10 Common Photography Mistakes Kids Make

Teaching photography to your kids can be an exciting experience. Your kids attempt their first steps in the incredible world of photography, practice their art skills, and enjoy playing with this fun “toy” called a camera, while you get a great opportunity to spend more quality time with them, and to learn how they see the world. The pictures your kids take reflect their interests, views, and inner world.

mistakes kids make in photography

Until they master their capabilities, kids make a lot of mistakes. When they learn to read, when they learn to ride their bike, and obviously when they practice photography. Since kids are kids, many of these mistakes are cute and funny. At the same time, any mistake is an opportunity to learn, improve, and advance. Most importantly, all of these mistakes can be minimized by your attention, teaching, and practice.

Before diving into the common kids’ photography mistakes list, it should be noted that any learning exercise begins and ends in observing and giving feedback. If you don’t look at your kid while they’re practicing, it will harder for you to notice what they are doing and where they can improve. Having said that, here are three key principles to keep in mind:

  • Look at your kid before, throughout, and after they press the shutter button.
  • Give immediate feedback. If it has to do with how the camera is held or handled, show your kid the right way before they repeat the mistake. If the mistake has to do with their photography technique, review the photo together and provide feedback. (If it’s a digital camera, use the camera’s display or your computer screen to review it. If it’s a Polaroid camera, wait until the picture is fully developed.) Don’t rush to take one shot directly after the other without reviewing the outcome.
  • Apply the right approach. You’re interested in your kid learning and progressing, right? You don’t want them to put down their camera and never use it again. Also, don’t forget how you were once a kid and didn’t like to hear your parents criticizing you. So, do it properly. Be energetic and empowering. It’s not a punishment; it should be fun.

Here are 10 common photography mistakes kids make and how you can help your kids avoid them:

1. Dropping the Camera

holding a camera properly

Maybe one of the most common things kids inevitably do is drop things. It may a glass of water, a fragile toy you just bought them, or a camera. So besides asking your kids to watch their stuff, there are a couple of steps you can take to avoid such cases.

Use the strap. Most cameras have straps that can be worn either around the neck or the wrist. At the beginning of any photography exercise, before taking any shot, ask your kid to put on the strap.

Hold the camera properly. There’s a place for their right hand and left hand and a place for the finger which presses the shutter button. Show your kid the right way to hold the camera and practice. Also, note that some cameras, especially toy cameras and kids’ Polaroid cameras, have hand grips for children.

2. Covering the Lens While Shooting

Remember that strap we just recommended using in order to save your kid’s camera? Well, you can sometimes tell your kid is implementing this tip, because they add it to the frame—and sometimes it’s not the strap but one of their fingers or the tip of the camera cover.

There are two simple ways to avoid this mistake.

First, teach your kid how to properly hold the camera and how to handle the strap and camera cover, and spend some time practicing.

Second, teach them to take the “last and final look” through the viewfinder or the display before taking the shot. It’s a very important composition habit that your kid should practice in any case, and doing so in order to prevent foreign objects from getting into the frame is one more good reason to instigate this habit.

3. Shutting the Wrong Eye

This mistake is probably more relevant to younger kids who use cameras with a viewfinder (rather than a big display). Not only do they find it hard to put their eye at the right place, but sometimes they also shut the wrong eye (the one looking through the viewfinder) in addition to or instead of the other eye. This mistake can also be solved with some practice. Show your child the right way to use both eyes and let them practice until they feel comfortable with it.

shutting the wrong eye

4. Touching What They’re Not Supposed to Touch

The lens at the front of any camera is the place where the light comes through to create the image. Ask your kid never to put their finger on its external surface. A dirty or damaged lens surface may result in poor quality photos.

If your kid is using a Polaroid camera, teach them to wait patiently until the photo is fully developed. Touching it too early may harm the processing of the image.

5. Holding the Camera Still, Long Before and After Pressing the Shutter Button

Kids tend to do that, mainly because they are being told that holding the camera still is necessary in order to get a sharp photo. It’s hard for them to estimate when they will actually press the button, so they freeze for a few seconds until they feel they can relax (one of the negative results of this unnecessary effort may be them becoming tired and unenergized).

There are two things you can do to avoid that. First, re-emphasize that the only time that matters is when the shutter is open. All thinking and doing that has to do with composition, light, and other photography considerations are performed before actually taking the photo, thus holding the camera still during this period is not necessary. Second, there are a few ways to stabilize the camera that your kid should know and practice.

6. Taking Blurry Photos

A very common phenomenon among kids and beginners. The camera is moving while the shutter is open. If too many of your kid’s photos are blurry, you should probably teach them a few tips on how to stabilize the camera.

Hold the camera close to the body. Preferably, hold the camera with both elbows positioned against the chest or the side of the body. By that, they are letting their body act as a solid base.

Lean your body against a wall. It will further improve the camera’s steadiness.

Following the former tip, you can ask your kids to place their elbows on a table or any other surface, especially if the camera is too heavy for them, and/or if it takes them a lot of time to focus and take the shot (very common among children and beginners).

blurry photos

Same picture taken twice. The photo on the left is blurry; the second photo is vivid.

7. Not Being Close Enough to the Subject

As a parent you probably know that kids find it hard to make their choice when a few alternatives are offered to them. How many times have you asked them to choose between option A and option B, and their initial response was both? The same happens when it comes to taking a photo. What kids tend to do is to try to include as many objects as they can in one frame. And how do they do that? They step back until all of the objects are in.

So this is exactly what we should teach them not to do. They should make a decision. They should decide what the subject is and get close enough before taking the shot.

too far from subject

At the left, a very busy frame with many objects. At the right, the toy palace my daughter wanted to capture.

8. Taking Dark Pictures

“Wherever there is light, one can photograph.”–photographer Alfred Stieglitz, 1864–1946

Light in general, and the light’s magnitude and direction in particular, play a key role in a picture’s quality. There are probably more than a million things you can teach your kid about light and how to consider it as part of taking photos. In this context, however, I’ll focus on dark photos.

There may be a few different reasons for underexposed photos:

  • the sun or any other strong source of light is at the back of the subject
  • the distance between the camera and the subject is too big
  • taking a photo of a dark scene without adding light

The best way to avoid these mistakes is to always look for the light source and magnitude. Ask your kid to tell you where the light is coming from and what impact it may have on the subject. If the subject, for example, has their back to the sun, their face will be dark.

Ask your kid to look at the subject (through the camera’s display or viewfinder) and tell you if it appears dark or light. If the subject looks too dark, discuss your options for adding more light. What about using the camera’s flash, for example? Or applying a longer exposure time? Or adding a light source like a lamp?

underexposed photos

The left picture is taken into the light coming from the window, resulting in a dark snail. The second is the same, with different exposure. The third at the right is the same but with a flash. In both the second and third photos, the snail can be seen better.

9. Taking Photos Without Any Clear Subject

A very common composition mistake. Kids, sometimes, take a picture just to take a picture. And if they’re using your smartphone, you may find 10 or 100 pictures which are more or less the same, without any clear idea of what exactly they were trying to achieve.
A good picture requires good composition, and one of the key composition questions photographers ask themselves is what the subject is. This is exactly what you need to do with your kids to avoid that mistake. Ask them this question before they take the picture, and later on, make sure they ask it by themselves.

10. Not Looking Behind the Subject

This is one of the funniest mistakes kids and beginners make from time to time. I’m talking about all those pictures you’ve seen where the object blends into the background. It may be someone wearing a black shirt standing in front of a dark wall, or an old lady smiling to the camera when something is growing out of her head. In order to avoid these mistakes, checking the background and the foreground of a shot is required. Teach your kid to quickly scan the background and the foreground of an image and look for any distractions that may ruin the photo. This also part of the “last and final look” which was discussed in tip #2.

About the Author:
Dan Barr is a photographer, a parent to two girls, and the founder of KidsCameraGuide.com, a blog all about teaching photography to kids and kids cameras. You can visit Dan at his website www.kidscameraguide.com or connect with him on Facebook or Pinterest.

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