Cameras and kids: The best ways to get a child into photography

  • Camera
  • Sunday, 30 Aug 2020

An old compact camera is a great way to get kids started on taking photos. Old smartphones can work too, but all the apps can be a bit distracting. — dpa

Taking pictures is child's play. But if your child is showing signs of a passion for photography, a camera designed for kids might not be your best option, experts say.

When children see their parents taking photos, they often want to do the same, and some even start playing camera as toddlers.

But how you nurture the hobby of photography all depends on the age, personality, and motivation of the child, says Sabine Sonnenschein, who heads a children's photography project in Cologne, Germany. The older and more competent the child is, the better the camera should be, she says.

In general, compact cameras are the kind best suited for the small hands of children. Old smartphones are also an option. But without a proper case, an accidental fall could be the end of the screen.

It's also easy for younger children to cover a smartphone lens with their fingers, says Katrin Voll, an educator at the JFF Institute for Media Pedagogy in Munich.

More complicated cameras such as SLR ones are generally only suitable for older children.

Old analogue cameras can be a good way of finding out how interested a child is in manual photography, Sonnenschein says. If they're not interested, an old smartphone might be the best place to start.

Whether an old phone is sufficient also depends on the age of the child, says photography journalist Sophia Zimmermann.

She considers phones less suitable for younger children because the child may also get distracted by all the other features on the phone. That carries risks, she says.

Cameras specially designed for children are another option. These typically have rubber handles, a few buttons and a touchscreen.

They're easy to use and children can quickly find their way around. Many also have pre-installed games or funny graphics or filters that can be added to photos.

These cameras start from around US$40 (RM167). However, the displays often aren't great, Zimmermann says. "When the sun is shining, you can't see anything on it."

Sonnenschein also advises against such cameras: "It's mostly all about the look. The technology behind it is rarely good." The only real advantage of these cameras is that they're robust.

The more sensible option may be a discarded or inexpensive digital compact camera. It should also have a carrying cord. “That protects the camera in the worst-case scenario,” Voll says.

When it comes to robustness, compact outdoor cameras are unbeatable, Zimmermann says. They're suitable for kids from the end of kindergarten on. The latest models cost around US$100 (RM417).

Their advantage is that the image quality is generally better than what you would get with a children's camera and in addition they're shockproof and waterproof.

As a tester to see whether your child enjoys photography you can try a disposable camera or an instant camera, Sonnenschein says.

Having a limited number of photos that can be taken is a good exercise, she says: "Children understand that quickly and suddenly the moment is very valuable."

Whatever camera you choose: Be sure to familiarise yourself with the settings and menu navigation beforehand and then go through everything with your child.

Show your child how to hold the camera to shoot in portrait or landscape mode. Encourage them to change perspective, taking pictures from bottom to top and top to bottom, getting closer or further away.

"Sometimes it's more the group activity that children enjoy," says Sonnenschein. Everyone can have fun if the whole family sets off to explore their own neighbourhood and everyone takes 10 pictures. Afterwards you can all compare.

Alternatively, a photography course is also an option, but only from the age of six years on. – dpa

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