A version of this post appeared on the Just Photos By Me blog earlier in the year.
When DorkySon turned four, back in March, one of the presents we bought him was a camera. He had been showing an interest in my camera for a year or so prior to that, but it’s a heavy DSLR and he isn’t really strong or careful enough yet to use it without supervision. So we decided to get him one of his own – something that we’d be happy to let him loose with unsupervised. Photography is one of those things where I believe you learn best by messing around and making your own mistakes, so I wanted something that would be easy for him to use and wouldn’t necessitate me hovering over his shoulder the entire time.
We settled on a VTech Kiddizoom. It is not perfect, by any means. I wish it only took photos, rather than having all the games and clipart nonsense included, and I wish the picture quality were better, but as a starter camera – something to use while DorkySon decides whether he’s really interested in photography or not – it is fine. It is chunky enough that he can hold it and use the controls himself. It has been dropped and clunked into things once or twice and seems to have survived.
He took to it with great enthusiasm. We went through three sets of batteries in the first week because he was using it constantly, and it provided a fascinating insight into the things that matter to him. He spent hours poking the house, searching through his boxes of toys and books, looking for interesting things to take photos of. Like me with my macro lens, he seemed to like zooming in and capturing fine details – the pattern on an oven glove, the fringe of a rug, or the face of a Playmobil man.
Very occasionally he would capture something that was really, genuinely very good – when we visited Hobart for the first time, he took a photo of a statue that was much better than my own shot, because his height meant that it was silhouetted against the sky and looked very dramatic.
As with any new present, there were some downsides too. A walk in the park that had previously taken ten minutes started taking three hours as he stopped to take photos of every bird, bee and bush that we passed. He had to be told quite sternly on more than one occasion that taking photos of people in the shower is NOT ON! And, even fully clothed, it has not been good for my ego. He has not yet grasped the concept of ‘kind’ photography, and seems to specialise in horrifying close-ups of my squint teeth, double chin and wild hair.
It’s now six months since he unwrapped that camera, and the novelty hasn’t worn off yet. DorkySon still gets a lot of pleasure from taking photos. He has also developed a very endearing habit of taking imaginary photos if we’re out without a camera and he sees something interesting – he’ll hold his hands up in front of his face, push his finger down and make the shutter sound himself, as though he’s storing the image in his mind.
Like me, though, he is pretty unimpressed with the quality of the photos that the VTech can produce. He complains about how dark they are, or alternatively how blown out, and about how little he can fit into the frame.
Since we’ve moved, I have an old iPhone that has become redundant, and I’ve been considering just giving him that to use instead. It seems like a good bridge between the Kiddizoom and a full-on digital camera, and has the huge advantage that I can stick it in a case, to protect against drops or spillages. If I leave on one or two of the photography apps, like Vintage Cam or Camera+ then it’ll also give him an opportunity to play around with some more serious photo editing, rather than just the silliness of clipart and cartoons.
I’d be really interested to know what other people have done to nurture an interest in photography with their children – and any recommendations you have.