Sometimes technology can take over kids’ lives to the point where they don’t get enough healthy nature connection.
Through nature photography, we can harness that obsession with gadgets and pair it with a natural fascination with the more-than-human world.
And while having a quality camera can definitely give a leg up, any old camera phone or point and shoot camera can create interesting photos. Just use whatever you have on hand.
The best way to get kids excited about nature photography is simply to get outside and do it. Stationary or slow-moving subjects work best for young photographers at first. Trees, plants, flowers and landscapes are all great subjects to start with. After making sure the camera lens is clean, take lots of photos — you can always delete them later!
Insects are a great next step. They are everywhere, and if they fly or hop away, there is always another around the corner. Look closely at flower heads, on the bark of trees, and under leaves. Butterflies are a special favorite.
If children are interested in wildlife photography, knowing and understanding the subject can lead to much better photos. Understanding behavior means knowing when and where to find a certain animal, creating more opportunities for a good shot. Resources like iNaturalist.org, bugguide.net and birds.cornell.edu can help children study more about the animals they want to photograph.
Photography can help kids develop patience and slow, steady movement too. They may want to get closer to an insect for a shot, so they will have to practice approaching slowly so as not to frighten it. They will also have to keep a steady hand to capture a shot that isn’t blurry. To reduce camera blur, have children practice taking a breath and letting it out slowly, taking the photo in the stillness at the end of the breath.
Here’s a challenge — head out to a local park or trail with your child. Have them pick a spot to sit, like a park bench or beside the trail. Now, challenge them to sit there for a few minutes — 2 or 3 minutes for younger kids and 10 to 15 for older kids — before taking any photos. Ask them if they took different photos than they would have if they were just passing through.
Have kids take photos with different lighting. Head out in the morning or the evening for the best light. In the middle of the day, the sun can be too harsh, and the shadows too dark. If the sun is shining brightly, make sure to keep it behind or to the side of the photographer. Shooting into the sun can make the subject backlit or cause a glare in the camera. If there’s no avoiding mid-day photography, try using the flash, which can fill in some of the shadows and give the subject more detail.
Kids can also practice making interesting composition. Often, the instinct when taking photos is to put the subject right in the middle of the photo. Instead, move the camera so the subject is off to one side. Pay attention to what is in the foreground (close to the camera), background (far away from the camera) and the middle distance.
Finally, practice taking the photograph from a different angle. If the subject is an insect, try to photograph from the insect’s eye level. Crouch down on the ground for a shot up through some leaves. Climb a bench for an overhead shot. Be creative!