Wildlife Photography Tips: Take a Kid Shooting

Ok, I know you may be thinking, “How is take a kid shooting a wildlife photography tip?” Maybe it isn’t in the traditional sense. Regardless, I was thinking about an ad campaign here in the United States that promoted fishing whose slogan was “Take a kid fishing” and it got me to thinking about photography and a similar slogan that could be “Take a Kid Shooting”. I have a grandson that has taken a liking to photography having been influenced by his father and grandfather’s love of taking photos. His interest has given me the pleasure to take him out and have him shoot with me from time to time.

Take a kid shooting

You know what? The kid has a better artistic eye for composition than I do. He also is amazingly patient in waiting for his subject to turn its head to just the right angle before pushing the shutter button. He has far less of a “spray and pray” mentality than even I do at times and I have been amazed at what he sees at such a young age and without instruction. Here are a couple of photos the he has recently taken with his Nikon D40 and 70-300 lens:

My Grandson's Mandarin Duck Photo

My Grandson's Meadowlark Photo

So where is the photography tip? Well, it is in the idea that first we learn, then we do and then we teach. It is in these teaching moments that we take time to think about what we do, why we do it and how it affects our results. As we ponder these things to pass it on to our children and grandchildren, we reinforce our own skills as well as evaluate what we can do differently.

Will this make us better photographers? I think so, but more importantly, the time spent with our children strengthens family bonds. My son loves to fish and now has his own kids and is already taking them fishing with him even though his son is only 2 years old. I know he will be a great dad, he already is, but he will never regret sharing his passion for the hobbies he loves with his kids. It isn’t the specific hobby, but rather, the time spent sharing that is important.

The boys fishing

In a world consumed with selfishness, and I am guilty, wouldn’t we all be better off if we shared more? I think we all learned by age 5 to share, but somehow we grow old and some of us forget that important lesson. Who hasn’t enjoyed sharing their passion about something like photography and felt the joy? Sharing our photos is central to the idea of taking them in the first place. As we take the younger generations out with us and share our love for nature and photography, there are benefits in addition to the family time spent together.

First, it gets them away from the video games and televisions and gets them outside. Many of us remember that we could play outside “until the street lights came on”. At least that was my family’s rule when I was young and that was my signal to come home after playing. Sadly, today we have to protect our kids a bit more and so we don’t let them play unsupervised as much as we used to. It’s no wonder that they spend their time watching tv or playing video games – we contributed to it.

Second, it gives them an opportunity to stop and observe nature – it is amazing the things that nature photographers learn as they watch their subjects. Sometimes it interests us enough to go home and do research on something we saw or thought about. That mental stimulation is good for us old folks as it makes the brain work and slows the aging process. It is also amazing what we see as we watch wildlife for an extended period of time and as we witness these wonders first hand, it makes us appreciate the gift that this world is. It is that appreciation that makes us and our children want to be better stewards of the environment.

Lastly, getting out and carrying camera gear on a brief hike in a park is a lot more fun and interesting than carrying a couple of 2 pound weights or cans of soup around the block for exercise. Who doesn’t benefit from more exercise?

Recently, I was in a local park taking photos when I ran into a father and son that I know. I didn’t realize that they enjoyed photography together and have created a website of their adventures. As I talked to the father, I learned that they often go out and are learning about the subjects they see and photograph. I am certain this family is seeing benefits of the time spent practicing their hobby together and in the meantime, they are creating more than just photos.

The next time you go out, consider taking a child with you and see if you don’t get rejuvenated as you help them take photos. Watch for their excitement as they capture a moment that they were able to witness and are proud of. Watch their expression as they review the shot they just took. Remember that feeling? I do, I still have it and I still love it! I am sure many of you have taken family members out to take photos and we would love to hear about your experiences – both serious and humorous. Remember, it’s better to share!

Comments

  1. 1
    ) Richard
    June 9, 2013 at 3:13 am

    Wonderful images and a great story. The most important factor for me is introducing youngsters to wildlife and learning to respect them and their habitats at an early age. So, well done for doing just that.

    Richard

    • 8
      ) Tom Redd
      June 10, 2013 at 7:24 am

      Thank you Richard.

  2. 2
    ) Vikas.B.Chavan.
    June 9, 2013 at 7:44 am

    First of all,let me congratulate your grandson for the beautiful shots.Great work by the youngster !
    The early initiation of youngsters in such activities will definitely go a long way in making them aware of Mother Earth and it’s beautiful inhabitants.The bond thus developed will make them responsible citizens and will go a long way in conservation of nature.

    • 9
      ) Tom Redd
      June 10, 2013 at 7:25 am

      Thank you Vikas for reading and your comment.

  3. 3
    ) Peter
    June 9, 2013 at 7:58 am

    I found a way to get my daughter interested in photography a long time ago. Rather than trade-in my perfectly good camera so I could buy the “latest-and-greatest” new camera, I gave it to her rather than sell it. She still uses it (Nikkormat EL) and still shoots film!

    • 10
      ) Tom Redd
      June 10, 2013 at 7:26 am

      Peter, great idea, thanks.

  4. 4
    ) Johny Wong
    June 9, 2013 at 9:24 am

    Hi Tom,

    I think your grandson is very fortunate to have a talented grandfather, who is happen to be a wildlife photographer. He must often sees his grandfather’s great photos. He has learned what is a ‘good’ photo unconsciously. So, it’s no surprise he will try to get the same good photos as you do.

    In forum, I’ve seen too many beginner photographer only see photography as a gear hoarding. They only concern about sharpness, canon vs nikon, this body vs that body, etc. They’ve seen other photographer have a certain lens and they want to have it to, but they don’t even know what to do with those lens. They often ask, “I want to buy a new lens, do you recommend 35mm or 50mm ?”. Yet, they don’t explain what kind of subject they want to take. When I see their photos, I often ask myself, “Have they ever seen a ‘good’ photo before ?”. That’s why, in forum when I see a photo, which has a potential, I always give a constructive comment. Maybe they need to get rid of that branches or move two step to the left, etc.

    So, in my opinion, every beginner photographer needs to learn the basic technique as well as see a lot of ‘good’ photos.

    • 11
      ) Tom Redd
      June 10, 2013 at 7:27 am

      Thank you Johny for your comments.

  5. 5
    ) theresa
    June 9, 2013 at 10:59 am

    Your grandson took some fabulous shots!!! My objection to having children around is that they are never quiet. I can’t tell you how many times a shot has been ruined because someone brought their screaming, running child up and the animal flew away or once a joey ducked back down into his mother’s pouch. Maybe if it is your kid and you can tell them ahead of time to be quiet but people frown when you try to tell someone else’s kid.

    • 12
      ) Tom Redd
      June 10, 2013 at 7:35 am

      Theresa, you are correct, children can be a challenge at times. However, I see adults that create challenges as well, including adult photographers. Photographers can be guilty of scaring off subjects by our behavior as well. The father and son that I referred to in the post, I was guilty of scaring their subject off as I drove up. I saw them out of their car, they had binoculars on something. I stopped the car to see what they were scoping, so as to not scare it. I couldn’t see anything and thought they were looking further off in the distance, so I drove up to them and as I did, I spooked a sharp-shinned hawk off out of some brush right next to the road. I felt bad, but they were kind and patient with me, I guess that, in and of itself, is a lesson for us all. Thanks for reading and for your comments.

    • 17
      ) Kafkiano
      June 11, 2013 at 1:34 pm

      My sweet daughter is an specialist on pulling my arm just when I’m going to press the shutter.

  6. 6
    ) John Oró
    June 9, 2013 at 5:41 pm

    Great! Just took my 13 year old to the zoo 2 weeks ago (I had updated my camera and gave him my previous one). He then photographed a school sporting event and today we just returned from Ft. Collins to see family and walk along the Poudre river. Great to see him walk ahead and look for the birds and other nature. Tried to interest him a few years ago, but he did not gravitate to it at that time. I have more anticipation in seeing his photos than my own. It is all very gratifying. Thanks so much for your wonderful post.

    • 13
      ) Tom Redd
      June 10, 2013 at 7:36 am

      John, thanks for sharing your experiences and here is to many more good times spent with your son. Cheers!

  7. 7
    ) Dilshan Mahdi Hussainmiya
    June 10, 2013 at 2:54 am

    This is just brilliant-thank you Tom, it is what the world needs more- to disconnect with devices and reconnect with our humanity. I salute you…..

    • 14
      ) Tom Redd
      June 10, 2013 at 7:37 am

      Dilshan, thank you for the kind words and for reading.

  8. 15
    ) Tom
    June 11, 2013 at 8:35 am

    Great article and have found photography with my kids very rewarding to just let them do what they feel they should shoot.

    At early ages, grow the love for the hobby first, then after they truly have their own passion, then they become teachable. I found that to be true with sports, reading, photography and anything else. “Don’t over teach” let them learn at their own pace. You will know when they are ready to learn more by the questions they ask. :)

    • 18
      ) Tom Redd
      June 11, 2013 at 6:03 pm

      Tom, thank you and great advice.

  9. 16
    ) Kafkiano
    June 11, 2013 at 1:13 pm

    SERIOUS WARNING.
    Let your children be children while photographing and give them freedom, or sooner or later they will not like anymore the hobby. Take in account their age, and don’t overwhelmed them with complicated instructions for their age. If you criticize their work too much they could feel that they are not good enough for their parents, and they could become unsecure of themselves. Give them simple instructions and let them get their own experiences. They have time ahead, not like us : )

    • 19
      ) Tom Redd
      June 11, 2013 at 6:04 pm

      Good advice Kafkiano, thanks.

  10. 20
    ) Bera
    June 12, 2013 at 3:19 pm

    One of the best posts on this site. Just perfect!

  11. 21
    ) EricL800
    June 14, 2013 at 10:51 am

    Tom,

    Great post and as you say children experiencing a hobby at a young age can turn into a passion or even a job. One thing I will say though is having someone being critical (positive feedback) of your images is cruial if the artists eye and technical understanding of the exposure/equipment is to be really developed. I know the comment ‘Well that’s one good shot out of 36, think a bit longer before you press the button’, wise words. I still miss stuff in the frame but think twice before firing, even digital has a price and that is time wasted reviewing rubbish!

    I first had an Agiflex put under my nose at the age of 8, dad had to set the stops and speeds off the weston light meter. Slow and boring. Even worse you couldn’t wind on before setting up the exposure. I felt a million dollars with my Kodak box brownie as all I had to do was aim and fire the shutter. Then wind on quickly for rapid fire. Buying cheap Boots film and then sending them away for processing as this was the cheapest way mean’t low quality prints but they were all records of my travels up to 12 when the Pentax K1000 arrived for Christmas. I loved every minute of using both those cameras and would be beside myself with excitment when the envelope arrived through the letterbox.

    Yes the Nikon gear I have now makes the job easier but seeing your grandson with his D40 and zoom lens brought back memories of figuring out the best way to photograph something. Boy would I have loved to check out the result instantly, which is in many ways is why digital cameras are the perfect tool for todays children as they are so use to instant electronic results. I love the bird leaving the ear of corn.

    Enjoy one of the best hobbies modern life has given us.

    Eric

    • June 15, 2013 at 10:34 am

      Eric, thank you for sharing your experiences and comments. I enjoyed the travel with you back in time to earlier days and agree with you that photography is a great hobby or if you are lucky, career.

  12. June 27, 2013 at 4:49 pm

    good points. thanks for sharing

  13. September 1, 2013 at 10:21 am

    I do this with my daughter who is 10 now. She may not stick with photography but when I go out with two camera’s she has one and I have the other. We switch depending on my needs and she easily adjusts to whichever one she has in her hand. She has in fact taken what is to date, my favorite shot of my nephew. We are checking off every beach and park on Long Island as we go. Far more exciting than filling in a cardboard holder with state quarters and as she notes, it always means great snacks :)

    • September 1, 2013 at 3:37 pm

      Thanks Christine, I know your daughter will always remember the time together and of course, the snacks! :)

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