Teach your child to use Bokeh

What is Bokeh?

Bokeh is the beautiful blur in a picture.  It can be used to get rid of a distracting background or just to add some interesting light shapes.  In the picture below a cluttered background was blurred out so that we can focus on the main subject.

"Faces at the Pow Wow" by Tony Alter CC BY 2.0

“Faces at the Pow Wow” by Tony Alter CC BY 2.0

The circles of light in the photo of the man below can also be described as bokeh.  I have removed the bokeh in the second picture.  Which version do you like better?

denisdenis - the real spank - cc by 2.0

“The Real Spank” by Denis Denis CC BY 2.0

 

denisdenis - the real spank - cc by 2.0 edited

“The Real Spank” by Denis Denis CC BY 2.0 Background removed

Step 1 – Use the right lens

To easily blur out a background you need to use a lens with a low aperture number.  Look for a lens with f/2.8 or lower.  Don’t worry if you only have one lens to choose from.  You can still create bokeh in your pictures.  Many photographers will use a prime lens with a very low aperture number such as f/1.8 or even f/1.4.

A “prime” lens is a lens that does not zoom.  It is fixed at one focal length.  A popular prime lens is a 50mm that goes to a very wide aperture of f/1.7 or f/1.8.  You can typically find these lenses for less than $150 for most DSLR cameras.

Step 2 – Use the lowest aperture number available on your lens

Set your camera to Aperture Priority (A) mode.  This allows you to set the aperture while the camera sets the shutter speed for you.  Set your aperture to the lowest number available.  Hopefully your lens can go to f/2.8 or even lower.

If your lens can only go down to f/4 or f/5.6 then step 3 and 4 become way more important.

"Buho" by Juanedc.com CC BY 2.0

“Buho” by Juanedc.com CC BY 2.0

Remember a low aperture number means the hole that lets in light is very wide. A large aperture number means the hole is small.

Shutter_Open_512 (1)

f/2.8

Shutter_Closed_512

f/16

Step 3 – Place your subject far away from the background

Step 4 – Get close to your subject

Notice in the diagram below that the camera is close to the subject but the background is far away.  This will help you achieve a nice bokeh.

bokeh diagram

Additional tip:

If you have done everything above and are still having trouble blurring out the background, try using a longer lens. Switch to a 200mm or even 300mm lens.  If your camera has a zoom function, zoom all the way in.

A longer lens will help you achieve bokeh.

piotr p - paulinka - cc by 2.0

“Paulinka” by Piotr P CC BY 2.0

Review:

  • Use the right lens (Pick one with the lowest aperture number)
  • Set your camera to the lowest aperture number available on your lens
  • Place your subject far away from the background
  • Get close to your subject
  • Use a longer lens or zoom in if you are having trouble


 

Share Your Thoughts:  What photo techniques do your kids want to learn next?

Teach your child about window light portraits

This lesson is all about picking the right light when taking pictures of people.  When I first started taking pictures of people I had a hard time.  All my pictures turned out terrible and I could not figure out why.  The reason I took bad pictures was the light I was choosing.sun52

I once positioned a group of people outside in the middle of the day with the sun shining right in their faces.  This is the worst possible light for several reasons:

  • People squint when the light is too bright.
  • People’s eyes start watering if they are exposed to that type of light for too long.
  • Dark shadows are formed under their eyes and nose.
  • Skin tones are too bright and washed out

Instead I discovered something called the “Window Light Portrait”.  Window light is typically more soft and pleasing almost any time of day.  By switching to window light you will instantly see an improvement in your pictures.

happy baby boy looks through the window

Step 1 – Pick the right window

Typically a north or south facing window will be best because the sun will never be shining directly into it.  You can usually shoot at any time of day when facing north or south.

East and west is a different story because during a sunrise or sunset the light will be coming directly through the window.  Direct sunlight through a window will create the same problems I described above.

If you can’t find a compass don’t worry too much, just look for a window with nice soft light coming in.  If the sunlight is too harsh use a partially see through white drape over the window.  Don’t use a colored drape as that will change the color of the light.

Step 2 – Turn off all interior lights

This may sound strange because we are making it darker.  But the reason you should turn off interior lights is because they have a different color than sunlight.

Normal incandescent lights give off orange colored light.  If they are left on, your subject’s skin color will look wrong.

Compare the two pictures below.  Do you see how her skin looks orange when the lights are left on?

lightsonoff

Step 3 – Turn off your flash

In this lesson we are specifically trying to capture the light coming in a window.  Therefore turn off your flash.  Your flash will overpower the window light and we won’t get the effect we’re going for.

If you cannot turn off the flash in “Auto “ mode switch to “Program (P)” mode.

Compare the two pictures below.  You might be thinking the one with flash looks better because it shows more of her face.  Unfortunately it flattens out her facial features and is just kind of boring.  I enjoy the picture without flash because it seems more interesting and mysterious.

flashonoff

Step 4 – Position your subject

This is the most important step.  Start by asking your subject to stand sideways to the window.  This will throw light on half of their face.

Now have them turn their head slightly toward the window.  This will light their face more evenly.  Use your camera in auto mode and experiment with this setup.

Either of these positions is okay.  It all depends on the look and effect you are going for.

positionsubject

Step 5 – Use a reflector (Optional)

As you can see in most of the pictures above the girl’s face is partially in shadow.  Place a reflector on the dark side to add some light. 

You can purchase reflectors like the one in the picture above on amazon.com for $10 to $15.  Or you can use a white foam core board from Walmart.

reflector

Remember:  Place your subject between the window and the reflector.

Photo Assignment

Take a portrait using window light

Click the link above for a printable photo assignment worksheet.

Share Your Thoughts:  What photo techniques do your kids want to learn next?

Teach Your Child To Take a Silhouette Picture

In this lesson we are going to see how your camera can be tricked into taking a silhouette picture. Sometimes tricking your camera can turn out to be a very good thing. A silhouette is when a person or thing is very dark in your picture. The background on the other hand should be bright.

Silhouettes create mystery and allow the viewer to use their imagination to complete the picture.

bea represa - silhouette

“Silhouette” by Bea Represa CC BY 2.0

Step 1 – Find an Interesting Subject

You cannot use the subject’s colors or textures to make the photo pleasing so you have to rely on its shape. Look for subjects that are recognizable by shape alone.

In the photo above you can tell that the main subject is a person jumping. You may also recognize the buildings in the background. Scroll down to find out where these buildings are located.

Alex France - Big Ben + Houses of Parliament CC BY SA 2.0

“Big Ben + Houses of Parliament” by Alex France CC BY-SA 2.0

If you guessed the British Houses of Parliament and The Clock Tower that houses Big Ben in London you were right. Here is a picture during the day.

Pick one of these subjects for a silhouette photo:

• Family members
• Friends
• Toys
• Buildings
• Animals
• Your bicycle

ashley campbell - silhouette

“Silhouette” by Ashley Campbell CC BY 2.0

If you are taking a silhouette of a person have them stand sideways to the camera. This way you will be able to see their eyelashes, nose, and lips. You can probably recognize your family members by looking at the profile of their face. If they are looking straight into the camera you will lose all the detail in their face.

Step 2 – Turn Off Your Flash

The flash will light up your subject which is not the effect we are looking for. Instead have your parents help you turn off the flash on your camera.

If your camera does not allow you to turn off the flash in Auto mode try switching to Program mode. This is the big “P” on your mode dial.

Step 3 – Put Your Subject in Front of a Bright Background

A sunset or sunrise is best for this. See how the flower below is placed right in front of the sunset.

chad cooper - shoreline silhouette

“Shoreline Silhouette” by Chad Cooper CC BY 2.0

You can also use window light as shown in the picture of the toy soldiers below. Find the brightest window in your house. Then create an action scene by setting up some toys on the window sill.

kyle may - toy soldiers(silhouette)

“Toy Soldiers” by Kyle May CC BY 2.0

Step 4 – Trick Your Camera

We must make the camera think that the background is the most important part of this picture.

Use Auto Mode

Your camera takes a meter reading of the light when you press the shutter halfway down. Therefore you can point your camera at the brightest part of the picture and press the shutter halfway down and hold it.

While still holding the shutter halfway down move your camera back to frame your subject where you want it. Finally, press the shutter button all the way down to take the picture.

Some cameras have an AEL button on the back. This stands for Auto Exposure Lock. Instead of pressing the shutter halfway down you can hold down the AEL button instead.

Use Manual Mode

If you are having trouble tricking your camera you might have to switch to manual mode. Turn your mode dial to M. This means you are now in complete control of how light or dark your subject is. Start with these camera settings:

randy robertson staircase silhouette

“Staircase Silhouette” by Randy Robertson CC BY 2.0

  • Exposure Mode: Manual (M)
  • Aperture: 8
  • Shutter Speed: 250
  • ISO: 100

Take the picture and then review it on the LCD screen.

  • If your subject is not dark enough increase your shutter speed to 500 and try again.
  • If your picture is too dark decrease the shutter speed to 125 and try again.

Keep experimenting with different shutter speeds until you get the picture just right.

Review

  1. Find an interesting subject
  2. Turn off your flash
  3. Put your subject in front of a bright background
  4. Trick your camera
edmund garman kaanapali silhouette 2

“Kaanapali Silhouette” by Edmund Garman CC BY 2.0

Photo Assignment

Take a silhouette picture

Click the link above for a printable photo assignment worksheet.

Share Your Thoughts:  What photo techniques do your kids want to learn next?

Teach Your Child About The Rule Of Thirds

This lesson is about composition. tic tac toeComposition is a big word that means how you position things in your photos. If your kids have played tic tac toe before, then this lesson should be easy to remember.

The Rule of Thirds

When looking through your camera imagine a tic tac toe grid. This grid divides your picture into thirds. Both the horizontal and vertical sections are split into three sections.

Take a look at the picture below. The horizon was not placed directly in the middle. Instead it was placed closer to the bottom of the picture.

thirds001

“River Landscape (Issel)” by Uwe Potthoff CC BY 2.0

When we place the horizon in the middle it seems like the picture has been cut in half. This is usually not as appealing to our eyes.

Now when we put a tic tac toe grid over the picture you can easily see that the picture has been cut in thirds. 2/3 of the picture is sky and 1/3 is land. This makes the composition more interesting than simply putting the horizon right in the middle.

thirds002

“River Landscape (Issel)” by Uwe Potthoff CC BY 2.0 – Grid Added

People

We can also use the rule of thirds when taking pictures of people. The idea is to make sure your main subject is not in the direct middle of your picture.

thirds006

“Self Portrait” by Loren Kerns CC BY 2.0 – Grid Added

Take a look at the picture above. The man’s head was placed on the upper left intersection. He is also looking back into the picture. We must try to imagine what he is staring at off the right side of the photo.

Movement

How can a still picture show movement? Leave room in front of your subjects for them to move into.

thirds2001

“76 Start Runners” by Elvert Barnes CC BY-SA 2.0 – Grid Added

The runner in green is the main subject above. The photographer left plenty of room in front of her. We can imagine her running across the picture. Do the same thing for still subjects. Leave room in the direction they are pointing.

You may also notice that her head is not exactly on a thirds intersection. This is OK. The rule of thirds is not absolute. It is merely a guideline to help you make more interesting pictures.

More Examples

When taking pictures of people or animals; try making their eyes the most important part. Place their eyes near an intersection of the tic tac toe grid.

thirds009

“Hello, Human” by Chi King CC BY 2.0 – Grid Added

 

thirds004

“Tree Frog”

Photography rules are made to be broken. You don’t have to use the rule of thirds all the time. But you need to know the rules before you can break them.

Review

  1. Try not to place your subject directly in the middle of your picture.
  2. Imagine a tic tac toe grid as you are setting up a shot.
  3. Place your main subject on one of the intersections.
  4. When taking landscape pictures place the horizon on either the upper or lower third line. Do not place the horizon directly in the middle.

 

Photo Assignment:

Take a picture using the Rule of Thirds

Click the link above for a printable photo assignment worksheet.

 

Share Your Thoughts:  What photo techniques do your kids want to learn next?

Teach Your Child About The Golden Hour

What is the golden hour?goldenhour004

The golden hour is one of the best times of day to shoot pictures. It actually comes around two times every day.  It happens right after sunrise in the morning and right before sunset in the evening.

The quality of light at this time is amazing.  It is soft and golden.  Skin tones are warmed up giving people a tanned look while shadows are long and diffused.  It is quite easy to take great photos during this time of day.

Example of golden hour photography

Take a look at this happy couple. What makes this picture so special is the quality of light. You can see the sun highlighting their hair from behind with that soft golden glow.

Professional photographers add a hair-light all the time in their studios to get a similar effect. You can do it using natural light by putting the sun behind your subject. Compose your shot so that the sun is not in your picture. Otherwise it will look too bright and washed out.

Use a tripod

As the sun gets lower on the horizon the available light will fade out. Your camera will try to compensate for the lower light. Most likely you will start to see blurry pictures.goldenhour2001 To fix this problem you need to get the camera out of your hands.
Set the camera on a tripod, a table, a rock, or any stable object. Use your camera’s “self timer” instead of pressing the shutter button. This will allow you to keep shooting as the light gets dim. Most self timer buttons use the logo to the left.

What is soft light?

Soft light is characterized by even tones.  This means the light is spread out evenly on surfaces which creates less contrast.  Shadows are not harsh; instead they blend in with your subject to add just the right amount of interest to your photo.  If you were to take a black and white picture in soft light there would be many variations of gray colors as shown in the graphic below.soft gradient

Soft light happens during the golden hour but it also happens anytime on an overcast day.  Don’t put your camera away just because the clouds roll in. This is often the best time to shoot.

What is hard light?

Hard light creates high contrast scenes. This means that shadows will be very dark and reflections of light will be very bright. Hard light happens during midday when the sun is shining down. With the sun directly overhead, people will have ugly dark shadows in their eye sockets and under their nose. One good thing about hard light is that it can make colors more vibrant. The sky will seem more blue and the leaves a deeper green.hard gradient

If you were taking black and white pictures under hard light there would be mainly whites and blacks as shown in the graphic above. There would not be much gray in the picture.

Soft Light

Soft Light


Hard Light

Hard Light


Time to practice

Try taking pictures of the same thing on a sunny day at noon and also during the golden hour before sunset. When you compare them you should immediately notice how much better your pictures are during the golden hour.

Do you take pictures at noon?goldenhour009

Many professional photographers refuse to take pictures on a sunny day at noon. This is because when the sun is shining directly down it creates hard light. Hard light is not very good for photos of people.

When you are just starting out in photography I would recommend that you do not shoot outdoors during midday to avoid a lot of frustration. One exception to this rule happens on cloudy days. If the sky is overcast then you can shoot all day long and get great photos.

Review

  1. The golden hour happens 1 hour after sunrise and 1 hour before sunset.
  2. If you don’t have to squint it’s a great time for taking pictures of people.
  3. Find soft light when taking pictures of people.
  4. Avoid the harsh midday sun.
  5. Stabilize your camera with a tripod when the light gets too dim.

Photo Assignment #5

Take a picture during the golden hour

Click the link above for a printable photo assignment worksheet.

 

Share Your Thoughts:  What photo techniques do your kids want to learn next?

Teach Your Child to Take Pictures From Different Angles

Do your child’s pictures all look the same?

If your child has been taking pictures for very long you may start noticing that they all look the same. This can happen when they always use the same poses or angles. To fix this problem encourage them to take photos of the same subject at many different angles.

The picture of the airplane above would be my first instinct when I see this little airplane. But it may not be the best angle, the best lighting, or the most interesting picture. So let’s keep shooting and see what happens.

Get on the floor

You may need to lay flat on your back and look up to find an interesting shot. Professional photographers are always willing to do something silly to get the best shot. Don’t worry if you look weird doing it. Some of the best pictures happen when you try to shoot a subject in a way it’s never been shot before.

Zoom in

You don’t always have to show your whole subject. Get in close to your subject. In this photo we only see the engine, propeller, and wheels. The wings are not included and that is perfectly fine. This is still an interesting picture even without those other details.

 

Look down

Get on top of your subject and shoot down. Notice the shadow from the plane’s tail. This is a detail we can’t see from other angles. When shooting from this position try to get directly over the subject and shoot straight down.

 

Fun photo to try: newangle001Get some friends
together and have them lay on the floor with their heads touching each other. Put your camera directly over them and shoot down.

Shoot at eye level

When taking pictures of people or animals you should be on their eye level. When we are talking to someone we tend to look in their eyes. Even animals do this. If you have a pet dog or cat go talk to them and see if they are looking right back into your eyes.

Take a look at the two pictures below. The cat is not making eye contact in the top picture but he is on the bottom. The picture on the bottom allows us to make friends with the cat. It is much more personal and meaningful.

“Cat” by Anna Yoo licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

“Cat” by Anna Yoo licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

Review

  1. Try lots of different angles of the same subject
  2. Don’t be afraid of looking silly when finding creative shots
  3. Try shooting at eye level when you are taking pictures of people or animals
  4. Review your pictures later and pick your favorite shots

Photo Assignment:

Pick one subject and take pictures from at least 5 different angles

Click the link above for a printable photo assignment worksheet.

 

Share Your Thoughts:  What photo techniques do your kids want to learn next?

Teach Your Child How To Hold A Camera

Camera Shakehowtoholdcamera001

Have you ever thought your camera has a problem focusing? You set up a shot and it looks perfectly focused in the viewfinder. When you check the image on the camera screen your subject is slightly blurry. This is usually not a problem with the camera or the lens. The more likely problem is the way you are holding the camera.

It may not seem like that big of a deal but more pictures are ruined by camera shake than anything else. It becomes even harder to hold the camera steady when you are shooting in low light.

Kids are usually not aware of this problem, especially very young ones. To keep pictures from being blurry teach your child to hold the camera correctly.

The pictures above show what camera shake looks like.
It means the difference between a sharp photo and a photo that will probably just be deleted.

howtoholdcamera008How to hold a camera

Here is the proper way to hold a camera:

  1. Wrap your right hand around the right side with your pointer finger over the shutter button.
  2. Hold your left hand flat with your palm up. Support the bottom of the camera with your left hand.
  3. If you have a large lens, wrap your left hand fingers around it from below.
  4. Tuck your elbows into your ribs.
  5. Look through the viewfinder to create more stability.

What is wrong with these pictures?howtoholdcamera007howtoholdcamera006

Stand up straighthowtoholdcamera005

Don’t lean forward or backward.  If you need to get closer just take a step forward or zoom your lens in. You should also place one foot a step in front of the other for added stability.

Breathing is important

Right before taking a shot breathe in and let it out. Slowly press the shutter button at the bottom of that breath. Your body has the least movement right after exhaling.


Shooting in the vertical position

howtoholdcamera004When taking pictures in the vertical position you have to rotate the camera. Always rotate so your right hand goes on top instead of on bottom. It’s very awkward and unstable to have your right hand on bottom.

Straight Horizon Lines

Now that you have learned how to properly hold your camera we need to talk about holding it straight. When taking pictures of beautiful landscape scenes your picture can be ruined easily by having a horizon that does not appear level.

When you look at the first picture below it should look strange. We are used to viewing level horizons in real life but this picture is at an angle. As you are lining up your shot, make sure you pay attention to the horizon. If it’s not level, tilt your camera to correct it.

Portland Head Lighthouse in Cape Elizabeth, Maine

Notice how the horizon line is not level above

Portland Head Lighthouse in Cape Elizabeth, Maine

This looks much better

Review

  1. Always practice holding your camera correctly to reduce blur.
  2. Stand up straight.
  3. Press the shutter button at the bottom of your breath.
  4. Hold the camera straight, especially when taking pictures of horizons.

 

Photo Assignment

Take a picture of a level horizon while holding your camera correctly

Click the link above for a printable photo assignment worksheet.

 

Share Your Thoughts:  What photo techniques do your kids want to learn next?

Teach Your Child To Get Close When Taking Pictures

Getting close

getclose003

“Typical Riley Pose” by Peasap is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Have your child take a picture of their little brother or sister, or even you without any instructions. Their first reaction might be to get the subject’s whole body in the picture.  Many times there is clutter in the background that takes away from the subject. There might be toys on the floor or distracting lines or textures on the walls. If you are outside you might notice a tree or sign post that seems to sprout from the subjects head.  

getclose001

“Eye See You” by Peasap is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Review your child’s first picture.  Then have your child walk in closer or even use the zoom button to make the subject’s head and shoulders the only things in the picture. This will help to eliminate distracting backgrounds.
Eyes show a lot of emotion. To add a bit of mystery to your photo you can go even closer and make their eyes the only thing in the frame. Perfect focus is hard to get when shooting this close.  We’ll talk about focus next.

Focus is important

Focus is always an important technical issue, but when you are getting in close you have to pay even more attention. If your subject is a person, make sure their eyes are in focus. When we are looking at a picture of a person we are automatically drawn to their eyes. Even animals do this. If you have a dog or cat you might notice that your pet will look directly into your eyes. I’ve always wondered how animals know to do this.

getclose009

“Impression” by Jenny Downing is licensed under CC BY 2.0

getclose004

“Dusty” by Jenny Downing is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Ask your child to identify which picture above is out of focus.

For this lesson your camera should be set to autofocus. Most cameras will focus on the object in the middle of the frame.  Your camera may even show a little box on the screen that indicates where it will be focusing.  To focus you will need to hold the shutter button halfway down. Watch as your subject becomes clear.

Most lenses will only focus when you are 1 or 2 feet away. If your camera is not focusing, move back slowly until it does. To find out how close your camera or lens can focus you can do three things.

  1. Find the minimum focus distance in the owner’s manual if you have it.
  2. Look at the lens itself. Some lenses will have the minimum focus distance written on them somewhere.
  3. Find a toy or other non-moving object and position your lens one inch away from it. Slowly pull back while trying to focus on the object. Make a note of the distance where the camera actually focuses.
getclose002

“In God We Trust” by Kevin Dooley is licensed under CC BY 2.0

When taking pictures of very small things like flowers and insects it may be almost impossible to get close enough. Macro mode is the solution. If your camera has a macro mode try using it to take a picture of a
quarter. This will allow you to focus at shorter distances.

Get rid of distracting backgrounds

Have you ever seen a picture of someone who seemed to have a tree or light pole growing out of their head? When taking pictures it is easy to only think about your subject. You also need to notice the background.  One step to the left or right will easily get rid of the tree problem. You must also be on the lookout for cluttered or distracting backgrounds. If the background is cluttered just move in closer to your subject.

If you are taking pictures of someone and they do not seem comfortable with you being so close, step back a little bit.  Always use courtesy when photographing people.

Make the eyes pop!

getclose005

“Baby Monkey in a Basket” by Mohd Khomani Mohd Sidik CC BY 2.0

Take a look at this monkey. Where do your eyes come to rest in this photo?  Most likely you end up staring into his eyes. Have you ever seen a picture from a professional photographer where the eyes just seem to glow?  To get results like this you must know where the light is coming from. In this picture you can tell the light is coming from the top right by finding the reflection in the monkey’s eyes.

Here’s a handy tip to find the light. Carry a marble in your camera bag.  When you arrive at your shooting location put the marble in your hand just like an eye socket. Then slowly turn your body around while watching the marble.  Stop when you see the reflection of light in the marble.  Remember this angle. If you shoot from this angle your subject will have beautiful catch lights in their eyes.

Review

  1. Get close to your subject – Fill the frame
  2. Remember to focus on the most important part of the picture
  3. Pay attention to the background

Photo Assignment #2

Take a close-up picture of a person, a pet, or a toy.

Click the link above for a printable photo assignment worksheet.

 

Share Your Thoughts:  What photo techniques do your kids want to learn next?

Teach Your Child Camera Basics

Golden Gate, San Francisco, California, USA.

Taking pictures is so much fun. Part of that fun is using these incredibly complex little boxes we call cameras. But taking pictures should not just be about the gear you have. After saying that, there are a few things you should teach your child about cameras:

Types of cameras

teachphoto009

Compact Digital Camera

There are four basic types of cameras on the market today:

  1. Compact digital camera – Many compact cameras do not allow the user to make decisions about their photos. These cameras will use an onboard computer to determine the best settings for a scene.
  2. Phone camera – Cameras in phones used to be very basic but
    teachphoto006

    Phone Camera

    they  have come a long way. Most of the settings are determined automatically but you can download apps that will give you more control.

  3. Super zoom camera – This type of camera is the middle link between
    teachphoto008

    Super Zoom Camera

    a compact camera and a DSLR. The photographer usually can take full creative control. It will have automatic settings but you can override them with your own settings. The built-in lens will go from wide angle to superzoom.

  4. DSLR camera – This stands for Digital Single Lens Reflex. When looking
    teachphoto007

    DSLR Camera

    through the viewfinder you can see exactly what will be in the picture. DSLR’s give the highest quality images but are also the most expensive. You will have full control of all settings and you can also change lenses.

I love shooting with my DSLR because it is so fast and the quality is much higher. But you don’t need an expensive camera to get started. Many of the world’s most famous pictures have been taken with cameras of low quality. The creative decisions are always up to the photographer.

Parts of a camerateachphoto005

Here are a few parts your child should know:

  • Lens – Allows light to enter the front of your camera.
    This light will eventually be recorded as a picture.
  • Shutter button – The button you press to take the picture
  • LCD Screen – The screen on the back of the camera used for teachphoto004viewing your pictures.
  • Optical viewfinder – The small hole you look through to compose your picture.

Photo modes

teachphoto003Your camera may have a mode dial like the one shown to the left. A beginning photographer needs to explore their creativity without worrying about camera settings.

For now just use the “Auto” or the“Program” mode. This will tell the camera to make the exposure decisions for you. Just allow your child to concentrate on being creative.

File typespopular file types.jpg

A digital picture can be saved in different file types. The most popular type is the JPEG. A JPEG is a great combination of high quality and small file size. Beginners should use the highest quality JPEG
setting on their camera. If the file size is set too low, your pictures will look fuzzy.

PNG files are similar to JPEGs. TIFF and RAW files are lossless formats. This means there is no loss in quality from the original image. TIFF and RAW files will take up 10 times more space than JPEGs and PNGs.

Turn off the camera’s built in flash

The built in flash on your camera will usually make your pictures look terrible. You will see:

  • dark shadows behind your subject

    Flash Off

    Flash Off

  • flattened facial features

    Flash On

    Flash On

  • red eye
  • a strange mix of light color.

flash icon

In addition to all the problems above, on-camera flash also blinds and annoys people. There are better ways to do flash and we will talk about that in later lessons. Look for a lightning bolt icon on your camera to turn off the flash.

Note: Your camera may not allow you to turn off flash in AUTO mode. If this is the case switch to Program mode (P on the mode dial).

Lock your focus

Most cameras focus when you press the shutter button halfway down. Practice this with your child by having them look at the LCD screen while focusing on different objects.

Your camera is probably set to focus on the middle square shown in your viewfinder. To focus on a person that is not in the middle you should:

  1. Point the middle square at your subject
  2. Focus by holding the shutter button halfway down
  3. Move the camera back to where you want it while still holding the shutter button halfway down.
  4. Take the picture

Review

  1. Learn the basic parts of a camera
  2. Set your mode dial to Program(P) or AUTO
  3. Turn off your flash
  4. Lock your focus

Photo Assignment:

Take a picture of a toy or other non-living object

Click the above link for a printable photo assignment page!

 

Share Your Thoughts:  What photo techniques do your kids want to learn next?

Learn About Your Kids by Photographing Themes

Here is a fun activity to try with your kids. Have them shoot a theme. Pick one topic to take pictures of for the whole day or even the whole week. This will help your child to see the world in a different way. You may be surprised to see how your little photographer interprets the theme.

picture by Omer Unlu on Flickr

picture by Omer Unlu on Flickr

Below are four basic categories of themes with examples included.

Things

blue003

picture by Dawn Huczek on Flickr

  • Doors
  • Road signs
  • Old barns
  • Abandoned buildings
  • Churches
  • Columns
  • Water

Feelings and Emotions

  • Happy
  • Sad
  • Mad
  • Tired

    blue002

    picture by Tony Hisgett on Flickr

Colors

  • Red
  • Green
  • Blue

Shapes

  • Circles
  • Squares
  • Lines

Lines are especially helpful for the budding photographer to recognize. If you choose this theme, make sure you point out how the lines move through your child’s pictures. Have them follow the lines with their fingers. This will help them compose more interesting pictures in the future.

Blue

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picture by Craig Sunter on Flickr

You probably noticed that I picked “Blue” as the theme of this post. Most people will immediately think of the color blue. But blue can also be a feeling. Encourage your child to think creatively about the subject.

If your theme is “Happy”, ask your child what she can photograph besides a smiling face that will show happiness. Have your child think about things that make them happy. Maybe a warm summer day is happiness. Maybe reading a book with mom represents happiness. Get them thinking and using their imagination.

Review their pictures

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picture by Amira A on Flickr

As always, take some time to review your child’s pictures with them. Pick a few that you especially like and tell them why. Maybe your favorites are in focus or well exposed. Maybe they perfectly portrayed your chosen theme. Whatever it is give your child some positive feedback.

Let me know in the comments what theme you will try!