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KIDS TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY

When Alice, nine, travels on family vacations, she brings her own small camera. She shot four rolls of film during a recent two-week trip to Italy. Her favorite subjects: Italy’s ubiquitous cats, pigeons, and landscape and portrait artists.

“While I would be examining a monument, Alice would be focused on a nearby street artist,” says her mother, Jennifer Kirkpatrick, a producer for nationalgeographic.com. "And I think that came across really well—that Italy is living art."

Photography is a great activity to keep children occupied during trips. Taking pictures is fun, and it helps kids remember the places they’ve been.

While traveling in the Dominican Republic with her parents, Alice often met other children. She would share candy and “then she’d say, ‘Oh, I’m going to take your picture!’ in Spanish or English,” says her mother. “She’s gotten some great pictures of other children.”

Photography engages children in a trip, explains Richard Nowitz, a Washington, D.C.-area professional photographer and father of two. “It gets them involved,” he says. “Suddenly they want to see and experience things on a different level, because they want to document their trip.”

Choosing Camera Equipment for Kids

Ask Richard Nowitz which cameras are best for kids and he doesn’t miss a beat: “Cheap ones! It’s a very sad day when you drop a [U.S.] $1,000 camera,” he says. “You can take great pictures with simple cameras. It’s not about equipment. The issue is seeing and helping [children] see.”

Jennifer Kirkpatrick buys waterproof disposable cameras (like the Kodak Max Waterproof Camera and the Fujicolor Quicksnap Waterproof 800) for her daughter Alice. Experience has proven these cameras can endure mishaps big and small, from overturned sea kayaks to spilled sodas. “They can’t be destroyed,” says Kirkpatrick.

Exercising a little oversight, parents can also share their own camera. U.S. News & World Report photographer Jeff McMillan lets his two sons, ages seven and ten, snap pictures with his. Allowing them to see and photograph birds through his telephoto lens is exciting.

“I wish I could tell you that they’re the next Time Life Photographer of the Year,” says McMillan. “But their pictures are pretty fuzzy.” Still, his kids have fun, and that’s what counts.

Photography Tips for Kids and Parents

  • Richard Nowitz offers the same advice to adolescent photographers as he does to adults: Shoot tight (close to your subject), watch out for the background, and look for interesting angles.

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  • Very young children should focus on the basics: watching that their fingers don’t block the lens and trying not to cut off mom and dad’s heads when taking portraits.

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  • By age eight, children are often skilled enough to start paying attention to where light is coming from. Jennifer Kirkpatrick advises her daughter to shoot with the sun at her back in strong light.

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  • If your child is just learning, snap a few good pictures on his or her camera so that getting final prints isn’t a disappointing experience.

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  • Help cultivate your child’s eye. Review his or her photographs together, pointing out techniques that worked well.

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—Sean Markey

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