Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Ten Tips for a Camera Safari and a Photo Contest for Kids

Taking photographs encourages kids to focus on the world in new ways, develop their ability to observe, and see the world from different perspectives. In other words, taking pictures encourages kids to be creative and strengthen several core thinking skills (focus and observation to name just two.)

Viewing photographs, in their infinite variety of images and colors, inspires kids to try to capture, save and share their vision of the world.

In my course for teachers and mentors one of the most popular assignments is a Photo Safari, a project that encourages students to share their world in a visual way by taking pictures of people and places in their community. This experience can have amazing results - for the photographers and for the viewers.

All it requires is access to a digital camera, and the technical ability to move the images from the camera to a computer. There are endless possibilities for sharing the photos you take, but that's another post.

One more thing that will help, is knowing a few tips you can use that will result in a better photo. Thanks to photographer and videographer John Waller for the great suggestions included below.

Waller is the originator of the Photo of the Year (POTY) contest, a fundraising event since 2002 that has raised thousands of dollars for the MESD Outdoor School Program. Over the years this great contest has expanded in many ways. It now includes a category for entries from photographers under 18.

About the contest:
Youth: Any students out there with a strong attachment to your digital camera? This category is for photos taken by those 18 and under. Use that youthful imagination and make your mom proud. TEACHERS, say it with us, "Hmm...Photo of the Year...what a great addition to my curriculum...I should email the folks at POTY about submitting photos as a class!"

For more information, and to enter your kids' work, click here.

I hope you will take some time to visit the website, view the amazing outdoor photos, and share them with the kids your work with. Then, encourage them to grab a camera, head outdoors, and see what develops. And, please share your photos and experiences here - (photos can be posted to this blog - ask me how! Just post a comment at the end of this post and I will provide a How-to)

Ten Tips for Better Photographs

1. Be in the right place at the right time. Get out there, look around, and take your camera. It is tough to take great photographs if even one of those actions is missing.

2. Take lots of pictures. Digital photography has opened up a world of possibility to the amateur photographer because now you can instantly review your pictures. Adjust your settings, try different angles, or capture the action at different moments. The more photographs you take, the more likely you are to get a great shot. But remember what worked and what didn't and apply this new understanding when you take the next picture.

3. Watch the sun. The best times to take pictures are usually early in the morning and early evening; the worst time is generally midday, when light it most harsh.

4. Flash away. Just because you are outdoors doesn't mean you should put away your flash. Subjects in shadow can appear much too dark when compared to a bright sunny backdrop. When using your flash outdoors, the camera exposes the background first, then adds in the flash to illuminate your subject.

5. Get close up. Investigate the world around you in finer detail and you will discover a wealth of photo opportunities right at your feet. Most cameras have a macro mode that make getting those close up shots of insects and flowers a snap. Or when you are shooting action, zoom in so we can see the beads of sweat on an athlete's forehead.

6. Anticipate what is going to happen. To take a great outdoor action shot, you need to prepare for it in advance. What might happen, what would be the best angle, and are your settings appropriate? Then when your buddy cuts a sweet turn on their skies down the mountain, you'll be there to take the picture.

7. Use a tripod for low light. Those sweet sunsets, or moonrises, or starry night shots can be really sweet pictures if they are sharp and crisp. But a tripod is necessary because even the slightest shiver or tremble from a hand-held camera can cause the scene to blur.

8. The rule of thirds. This time tested rule tells us that we should not put the horizon line in the middle of the shot, but rather drop it to the bottom third or the top third depending on what meaning you want to convey. A low horizon conveys a sense of open, vast airiness, and a high horizon instills a sense that the land is the dominant force. The same is true for framing people.

9. Get a sense of perspective. Sometimes having a person in your scenic picture really impresses how big those mountains, or that cliff, or waterfall, or landscape really is.

10. Get creative. There are a lot of predictable photographs out there. The unconventional photographs really grab people's attention.

Play around with angles and settings and HAVE FUN!