One of the first times I taught a nature photography series for kids ages 8-to-12, the kids were so excited to walk around with cameras that they spent the first class taking close-up pictures of each other’s eyes and nostrils.
By the second meeting, they were ready to focus on trees and streams.
Kids love taking pictures of friends and the places they go. You can encourage kids to take pictures of nature, which is a great tool to get your kids to pay attention to their surroundings while spending time outdoors.
Let your children record their view of their world, whether they are in their backyards, at the local park, on a school field trip to a natural place, at the beach, or on a family vacation.
Cameras for Kids
If your child has a phone, chances are they are also carrying around a digital camera. When kids take pictures with a disposable film cameras they lose out on getting immediate feedback from their cameras (are they too far away from their subject or too close?). Whether they’re five or twelve, kids will do better when they have access to a digital camera, even if it’s an inexpensive one.
A camera also teaches your child some responsibility. They need to keep the batteries charged, or keep another set with them. They need to download images from the memory card so they have space to take more pictures.
I’ve had fourteen year-olds who forgot to bring a camera to a photography camp… and others who decided that carrying extra batteries would be a hassle and so left them behind, which meant they could only take one photo on a two-hour walk.
Photography Scavenger Hunts
Sometimes kids take a camera outside and don’t know what to take pictures of. I’ve found that it is useful to give a helpful nudge with a scavenger hunt that can help focus attention while on a nature walk:
- Take pictures only of blue (or red or pink) things. This becomes an interesting challenge. Suddenly kids notice the tiny pink flowers, the pinkish mushroom, and the glow in the sky.
- Take pictures of things smaller than your hand or taller than you.
- Take pictures of things that start with the letter T, or any other letter.
- Tell a story by taking pictures of something as it is happening (squirrel running to the bird feeder) or take pictures that create a story or allow the viewer of the photographs to create a story in their mind.
- Walk around an object and take pictures from all angles. Squat and aim the camera upward or lean over a smaller object to get a totally different angle.
- Take a picture of the same tree once a week, once a month, or once a season to track the changes in the environment.
Quick Photography Tips
Kids ages nine or ten and up start to view their photographs with a more critical eye. They thought a photograph would look one way, but it doesn’t.
You can offer your kids a few tips so that they can experiment. Kids can hold the camera vertically (the tall way) to emphasize the height of something. Holding the camera horizontally creates a greater sense of how something sits within its space.
Have your children experiment with taking pictures of trees by holding their cameras in both horizontally and vertically. This can help kids realize they can control what they want to seem important to the viewer.
To take advantage of the Rule of Thirds, have your child to imagine a tic-tac-toe board over the scene he or she is looking at through the viewer/on the screen (some cameras have this as an option). Select a feature in the scene as the focal point. Line up that focal point with one of the imaginary tic-tac-toe lines.
This not only directs the eye of the viewer of the final photograph toward the main subject but it requires kids to decide what they are taking a picture of as they line up the shot.
Send Your Kids Outdoors with a Camera
Although your children will take pictures of a variety subjects, nature photography encourages them to go outdoors and notice details from their surroundings. Taking pictures while on vacation (or even just visiting a different place for the day), gives kids the opportunity to decide what is important to them as they take pictures of those things.