Photography for Parents
By Matt Bamberg
Whether it be shooting a portrait or framing a landscape, or capturing favorite things, teaching young people to understand both the technical and the artful within the realm of digital art photography requires that you take a multi-disciplinary approach to art (and life). This tutorial is for parents to develop photography skills at the same time as teaching other subjects–math and language to their children.
ANIMAL PHOTOGRAPHY–SUBJECT CHARACTERISTICS
Who knows your child better than you? You know what your child likes and dislikes. You can use this information to help them find things they want to photograph, not only just for the sake of a picture, but to help them learn a little more about the object/subject they are taking a picture of. If your child likes animals, give them some information about them beforehand (say before a trip to the zoo). Or read them a story about an animal (Rudyard Kipling’s the Jungle Book is a good one). Then ask them the following:
1. What animal do you really like?
2. What part of the animal do you wonder about?
3. What does the animal eat?
After they give you an answer have them photograph it. For example, if they like the spots of a leopard, have them zoom in so that they can get a close-up of just that–a leopard’s spots. FYI: Kipling wrote a story about how a leopard got its spots.
PORTRAITS–HOW DO YOU DISCOVER CHARACTER TRAITS?
Consider how students reveal their feelings and attitudes differently. Some of them may show our individual character with immediate transparency, while others may be more difficult to ‘read’ at first. The portrait photographer must become proficient at studying people around them. Talking about character traits can begin with the family. When you read your child a book, ask them from time to time to create pictures in their mind of how a character in a story looks and acts. Then, for an artful photograph of your child or other family member, take a picture of your child while having them imagine and act like a character from a story (or television show).
Now give the camera to your child (any age, really, from four and up). Since children know many characters from books and television,
they can take photographs of each other, portraying these characters in new and different ways. Children also can produce quality images of family members and friends by finding a common ground among them–a shared sport or hobby– and using that subject for photos they take of each other. For example, if the family plays football, give the camera to one of the players on the sidelines and have them photograph the game.
Don’t forget, also, object photography. Nothing beats the repitition of a photograph of different bats lined up against a fence, or a close up of a puppet in a home-made puppet show.
MASTER THE CRAFT WITH MATH
Photography, like any art form, is based on some basic math-based rules of composition, such as the Rule of Thirds (making a landscape photo, for example, with one-third sky and two thirds land) and using a vanishing point (drawing out in perspective of a scene and finding something similar to photograph).
After children master those composition techniques that you teach them (don’t do this if they’re not interested in photography!), they can put their own artistic interpretation of a scene to make an art photo. They can experiment with various camera settings (f-stop, shutter speed) by writing down the values of what’s shown in the camera each time they shoot at each value. Without even knowing the term f-stop and/or shutter speed, they will see a pattern (lightness/darkness of photo for example) after they record the numbers.
THE TREK FROM CAMERA TO COMPUTER
Snapping a photograph is only the beginning. Digital art photography requires following certain paths before you can print and frame your output (final image), including
1. Getting the image into your computer.
2. Digitally tweaking the image: With your image open in Photoshop (or your image editor of choice), there’s practically no end to the tweaking that you can do.
3. Saving your image in the appropriate file type: Whether your shooting with a high-end digital Single Reflex Camera or a mid-level point-and-shoot, the files in which your camera store your picture will ultimately be saved in a high resolution format called TIF, file format. Your digital image will travel across a number of devices and platforms before it is finally printed. As it travels, you’ll learn how to save it so its resolution stays in tact throughout its travels.
FOREGROUNDS AND BACKGROUNDS
Keeping shots clean and uncluttered is paramount to presenting a great art photograph. That’s not to say that you or your child can’t shoot something detailed and ornamental, but make sure your audience sees what you wanted to show, not clutter and unnecessary background distractions. In order to do this, take various photographs yourself with foregrounds, middle grounds and backgrounds to show your children how they can visualize a three dimensional space in a two dimensional photograph.
WHO CAME UP WITH THESE IDEAS?
As a post-career teacher who taught for 14 years–7 in Oakland and 7 in Daly City, CA, I researched and wrote examples of the Rule of Thirds and other art composition techniques (including all the math technicalities) for my book “Digital Art Photography for Dummies” (Wiley, 2005). When I wrote the book, I imagined all of the readers to all of the students who I have instructed throughout the years, not only as a public school teacher, but also as a university professor. I’ve taught various courses from technology to linguistics at National and Chapman universities. For more information (and a lot of multidisciplinary fun). And, last, I’ve had the pleasure of sharing my thoughts at tech conferences throughout the state of California.
Matt Bamberg is the author of DigitalArtPhotographyForDummies.blogspot.com