With the school holidays here, it’s time for some of us to think about how to keep the kids entertained during the summer. Why not get your family into photography? Tom Mason explains how.
For many families, the summer holidays can provide a number of challenges: the kids are at home for five weeks, budgets are stretched and time needs to be filled, ideally without relying too heavily on TV. Keeping everyone entertained can be tough so I would like to propose a solution: why not try photography?
In the modern world where families have a huge choice of things to do throughout the holidays, why should they pick photography? Simple. To provide a fresh look at the world.
Young people (and I’m speaking from recent experience here) can often take things for granted. In a world of gaming, movie streaming and tablets, multi-channel entertainment is available without leaving the sofa, which can lead to boredom and lethargy. However, encouraging the kids to develop a passion for photography will not only get them up and out every day, but can be a great way of promoting their artistic side, encouraging creativity and developing imagination – all of which will reduce boredom and aid their growth as individuals.
In addition, photography has a great power to encourage people to look at the world differently, to take interest in things they have never considered before. It allows us to see the invisible and learn about not only the world around us but ourselves too. In short, photography is a great way to promote learning in the subtlest of ways. Alongside the educational benefits, photography is a hugely enjoyable pursuit. As a wildlife photographer I may be somewhat biased, but is it not rather rare to see an unhappy person taking a photograph?
Photography records those special family moments, capturing them forever to be shared by loved ones for generations to come. A family isn’t complete without a photo album, so why shouldn’t the whole family take part in its production? The additional benefit of having more photographers in a family, of course, is that the one elected image maker isn’t always excluded from history because he or she was constantly behind the camera!
What do you need?
One of the best things about photography is that it is accessible to almost everyone. While learning a few simple steps about composition and exposure will help achieve better shots, just picking up a camera – be it on a smartphone, a tablet, a compact or a more advanced piece of kit – and being creative is a great place to start.
Camera phones have come on leaps and bounds over the past few years and even I will use my iPhone for family shots and personal work, despite access to a bagful of pro kit. With a smartphone always handy, a 30-minute wait at an airport or train station can be transformed into the perfect opportunity for some photographic fun. The only additional thing you often need is time!
The hardest step in getting the family involved is starting out, but once young people start taking photos they won’t stop. Take a look at Facebook and Twitter, which are full of images taken by young people on smartphones and tablets. Just a gentle nudge in the right direction to encourage shooting something other than selfies is often all it takes. If a member of your family wants to go a little further than just taking family images and actually work on developing technique, pick up a beginner’s guide for some light holiday reading or look for relevant articles on your favourite photography blog.
Where to go
Once you have piqued your family’s interest and got the kit sorted, where should they go to get started? A great aspect of photography is that it has no geographical constraints – if you have a camera, you can take pictures. The below locations are merely suggestions, so don’t feel that you cannot partake if you do not have a national park on your doorstep!
Nature reserves: These are accessible from all over the country, cheap to visit, brimming with photographic subjects and provide a pleasant experience in the open air. Take a look on the RSPB website or that of your local wildlife trust and you will be surprised by how much is available locally!
The coast: Everyone loves the seaside but photography can transform a typical trip. Arcade lights, beach huts, piers and rocky outcrops provide numerous photographic opportunities but remember, sand is a camera KILLER!
Cities: Having a day out in London or going shopping in your local city? Take the camera along to make the day that much more interesting? Why not try taking candid-style images while walking along the streets or perhaps record your day trip in a documentary form!
Anywhere: Just take your cameras and the possibilities are endless!
Taking it further
If you are already enjoying photography as a family, why not set about working on a project together? Having an aim or a small brief is an excellent way to develop your photographic eye, stay engaged and, most importantly, have fun.
Documentary/travel: If you are lucky enough to be going away for a week in the sun or a weekend camping, why not shoot the trip? Photograph the journey from start to end, the people you meet, the places you go; record the best and the worst) moments and keep the memories for years to come.
One photo every day: The holidays can pass all too quickly so make the most of them. Getting out and taking an image or more every day will help give you and your family something to do. Collect all of your family members’ images up at the end of the holidays, compare them and have a awesome record of what you have been up to!
A colour: For younger children, setting them a challenge to work with a specific colour is a great way to target and focus their attention. It will help them to keep concentrating during a whole day in order to search out image possibilities.
What are you waiting for?
Subjects are everywhere and there are so many possibilities to get your family hooked on photography. Doing so, I assure you, will not only provide some great entertainment for the holiday season but also help to capture those precious memories shared by the whole family. Just remember one thing: don’t just leave all of those gorgeous images on your hard disk; back them up and get some printed!
About the Author
Tom Mason is an up-and-coming wildlife and nature photographer from Hertfordshire. He has worked on a number of projects both in the UK and abroad and is passionate about the natural world. For more information on Tom, check out his website or follow him on Twitter.