. He has a Fisher Price digital camera, but I think he's ready for a step up.

  • Lindy July 25, 2009 01:21 am

    Really fantastic idea- can't wait to try it out.

  • LisaNewton July 25, 2009 01:12 am

    It's always great to see things from a child's point of view. I love the idea of this challenge and I hope many people take it up. My children are all grown up, but in a few years, maybe I can take the challenge with my grandchildren.

    With the advent of digital photography and no development costs, kids and photography are a great match. I recently did an article where parents, the preschool, and kids all put a great photo spread together, and then had that project featured at the Los Angeles Natural History Museum. Kids and cameras do go together.

  • tokyorush July 25, 2009 12:59 am

    Awesome idea!