Family Day is coming up and if you live in an area that’s been plagued by the never-ending polar vortex, your kids are probably as squirrelly as mine. Are you (like us) running out of ideas on how to keep them entertained? Why not teach them about photography? You’d be surprised how much they love it and how creative their pictures can be.
I know what you’re thinking: I can’t possibly let my kids use my camera. What if they drop it? What if they put their fingers on the lens? What if they break it?
I’ve discovered that, if you sit down and have a conversation with your kids, explain how the camera works and talk about the importance of being careful, kids understand. Don’t get me wrong, I won’t leave my 3-year-old unsupervised with any camera (except for the indestructible kid version), but my 5-year-old is very responsible with the point-and-shoot. Still uncomfortable? You can always hold the camera while they click the shutter.
So now that they’re hooked on photography, what do you do? Photo scavenger hunts are a fun way to get kids into taking pictures, since it provides them with suggestions for subjects.
My smallest one has no interest whatsoever in learning her letters at the moment and she refuses to work on anything that resembles letters. A fun (and sneaky) way to help her learn her letters AND spark her interest in photography is to create a scavenger hunt based on the ABCs! It’s simple: have your child find an object (around the house or outside) for each letter of the alphabet, and let them (help you) take the picture.
Upload the photos to your computer, and using Photoshop, Word, or PicMonkey (which is a free online service) you can add text directly to those photos before printing them out, like this:
To finish the project off, I usually put two pictures on a page of letter-sized paper in Word (use the Insert>Photo command from the menu) and then print them out on regular paper. (Kids never notice the quality difference and you'll save on photo paper and ink if you print in draft mode.) Cut the pages in half, add a blank piece to the front, and staple on the left hand side. Let them decorate the cover and they now have their own book of letters!
Photo scavenger hunts can be an inside or an outside activity. You can pick a theme of colours or numbers, seasonal or holiday-related. They’re not just for the preschool and kindergarten set, either.
For older children, think about one-word prompts such as, “bright” or “sweet” and see where their imagination takes them; you might be pleasantly surprised.
But what about photography that is not beauty-related?
Narciso Contreras shared the 2013 Pulitzer Prize in Photography (Breaking News) for his photographic coverage of the war in Syria for the Associated Press. The photos from Contreras and other staff at the Associated Press, including the one at the top of this post, were honoured for "compelling coverage of the civil war in Syria, producing memorable images under extreme hazard."
However, Mr. Contreras is now no longer working for the Associated Press, as they discovered that he recently altered one of his images. As you can see from the image comparison below, Mr. Contreras removed or cloned out a video camera from his image:
A simple, innocuous removal that, in this case, doesn't change the impact of the picture. Mr. Contreras indicated that (while fully assuming blame for his actions) he felt the video camera might distract the viewer. You could argue that it doesn't really make a difference.
Regardless of how innocuous the edit, I applaud the Associated Press' actions and their zero tolerance policy. It is so very easy for pictures to be altered in a way that the viewer is unaware. Photographs are subjective sources of evidence as it is—the angle the photo was taken from, the lighting, the photographer's choice of subject—and it's imperative that our news outlets maintain accuracy in the photographs that they publish. (It should be noted that news sources do allow photographers to lighten or darken pictures to accurately display the scene that they viewed.)
I feel for Mr. Contreras—the standard by which photographs are judged are almost impossibly high. The quest for the clean, uncluttered photograph is so much easier for the armchair photographer and those non-journalistic professionals who are free to use any effects in finishing their art. In a war zone? I can't imagine the stress of trying to convey a scene fairly, searching for the perfect shot while trying to stay alive.
It should be noted that the Associated Press reviewed all 496 photographs that were submitted by Mr. Contreras to the organization during his time there. This photograph was the only one that was altered.
What do you think? Was the Associated Press right to end its relationship with Mr. Contreras and remove all of his images from their catalogue? What if beauty magazines held themselves to the same standard?
Photos Narciso Contreras/Associated Press
Did you ever look at a photograph and wonder how they captured that soft, serene light? Have you been on vacation and wondered why, when you get home, your pictures don’t have the same dreamy quality that you saw when researching your trip? No matter what camera you use, there’s an easy way to take great photos in natural light and get that warm glow—use the golden hours.
In photography, the golden hours generally refer to the hour immediately after sunrise and immediately before sunset. Now, the “hour” concept can be a bit flexible, as what we are really talking about is how close the sun is to the horizon. This will vary depending on where you live (or are visiting). The goal is to take photographs when the light isn’t harsh, and sunlight gets harsh VERY quickly.
You know those beautiful pictures of famous locations without any tourists in them? Chances are they were taken just after sunrise. I know it may sound wrong to get up extra early on vacation, the reward is often an uncluttered (or less cluttered) location.
Here are five tips to shooting during the golden hours:
Determine when sunrise and sunset actually occur
I use Time and Date. You can search for any location in the world, and they have a “Sun and Moon” tab that provides sunrise and sunset times.
Check out your location in advance
You need to do the legwork. Frame your shot the day before and figure out where the best place to set up will be. See what the light actually does in that precise spot.
While this is easy to do if it’s a location close to home, if you’re on a once-in-a-lifetime trip, do some research before you leave. The online photography community is wonderful, and many people who post on Flickr or 500px will give GPS co-ordinates or directions to where they took that spectacular shot. (They will often post their EXIF data, so if you’re still new to photography, this can give you an indication of what settings you might need to use.)
If you’re shooting in the morning, it may be dark when you’re getting ready, so it’s good to know where you’re going. If you’re shooting late in the day, the light goes very quickly. You don’t want to waste time finding the right place to set up.
Prepare your gear
Charge your battery and format your memory card (but make sure you’ve downloaded your images first). Have your camera bag packed and by the door beside your tripod. (Whether you are shooting at dawn or at dusk, there won’t be a lot of light. You will probably need a tripod to compensate for the low shutter speed you’ll need to exposure the photograph properly.) Pack a flashlight!
Be ready to click that shutter at least 20 minutes before you think the light will be perfect. If it takes you 20 minutes to set up, then you need to arrive 40 minutes early.
Shoot and Enjoy
Take as many photos as you can! As beautiful as the image you make may be, take a moment to look away from the viewfinder and enjoy the view.