Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Teaching Kids Photography Part 2: Composition and Design

Teaching Kids Photography Part 2: Composition and Design | Boost Your Photography
Want to take that next step in teaching your kid(s) about photography and stoking their life-long passion? This article is the second in an occasional series on teaching kids photography, based around a series of lessons I designed for an elementary and middle school Photography Club. The first article covered Teaching Kids Photography: shooting modes, focus, and exposure.

Composition and Design

For our second Photography Club meeting, I chose to focus on the twin issues of composition and design, as these techniques and strategies are relevant no matter the type of camera you use. (Club members had access to several varieties and levels of point-and-shoot and phone cameras.)

We started with a brief PowerPoint presentation about some of the basic concepts of composition and design. Students enjoyed looking at the comparative examples, in particular, which sparked some interesting conversation and discussion. Many of the students, for example, were initially more attracted to the symmetrical sunset image than the 'Rule of Thirds' version, which helped reinforce the point that composition is really a series of suggestions and that everyone has different opinions and interpretations. (Curious? Read more about Composition and the Rule of Thirds here.)

Teaching the Rule of Thirds | Boost Your Photography

In addition to the Rule of Thirds, we also discussed the concept of using leading lines as a composition element. Students were generally familiar with the idea of perspective from their Art classes and enjoyed seeing how they could use concepts from other art forms to inform their photography. (Read more about Composition and Leading Lines here.)

Another topic I wanted to be sure to emphasize was the importance of paying attention to your background and not just your subject. Like many beginning photographers, I had noticed from our first meeting that students were often so absorbed in their main subject that they paid little attention to the rest of the photograph. We shared a few examples where the background detracted from the overall photograph, including the slide below of an accidentally slanted horizon. (Read more about how to Remember the Background and Move Your Feet.)

Composition: Watch Your Horizons | Boost Your Photography

Finally, I decided to end with a little bit of fun before we got down to shooting: forced perspective. Forced perspective takes advantage of the fact that a photograph is a two-dimensional capture of a three-dimensional scene. Think: someone near the camera squishing the face of someone farther from the camera or the classic shot of tourists holding up the background Leaning Tower of Pisa.

Photo by Flickr user thentoff, used under Creative Commons license

Photography Exploration

After the presentation and discussion, we had about half an hour for hands-on photography. Due to the weather, we had to stay indoors but had access to several areas in the school, including the gym, to spread out to and apply the new compositional learning. (I have deliberately left out identifiable photographs of the students themselves, but many portraits and other 'forced perspective' attempts were also made.)

View outside of the playground using the Rule of Thirds
Off-center composition using Rule of Thirds, as well as a decluttered background
Leading lines and perspective on the stairs
Leading lines in the white board marker rail
I am posed by a student with an attempt to make the eagle pose on my shoulder.
(It was Team Spirit Day at school as well.)
Forced perspective, holding up the painted eagle in the gym (cropped)

Conclusion: Teaching Kids Photography Composition

Composition and design is a great place to start when encouraging kids to do more with their photography. Start by exploring just a few basic rules at a time, and see how a little bit of planning can make a big impact. (Plus, don't forget to have a little fun!)

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