How to discover the shutterbug inside a six-year-old. Like most grade school aged children, mine own tablets and can swipe my phone faster than a New York City pickpocket. But they rarely use the devices’ cameras. The most recent photo in either child’s camera roll? A series of 38 selfies with a blurry dog-looking thing from over four months ago. Other parents I’ve surveyed tell me this evidence is typical. We assume they haven’t yet developed an interest in photography. When they do, the device with a camera is ready and waiting.
But if you’ve ever handed an actual camera to a kindergartner, for example, you know there’s more to it. And the older the camera, the better. One with a viewfinder and no screen really gets the gears turning. After they realize what it is (and that there are no games on it), the purpose sinks in. They discover a different tool that invokes a whole different curiosity.
Here’s how I spawned the shutterbug inside a six-year-old boy. I’d keep an old digital camera handy and anytime we left the house, I’d set it in the back seat. He couldn’t not pick it up and within a couple weeks he was taking it out of the house of his own accord. Sure, that was usually when his other device was off limits, but I say any interest counts. Sometimes, he’d take 38 pics of the seatback out of boredom. But often he’d take real pictures. And he got better fast. I’d watch as he would stop, compose, capture, and retake until he found an angle he liked. The results were far more thoughtful than anything he’d shot with an iPad. I didn’t try to explain the menu or functions unless he asked so he discovered most on his own and now frequently uses exposure compensation to improve a shot.
Since then, I’ve let him wrangle my DSLR, complete with a gigantic vertical grip attached. It’s obviously cumbersome but he knows what he’s doing and, more importantly, why he’s doing it. The pictures he takes are important to him and although most are viewed on his device and shared between family, a select few have found fame on his older brother’s blog. I think we’ll venture into printing soon.
I’m not surprised that he’s become a pretty good photographer. I’m surprised that maybe he already was. Sometimes all it takes is the right tool.
How to discover the shutterbug inside a six-year-old.
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