The Kids Are Alright...

by Micah Walter


I am planning to construct a one day workshop for young photographers. This workshop, will take place on a small tropical island in the West Indies sometime in July, and will feature myself as a guest speaker. The cost for attendance is free, but you must be shorter than 4 feet to attend.

On my island in the West Indies, there is a really tiny school for the children of students who attend the medical school. After talking with the principal, we hashed out an idea to have a mini workshop for the kids, where I would come in and teach them how to take pictures. The whole idea sounded easy enough at the time, but now I am beginning to worry.

I have taught plenty in my time, but for the most part, my students have been well over the drinking age, and on many occasions, AARP members. So, I am trying to figure out how to best approach this idea and come up with an afternoon's worth of fun with cameras.

Most of the kids will have their parent's point-and-shoot digital cameras. So, equipment probably won't be too big of an issue. However, the cameras will probably run the gamut in terms of quality, make and model. As long as they can capture images, and connect to my laptop, they should be just fine.

I was thinking that in the beginning of the session we would start by taking a look at some classic, or stock photos that show off some very simple composition ideas. Later, once they were bored with the slides, we could start playing with the cameras and I would just make sure everyone knew how to press the shutter button and review their photos on the LCD.

Then we would all go out (with a small team of teachers to corral everyone) and we would take pictures. The assignment would be simple, but to the point, and each kid would have to go out and make a fixed number of images.

After a brief snack break and maybe a short nap, I will have downloaded each kid's shoot into Aperture, making a new album for each student. Then we would go through each kid's take on the overhead and try and edit down to their favorite pics by show of hands, or yells, or spit wads.

One thing I am thinking of throwing in the mix is Aperture's light-table feature. During the slideshow portion of the show, once we have a first-cut edit, and if the kids haven't dozed off, I will try and use the light-table to make a quick selection of the best shots from the day (one from each kid of course), and if all goes well, I will have one of the teachers print the light-table out as a poster for the classroom.

Okay, this is as far as my plan has developed. I have to say, I am a little nervous about the whole thing. I have been told to show no fear, but this could get out of control. I am sure there will be a few "pros" in the class who will argue my star rating methods, and knock me down when I start to talk about RAW vs. Jpeg, and I am also curious to see if any natural artists arise from the pack.

As I am fairly new to the concept of molding small children into the likes of Diane Arbus and Alfred Stieglitz, I am posting this as a call for advice. Please, if you have any words of wisdom for a small photo workshop with a pack of hungry elementary schoolers, let me know ASAP!

Once we finish the class, I plan to make a quick web gallery of the kids' favorite pics, and any "behind the scenes" shots I take during the day. This way the kids and their parents will be able to share the day of fun and photography with their friends and families back home in the states. Of course I am going to use Aperture to produce the gallery, but I just wish there was a gallery template that looked a little "less professional!"


Michael Ball
2007-06-26 09:10:19
for the gallery, use the stock (Black or White) and try to replace the background with an image that's more 'fun'

Oh I'm 5'6", does anyone have a shrink ray? Sounds fun for those who are able to go.

as far as people disagreeing, just say something along the lines of "Every photographer has a workflow that work best fro himself and this is mine"

Also it might be a good idea to do the 1st talk about taking pictures, take pictures, then have a second talk about how to improve the shots and anything else, then take pictures a second time the do the final discussion. That way it breaks up the day a little more.

2007-06-26 13:07:56
I am thinking of a similar thing with younger teenagers next semester. Mine is once a week over a whole semester.

My idea is to train them to see and express what is a good photo. The first session they are going to look at pictures from magazines and pick one picture and explain why they like this picture. To the second session they will bring with them pictures as they have taken and discuss what they could do to make the picture better - as cropping or next time go closer or from another angle.

My idea is that most of them are not used to see how the picture is composed. They are used to take all pictures from the same perspective. I don't want to teach them how to use Aperture or any other application until they can see.

It would be great to be able to use and show a calibrated monitor and a good printer, but I don't want to move my own equipment there, so that will not happen. Importing pictures takes longer time than expected and create more stress than necessary. Printing takes also time if the colors shall be correct. Of that reason they have to print it on a color laser printer, as is.

About the templates: the kids will love to see their pictures on a slideshow and on the Net no matter what template you use.

Good luck and have fun!

Michael Forte
2007-06-26 13:24:19
Dont start out by looking at slides and discussing composition. You will loose their interest right off the bat. Shoot first, then ask questions, based on which photos they think are best. Let them discover why what they like is better than the other shots. Perhaps guide them with suggestions about composition. On the following days the assignments can focus on using the compositional skills discovered the previous days. For kids, discovery is more fun than being told.
Jess Have
2007-06-26 13:28:37
These kids are very young, but I think the programme you have come up with could work. And yes, they do love to see their work and/or themselves online!
Please don't forget to post about the experience :-)
Micah Walter
2007-06-26 13:32:36
I really like the comment about shooting first and looking at the pictures later. Maybe the first session (now that I am thinking multiple sessions is the way to go) would be a shootathon, and a card download during snack time, and then in the second session we could look at everyone's pics, have a talk, vote on the best stuff, and then go out for another shoot... something like that might work... shorter multiple sessions also works for my personal short attention span!
Bill Booz
2007-06-27 12:19:06
I agree with Michael Forte's suggestion: First Do and then Talk...and don't talk much!! And his point about discovery is right is amazing what children see and, especially, how much they process. Let them guide YOU to teach them what they are ready to learn AFTER they have experimented with the cameras. Might be a good idea to give them some 'themes' or pointed assignments for the "shootathon," as you call it, Micah. In that way they will have purpose, but they will be "doing." Make them hungry to learn techniques and "how to see" and compose, as Edmund suggested.

Finally, please refer to them as children or students, not "kids." Those are animals.....

2007-06-29 13:03:12
Bill, thanks, something you wrote made me come up with a new complementary idea:
- Make some cards with exercises, like "take a photo of something really big", "make a portrait of someone as you don't know", "Photograph a ... for making a large print", "photograph a sunset/sunrise".

It will be possible to make tonnes of exercises like this.
Depending on the kids, either give the each a random exercise to complete or let them chose any exercise. It would be possible to give them the same exercise, but I don't like that idea myself, since I don't want them to do the photos to try to be better than others - those as never gets the top ratings gets bored.

The pictures as the children makes can be discussed individually, in groups or with all students at same time.

When I studied photography (as if I stopped studying photography), we got articles from newspapers to make photos to complement. (once I got such an article as could not be good in photo so I draw a picture instead, the teachers got upset).

-Another type of card for those as cannot read would be with drawn pictures.

- A third type would be real photos, "try to make the same photo". This one I don't like as much since i reduces their creativity.

I would like to come up with a good name for the cards like "Photo challenge" or "Photo assignment", any suggestions?

Has anyone suggestions on exercises?

Bill, the usage of the word "kid" is more common in US than Britain, does that mean american children are more (like?) animals than children in Britain? :)