Are there any young, aspiring photographers in your family? Here’s a question I received recently along these lines and thought it would make a great blog post. Here’s the question and my initial thoughts in answer.

Hello, our children are too young to attend your clinics at the family conferences, but my oldest daughter is especially interested in photography.  She is only 10, but I was wondering, for those students who are not yet old enough to attend the clinic, what do you recommend that they do in the years leading up to the clinic?  How young would you recommend they start?  What might be some practical things they can do at home to learn?  I know the cameras are so expensive, so at what age do you recommend buying a camera – do you buy them used?  Thank you for any practical tips for a future photographer! – Sonya

Any age is a good age to start! Well, maybe not any age . . . I was just visiting my new nephew of 1 month old and no, I’d say that’s too young. But my 3 year old niece does walk around the house pretending to take pictures with all sorts of creative objects! Is 3 too young? Well, I suppose, yes, that is also too young, as there’s no greater indication from her antics that she would rather be a photographer than she would be a Cinderella princess. But as soon as someone is old enough to express interest in something based on true enjoyment, it doesn’t hurt to let them peruse it as far as they desire to take it.

I wouldn’t say 10 is too young to start. I started taking pictures with little, film disposable cameras when I was 12. Here’s one of the very first pictures I ever took. And I remember taking it! I couldn’t wait for Walmart to get the pictures developed!

First shots

After going through several of those disposable cameras, my parents saw that I really did display interest and bought me a Minolta film point and shoot. I hung on to that for years! It would still work today if I had a new battery and some film.

Minolta Film Camera

I treasured that camera. I took special care of it and chose every picture I took carefully. Once I started learning about Manual settings though, I moved on to my Dad’s film SLR, and then eventually bought my own Digital SLR when I was 18. And even then, I wasn’t able to afford the full price myself. My older brother and I split the cost using money we had made mowing lawns together, planning to split the use of the camera too. As things played out, however, I think Robert got the short end of the stick. I’ve been indebted to him ever since!

So, I wouldn’t worry too much about which camera to get a young photographer started with. Having a camera all her own is probably what is most important to her, so she can feel free to use it when she wants. I wouldn’t start with anything expensive. Cameras only last a few years anyway. And buying a used camera is just fine, especially if you personally know the one who used it before.

I learned by reading. I would get censored books at the library. My Dad had edited books that I would browse through. And then I just took pictures a lot. None of them were really usable, but it got me looking for pictures everywhere I went. And I sure have a lot of good memories looking through those pictures. 🙂 This shot I remember being one of the first times I used a remote, so I could be in the picture too. I didn’t think about carrying around a tripod with me in those days.

Attempting to use a remote

I also learned a lot by observing other’s pictures. I just loved looking through my Uncle’s pictures from his travels all over the world. I think that’s one reason why I like landscape photography. What you look at you will eventually become. I distinctly remember being awed by this shot of some shore birds that my Uncle took. He was just showing the family some pictures of a trip to Florida and perhaps to him it was a snapshot. To me, it was breathtaking. How on earth did he get the wave in the background to look like that? How did he make it so the light was just outlining the birds? How did he get so close to them? Questions like this would just race through my mind and I wanted all the world to try and capture the same things myself!

DSC02949_edited

Though I’m sure most of the information I provide on Lenspiration.com would be over the head of a 10 year old, feel free to have her join the Lenspiration’s free membership and see if she catches on to anything. I write for an audience of high-schoolers and older, but the information and photos might be helpful and inspirational depending on her level and desire to learn. The Beginner DSLR Photography Course under the PRO membership will also be good for her eventually. Courses are very helpful because they take a student through a subject sequentially, one step at a time, providing all the necessary information to make each ensuing step understandable. Everyone should take structured courses at one point or another. Workshops, blogs, books and practice are all good, but it wasn’t until I took a course that I felt everything fell together in a way that I could really understand photography enough to keep from shooting in the dark.

So, those are a few of my initial thoughts on ways to help a young photographer get started! Thanks again for asking, and let me know if you have any more questions!

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