boy taking a photograph in the outdoors

Due to ongoing COVID-19 preventative measures, many day camps and summer programs for kids have been canceled this year. That means a lot of parents are looking for ways to keep their kids entertained and engaged over the summer months. One solution: Teach your kids about photography!

Little boy taking a photo with a DSLR camera

Little boy taking a photo with a DSLR camera

With just a little bit of planning, you can create a photography camp for your kids right at home. It’s not just something to do in what might be a long summer without a lot of activities; it’s a great way to spend time together as a family. You’re sharing one of your interests with your kids; it will get them outdoors; and it will keep them learning new things. And if you’ve already got the gear, it won’t cost you a dime!

We’ll focus mainly on ideas for pre-teen kids, but you shouldn’t have much difficulty adapting the following for teenagers. In addition, today we’ll focus on still photography, but if you have a budding social media star at home, keep your eyes peeled: we have some great tips on teaching your kids about shooting video, including mobile video for social media, coming your way soon as well.

Setting up Your Summer Photography Camp

To set up a fun summer photography camp for your kids, you don’t have to have a rigid daily schedule or a certain number of tasks you want your kids to complete. You don’t want summertime to feel too much like school, after all! You want it to be fun. Nevertheless, having a rough idea of the things you want to teach your kids, the activities you want to do and the goals you want to reach will help everyone keep on track.

Get started by writing out a list of topics, and a list of activities for your kids to shoot photos based on that topic. Then, create a rough schedule to tackle them all.

Little girl holding a Fujifilm Instax instant camera

Little girl holding a Fujifilm Instax Mini 9 instant camera

For example:
Topic: How to hold a camera
Goal: Ensure photos are straight, and not blurry
Activities: Take five photographs of objects around the house that are straight; take five photographs of local houses or buildings that are straight and steady.

Photography Summer Camp Topics

Thinking about all of the things you need to learn to become a great photographer can be pretty overwhelming. Remember that although you’re “teaching photography” to your kids, your goal isn’t to turn them into expert photographers overnight: you just want them to have some fun and help them take better photos.

With that in mind, the following topics and four-week schedule are a good starting point for teaching your kids photography this summer. If you’re an avid photographer and have already shared your hobby with your kids, they might already know some of the following! This isn’t meant to be an exhaustive list, and you can take or add topics that make sense for you and your family.

Week 1

Week 2

  • Different lenses, and what they’re used for
  • The importance of light
  • Understanding ISO, aperture and shutter speed
  • The rule of thirds
  • Basics of composition, including filling the frame and using negative space

Beyond the ins and outs of the camera itself, be sure to talk about more subjective ideas such as creativity, choosing subjects, and storytelling. Encourage your kids to think about photography as an expression of themselves, and talk about what they want to shoot and why.

And once your kids have an understanding of how a camera works, you can talk about specific situations and types of photography. These ideas can be filtered in with the above topics, or you can extend your schedule further:

Little girl photographing outdoors

Little girl photographing outdoors

Week 3

Week 4

Of course, none of the above is going to be much fun if you’re not out there taking photos!

Photography Summer Camp Activities

Talking about how a camera works and different types of photography is only going to hold an 11-year-old’s attention for so long. That means for every topic above, you need plenty of “get out there and shoot” activities!

You can mix and match most of the following activities with the topics above. For example, if the topic is the rule of thirds, your kids can shoot photos of their toys or their siblings, with the goal of ensuring their subjects intersect with a gridline.

Little boy playing with lego

Idea: Take a photo while your sibling is playing

  • Take photographs of your favourite toys
  • Take portraits of your siblings or parents
  • Take photos of your pets
  • Tell a story in three photos, five photos and 10 photos
  • Use depth of field to blur a background
  • Find 10 interesting things in the local park to shoot
  • Photograph a still object with at maximum zoom, and by moving closer
  • Take photos with backlight and fill light
  • Take photos in low light using different ISO and aperture settings
  • Photograph a single object from different angles/levels
  • Photograph moving objects such as cars or bikes
  • Use buildings and architecture to experiment with lines and angles
Girl taking a photo of her dog

Girl taking a photo of her dog

During all of these activities, encourage your kids to take plenty of photographs. Remind them that not every shot has to be perfect; if they don’t get the first shot, try again as many times as they need, and review later to see what works and what doesn’t.

Reviewing Summer Camp Photographs

After your kids have taken their photos during any particular activity, sit down together at the computer and review them. Ask them to tell you what they like or don’t like about their shots, what they think works and why. Be encouraging and constructive, and allow them to see areas for improvement.

You can also use this time to look at other photographs with your kids; either your own, or famous photos, or even just random photos from Google images, and ask them about the composition, lighting and angles that draw their attention.

Finally, this is also a good opportunity to teach your kids not to keep every photo they take; too many of us end up with endless folders of photos that look entirely alike, making it difficult for us to find and sort photos later. Teach them to review their shots, keep the winners and discard the rest!

Do Your Kids Need a Camera for Summer Camp?

You can teach your kids photography basics using any camera you have, or even with their (or your) smartphone. However, if you think they’re ready for their own camera, either before camp or as a gift for completing the camp, there are many compact, durable and affordable options that make sense for kids.

A point-and-shoot camera, rather than one with interchangeable lenses, is probably your best starting point. The Nikon Coolpix W150 shoots 13MP images and is both rugged and waterproof, with large, easy-to use buttons; it also features a 3x optical zoom and is available in multiple colors.

If you think your kids are ready to move up a level, you can go for the Olympus Tough TG-6, which is similarly durable (dustproof, shockproof, freezeproof, waterproof up to 50 feet) and colorful, but also features a macro lens, has a 4x optical zoom and an 8x digital zoom and shoots 4K video as well.

And if you do want to introduce your kids to a model of their own with interchangeable lenses, the Canon EOS Rebel T7 is an affordable entry point. It’s easy to use, with a fast autofocus system, and features a 24MP sensor and built-in wi-fi to share pictures quickly. It also comes with a Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6lens to help your kids get started.

Get Your Kids Excited About Photography Summer Camp at Home!

Remember to frame this “photography camp at home” idea as something fun and active, rather than a learning experience (even though it is that); if you do, your kids might feel like they’re in a classroom or that you’re taking away their summer vacation!

Toddler using a camera

It’s never too early to get them interested in photography!

Rather than learning the “rules” of great photography, focus on having fun, being creative, experimenting, taking lots of shots in lots of different ways and seeing the results.

What’s Next:

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