13 Ways to Engage the Photographer in Your Kids!

Kids are fearless when taking photos. Their creativity knows no bounds. But one of the most common questions moms ask me goes something like this, “How do I give creative direction to my kids, so I don’t end up with 100-plus photos of the family dog?”

Anyone relate? Your child gets a hold of your smartphone or camera, and you end up having endless photos of your hardwood floors. Never fear; there is an artist in your child that just needs a little direction. With Blaze and Pascaline’s permission, I’m sharing a handful of their photos along with Thirteen Ways to Engage the Photographer in Your Kids!

1: Set Your Child Up for Success

Before handing the camera over to the kids, set the camera settings to P (Portrait Mode) or A (Aperture Priority Mode). Either of these shooting modes will help soften the background while keeping the subject/object in focus. Depending on your child’s age, explain what the camera setting will do and have them try it out on flowers! If your kids are going to use your SmartPhone, encourage them to take photos near a big window so they have the most light possible for best results!

2: Defining Details

Defining Details is one of the key-story telling elements that I coach moms to capture in my book. But kids can do this too! The next time you have a special event or holiday, hand the camera over to your child and ask her to capture close up photos of all the special details, like Pascaline’s Dirt Cups with Worms at their lemonade stand! Depending on your child’s age, take the challenge up a notch and encourage them to get “as close as possible” to the object.

3: Copy YOU!

This is one of my favorite photo exercises to do with the kids. I take a photo, and then I show it to Pascaline and Blaze. They have to take the same photo I took. We don’t do this all the time, but when I am wanting them to experiment with where they put the sun in their photo, or how much empty space they leave in the frame, or where to stand to compose the shot, instead of giving them a big lecture, I ask them to copy me. Whether it’s blurry, dark, too bright, doesn’t matter. On a subconscious level, they are practicing all the wonderful basic elements of composition by trying to replicate what I’ve captured. Mimicking the masters is an old practice that we do in piano, violin and painting lessons. Photography isn’t any different. Blaze took this photo when he was five years old on a trip we made to Angkor Wat, Cambodia at sunrise. Click here to see the second photo down on a previous blog post from Cambodia. That’s the one Blaze was trying to copy.

4: Favorite Things

Give your child the assignment to capture 10 of his favorite things! This is a wonderful exercise to have him do every six months! You’ll find yourself smiling at what takes priority in his life right now. Six months ago it may have been trains, now it’s his Legos. And then there are those items that remain their favorites, no matter how much times goes by, like Blaze’s Ba-Bas.

5: Experiment with the Camera’s Picture Effects Mode

This is always a funny one for kids. Point-and-Shoots, SmartPhone apps, or DSLRs all have Picture Effects that you can now play with to alter your original photo. One of Pascaline’s favorite is to use the “partial color” effect on her SONY NEX 6. She can choose to have everything in her image be black and white, except for one color — like orange — to bring out the BEST side of her kitty!

6: Favorite Places

Encourage your child to take a photo of their favorite places around the house or outside. This can be their bedroom, mom and dad’s big bed, that cozy spot in front of the heater where they like to get dressed in the morning, or the neighbor’s yard. At the end of our block is an older couple, both grandparents, and for some reason the kids LOVE playing in their yard. I’m not sure if Pascaline meant to, but I LOVE how the neighbor boy has a Japanese bandana on with the neighbor’s Japanese maple behind him! You never know what they are going to get!

7: Photos of Mom and Dad

Time to get a dose of your own medicine! Your kids are going to LOVE this challenge! Think of all the thousands of photos you’ve taken of your kids — now it’s their turn. Give your child the challenge to capture mom and dad doing something they do every day. Encourage them to be sneaky, like spies! This makes it even more fun! And don’t worry about whether or not the photo is blurry. Some of my favorite, most inspiring photos are the blurry ones that the kids have taken.

8: Kid Self Portraits

Kids, especially at the grade-school age, love to take self-portraits. Ask your child to take six different photos of themselves throughout the day. They can take the photos in the backyard, in their bedroom, but challenge them to make each one different whether it’s a silly face, serious face, or a different room. Don’t worry about fingers getting in the shot: that too documents their stage of childhood!

9: Their Shadow!

Kids LOVE to see their shadows grow in height, especially as the Winter’s end draws near and days become longer. Give your child the photo challenge to capture five different photos of their shadow, and be as silly or tall as they’d like!

10: What Makes Me, Me

Ask your child to take ten photos of specific things that show who they are, and what makes them unique in the family. Kids love to highlight how they are different than the rest of the family!

11: Siblings Self Portraits

This is another personal favorite! I LOVE to challenge my kids with taking “Sibling Self Portraits”. The only rule, they can’t look at the camera. That simple, little rule helps enforce the idea of ignoring the camera when mom brings it out, as well as creating the cutest results! Pascaline held the camera down low and shot up for this photo of her and Blaze at the beach.

12: Play with Fun Lenses

Our kids love to experiment with lenses as much as we do, especially SONY’s Fish Eye lens that curves all the corners. To help ensure good care of your lens, set parameters, like a time limit and certain room, so your kids can experiment with a fun lens but not stress you out in the process.

13: A Day in the Life

Give your kids the photo assignment of capturing different photos that represent “A Day in the Life.” For little ones, they can take a photo of their meals, the park, their bed before bedtime. Older kids especially love this exercise! They fearlessly take photos of everything they do and feel throughout the day, like the satisfaction of convincing mom to get frozen yogurt! I guarantee you will be so entertained by their photo results! Want more photo prompts for your kids?! How about if Elmo and I help ever week between now and May! Sesame Street and I have teamed up to bring you and the kids a special photo challenge each week for the My World Photo Contest we are doing! Keep reading for more details!

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