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Teaching kids to take better travel photos

Nearly everyone has a digital camera these days. They've gotten so inexpensive that there’s hardly any barrier to bringing up a budding photographer. With photo tours in many cities — even in national parks — there are many opportunities to teach children how to take good digital photos, giving them a greater appreciation of their surroundings, particularly when they travel.

“Kids see the world from an entirely different perspective than adults do, and the shots they get are very different from what we get from our higher vantage points,” says Jody Halsted, editor of Family Rambling, a family travel blog. She also noted that simply stepping back and letting kids shoot is an easy way to further a child’s interest in photography and encourage better photos.

With digital cameras, kids can’t take too many pictures. Encourage your children to experiment and have fun. Shoot subjects from different perspectives. Have them get high, get low, get up close, step back, even if you know the shots won’t look great. “Bad shots are learning tools. They open the door to sharing tips on how to compose better shots,” says Jacquie Whitt, an adventure travel guide.

To help young shutterbugs take their best travel shots, here are some top tips from the pros:

Buy a camera just for your child
Kids don’t need expensive cameras. A point-and-shoot is best. Kids can be spontaneous, so a camera that’s ready to go when they are is ideal.

Pre-plan your shots
Talk to your child about where you are traveling and what might be seen. Get him or her excited about the potential photo opps. Don’t be afraid to point out shots, but allow your child to make each photo opportunity their own.

Find a point of interest
Teach your child to identify a point of interest before taking a picture. Once this focal point is identified, he or she can then think about how to highlight it through positioning, using zoom, etc.

Talk about lighting
For outdoor photos, take photos in the early-morning or late-afternoon when the sun’s light is softer. “Teach kids that the sun’s light changes throughout the day and that it can affect their photos. It gives them a new appreciation for something they probably took for granted before,” says James Kaiser, a professional photographer and author of travel guidebooks for national parks.

Know the Rule of Thirds
The Rule of Thirds is the basis for well-balanced and interesting shots. Imagine breaking an image into thirds so that there are nine parts. Have your child place points of interest on the intersections or along the lines so that photos become more balanced and enable viewers to interact with images more naturally.

Get the right balance
Help your child establish a balance between photographing people, things and places so he or she can better experience a new location. By learning how to shoot all types of images, kids become more aware of their surroundings and how photography changes depending on the subject.

Set a theme
Encourage your child to create a themed photo gallery of their trip. Suggest that subjects pose the same way in a series of photos taken in different locations. This encourages your child to print and organize photos at home.

Review photos with your child
As you scroll through shots on a computer or iPad, pause to talk with your child about what he or she did well and point out things that could be done better next time to improve results. Positive reinforcement can provide a child with the inspiration to keep going with this hobby.

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