It happened again. You grab your phone and notice that your child has just taken a million pictures with it. Your storage space is shrinking. Some of the pictures are blurry. Most aren’t centered. And you wonder why she even wanted to take a picture of yet another Lego creation…or the insect she caught crawling on the lawn. You quietly remind yourself that it’s okay because most of the photos can be erased, or at least uploaded to a file on your computer. But…you want to harness this passion and teach her a few photography tips. This fun photography lesson for kids might just spark life in your budding photographer.
Harnessing Creative Juices
In this day and age with almost all cell phones doubling as a camera, our kids have access to photography at their fingertips. And with all things digital they get instant access to feedback and satisfaction from their newest shot. Why not harness those creative juices and teach them a little photography through art?
If your kids are young, you don’t need to invest in some crazy expensive camera and teach them f-stops. I mean most of us adults don’t even know what that means, right?
So grab your kids and your phone, because this art project incorporates a fun photography lesson they’ll love and you’ll both learn from.
Art History: Margaret Bourke-White, Child Photographer
A great way to start your lesson is with a little art history discussion on Margaret Bourke-White. She grew up in the early 1900s and as a kid always pretended to take pictures with an empty box. (You might want to show some pictures of what cameras looked like 100 years ago!) Margaret grew up watching her father whose hobby was photography. Her own enthusiasm was kindled by his as she learned his techniques and perspective. By the time she entered college, she had her own professional career. In 1929, Bourke-White became one of the first photographers for Time Magazine, and as a result, her career took her all over the world.
Through her photography of simple, everyday places like houses, skyscrapers, and steel mills, Bourke-White brought to life details that were never before noticed. An old building suddenly looked interesting. A broken fence created the perfect background for wildflowers. What was once ordinary, became something of beauty.
Bourke-White used sunlight and shadows to affect the mood and beauty of her pictures.
Both sunlight and shadows will have an impact on the project your kids make as well. They too will use ordinary objects and turn them into something fun and beautiful.
Photography Lesson for Kids – ABC Photography
In this lesson, young artists will take one picture of every letter in their name, keeping in mind what they learned from Margaret Bourke-White. Here are the simple materials needed:
- Camera – cell phone or digital camera, even disposable cardboard ones will work too!
- Glue stick or tape
- Glossy Photo Paper
- Thick poster board, wood, or cardboard
- Yarn or ribbon (optional)
- Glitter or stickers (optional decorations)
-Begin by taking a walk on a sunny afternoon with a camera in hand. An outdoor mall offers a perfect canvas for this project. Look around for letters on trucks, signs, license plates, storefronts, marquees, even in nature, or architecture!
-Have each child hunt for letters in his/her name. Encourage them to experiment. What happens if a letter is way up high on a building? Is it better if it is at eye-level? How do shadows impact the photograph? What type of light turns out best? Does it work to take a picture through a window? What happens if hands are shaky? How can they steady the camera? One of the best parts of the digital age is that we can instantly see the picture we take, which helps us know how to tweak the next photo. Let your kids learn from their mistakes and help them think about how to improve the shots they take next.
(Here are some letters we photographed.)
-Teach your kids about framing the letters. Make sure they are centered and as big as they can be on your phone or camera’s viewfinder. (Little ones may need help with this.)
– Be safe! Keep them aware of their surroundings: street, cars, curbs, and people all around.
-Once you have a picture of each letter of every person’s name, head back home to upload them to your computer. If you can, print the pictures off from your computer onto glossy photo paper. If not, order them online.
-When you have the pictures in hand, have your kids tape or glue them to a piece of sturdy poster board, wood, or cardboard. Let your kids play around with the sizing. How can they fit all the letters in the background? Do they need to cut out some of the letters in order to make them fit? Or do they work better if left in the whole photo? This is a good problem-solving exercise!
-Tie a piece of yarn or ribbon on the sides of the cardboard or poster board so the name plaque can hang like a poster in their room. Or lean a wooden plaque against a wall.
-An optional but cute finishing touch is to let them decorate their name plaque with glitter, stickers, or other collage items if space allows.
Instead of or in addition to their name, have your kids find letters to something they are studying. For example, since we are learning about pinnipeds and sea cows this week in science, my kids chose to find letters for seal, sea lion, walrus, manatee, and dugong. By doing so, you can incorporate science or history into art and photography!
This simple photography lesson was such fun, and who knows, maybe what they learned will show up the next time my kids grab my phone to take a picture of whatever grabs their attention 🙂
The following are some additional fun and simple art projects for kids:
- Easy Dolphin Art Project that Will Bring Science to Life
- Teaching Pointillism to Kids: A Fun and Easy Homeschool Art Lesson
- Art Project on Heaven: A Simple but Meaningful Art Lesson
I created this fun art activity based on the book Discovering Great Artists by MaryAnn Kohl and Kim Solga. In it, they share some great art projects for families to enjoy. Give some of these ideas a try – and take heart the next time you hear your shutter clicking away.
I hope you and your kids enjoy this fun photography lesson. If you do, sign up to receive my emails and you will get more freebies to add to your homeschool!