Thursday, October 18, 2012

Photography for Children

One of my methods for saving money right now is to write my own curriculum.  So far, I've put together a PE curriculum (here) for this year and two literature units for 4th/5th grade (email me if you're interested and I'd be glad to share them).  I'm starting work on a photography curriculum.  The curriculum I'm working on is for ages 6-8 or 9 years old.  It's the very basics of using a digital camera. When I'm done, I'll post my basic outline on this site.  In a year or two, we're going to do another quarter of curriculum and then in a few years after that another quarter.  There's so much to learn when it comes to photography.  

There are two books that have been awesome tools for me.  One book helped me break down the basics that I need to teach my children this year and the second book will come into play more after they learn the basics.  The second book actually has helped me a lot in my own photography.  It's easier to read and more simply written than an adult photography book.  This book is titled the 4-H Guide to Digital Photography.  It is written by Daniel Johnson.  It is perfect for anyone in grades 6 or 7 on up.  This book covers and talks about both point and shoot and DSLRs.  The other book that helped me condense and figure out what I need to teach my children was DK's Digital Photo Magic.  

To teach photography to elementary children, I'd start with DK's book (which is $4 including shipping and handling used on Amazon).  Take one lesson at a time.  The smaller the amount of info, the better.  The most important thing is practice.  Explain a concept to your child.  Show them by example what you're talking bout.  Then let them practice--a lot.  Don't rush.  The practice is what will improve their skills.  Upload the pictures periodically during your practice so they can see the pictures better.  Google's Picasa program is an easy editing software that is free and easy to use.  

For middle school students and older who know the basics of how to use a digital camera, I'd start with the 4-H Guide to Digital Photography.  One of the first things I look for in a photography guide is whether I like the photographer's pictures.  In this case, I definitely do.  Mr. Johnson includes great examples of the concepts he is talking about in the book.  He covers all of the basics and then some.  It's simple enough for a beginning photographer, but reviews the basics well for people and students who've dabbled in photography already.  I'd still start with identifying the parts of the camera and then turning it on and off (Chapter 1).  I have to admit that I didn't pick up the manual for the first year I owned my DSLR and I was completely unaware of how to really use my camera.  So, no matter how much a student thinks he or she knows, I think it's good to review the basics to begin with.  When I use this book with my children in a few years, my plan is to take each chapter and write out a brief assignment.  That assignment will be for the student to explain the major concepts of the chapter and illustrate what that means by showing me at least two pictures--one that uses the information from the lesson (taken after the lesson) and one that doesn't (taken before reading the chapter).  Preferably, I'd have a student pick three subjects and go out and take 3 pictures.  Then, the student would read the chapter and take 3 new pictures of the same subject using what they know.  Then, we'd look at them and discuss them together.  There is a lot of vocabulary in this book and I would also ask my students to keep a vocabulary notebook with the terms and their meanings written in their own words.  Still, photography is a class that is less about reading and writing and rather more about doing.  So, I would recommend previewing each chapter and dividing it into section.  Practice one concept at a time.  Sometimes it's too complicated to do everything at once.  

For middle schoolers and high schoolers interested in dabbling in photography, I think Mr. Johnson's book is a great place to start.  As for the question of whether a student should use a point and shoot or a DSLR--  if you have a point and shoot, then start with that.  You'd be surprised at how many different features it has when you look at the manual and all of the settings that you can adjust.  Then, if a student is really interested in photography, get a DSLR. A basic DSLR will start at about $500.  I'd go with Canon or Nikon because they are the major brands and usually you stick with one brand over time.  I'm a Canon person.  

If you only want to purchase one book, I'd get the 4-H Guide to Digital Photography.  At $13 on Amazon, it isn't priced too badly and it won't take up too much space on your shelf. I'm much more conscious of this these days as I need to have materials on our bookshelf for three homeschooling students.  

These websites give a quick list of what to teach them:
None of these are homeschooling sites.  I'd pick the middle one.  Use those 13 lessons and teach one for a week or longer.  Give your student plenty of time to practice before moving on.  Use the 4-H Guide by Johnson to give you the background knowledge you need and the websites to succinctly list what you want to teach them.  

So, that's my plan.  In case you're interested, my plan is to post my outline of our photography course by Christmas since we're going to be starting photography in January.  

Please note that I did receive a complimentary copy of the 4-H Guide to Digital Photography for review from Voyageur Press.  

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