My granddaughter is a pistol. The smart 6-year-old has the vocabulary—and sometimes the attitude—of a teenager. Her parents bought her a digital camera for her sixth birthday. My heart swelled with pride as I watched her carefully compose and move closer to her cat while making a picture.
“Wow, a real natural,” I thought.
After proudly showing me her new camera, she wanted to take my picture. I noticed how she jammed the shutter button when shooting, as if trying to shove a tack in a wall. We were indoors and in relatively low light, so I knew the camera’s automatic exposure would slow the shutter to compensate. The slightest camera movement would result in motion blur in her pictures.
After she showed me what she had shot, I pulled her close and explained that if she gently pushed the shutter button instead of jamming it, her camera wouldn’t move and her pictures would be sharper. Her feelings hurt, she took the camera from me, stood back and said, “It’s my camera. I know how to use it!”
I did notice the next time she made a picture she looked at her finger and pressed the shutter more gently, as I had demonstrated.
There are many lessons here, the greatest being the manner in which we impart knowledge so as to encourage, not discourage those just learning. I was gentle and patient, but I could have used a little psychology and asked her if she could try a different way of shooting, gently pressing the shutter as if tickling butterfly wings.
Let a child between the ages of 4 and 7 use your camera to make a picture. First, demonstrate how to hold the camera and frame the picture. Then, allow them to decide what they would like to photograph. Ask them what they like or what they think is pretty. The magic of photography starts early if you allow it. As it did for me, it just might become a life-changing voice that helps them navigate life.
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