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Article:    Fun & Learning with Photos!: Digital Cameras, Photography, and Kids 

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It's considerably easier to get creative with digital cameras, although "old-fashioned" cameras will do the trick as well. When children have control of a camera, they learn to look at the world just a little differently—they notice patterns where they didn't before, they think about everyday objects with a fresh perspective, and they develop their confidence in their own creativity. Photography is essentially a means of not only documenting the past, but also communicating. Children learn to predict outcomes and actively participate in "experiments". With a digital camera, the results are close to instant and there is more room to explore. Here we present some ideas for turning photography into a creative, learning experience for kids.

Photo Fun - Ideas for Kids

  • Make a "My Day" Photo Journal

Dedicate a day to snapping photos of interesting things you see during the day. These can be as simple as a pet in a unique pose, a parent packing your lunch, or a pretty leaf on a tree. Use your photojournalist skills by organizing the photos on a poster or in a scrapbook, adding captions to each. A similar project would be a "My Neighborhood" scrapbook. You can take pictures of simple things, like the mailbox on the corner and the neighborhood park. These kinds of projects will be keepsakes later on in life. Not many people will have taken pictures of "ordinary" things in their past, but you will!

  • Take Mystery Photos

Snap close-up and partial photos of ordinary objects and have your family and friends guess what they are! A close-up photo of the eyes on a pineapple or potato are examples.

  • Put your Photos on T-shirts

With a print program like Print Artist and some T-shirt transfer paper, you can transfer your photos to T-shirts to create wearable photo art. 

  • Make a Photo Puzzle

Glue printed photos onto a sturdy piece of cardboard, cut the picture into pieces, and create a homemade and personalized puzzle.

  • Set up Small, Detailed Scenes with Toys and Figurines

With control over a digital camera, one of the first thoughts on the brains of our group of kid testers was taking pictures of their figurines. This turned out to be a fabulous little project. Our testers made some fabulous scenes with Hamtaro figurines they called "Moonlight Dinner" and "The Wedding". With a little trial and error, they managed to snap some close-up photos that made the little figures look larger than life.

  • Learn Photography Techniques

Learning how to take a good picture comes quite naturally with experimentation. At first, kids will generally snap anything they see. But when they see the results of their pictures, they might notice that, for example, a cluttered background interfering with the overall look of their photo. Candid photos of people in natural poses often turn out the best, and taking pictures of objects at a slight angle often produces a superior photo. Experimenting with distances and lighting can be great learning experiences as well.

  • Take Your Camera on Day Trips

When a child has control of a camera, ordinary trips to the store, for example, take on a whole new meaning. Of course, you can take your camera with you on trips to the zoo, a farm, or other family outing that permits the use of cameras. 

  • Become a Collector of Intangible Objects!

Lots of kids collect trading cards, stamps, and other tangible objects. You can "collect" abstract and hard-to-collect items through photos! Perhaps you want to collect icicles but don't have the freezer space—simply snap photos of interesting icicles that you see over time. It would be impractical to collect doorknobs, illegal to collect manhole covers, and impossible to collect sunrises—but with photos, virtually anything is game. Funny signs or interesting license plates are other ideas for collections.

 

Digital Photo Tools & Aids 

There are plenty of software programs available that allow you to manipulate photos. Basic photo editing software can be found in products like the latest editions of Print Master that provide tools like red-eye correction, sharpening blurry images, and so forth. Also included in the program are templates for scrapbook pages, greeting cards, stationery, and various other print studio projects. This is an inexpensive choice.

[For more information, or to buy: Print Master Silver 16.0 (Jewel Case) at Amazon.com]

 

If you're looking for something more feature-rich, choose Microsoft Digital Image Suite 2006. The photo editing tools in this program are more advanced, and the photo project starters are plentiful. In terms of digital photo retouching, this program allows users to add flash to dark photos, adjust the brightness of entire pictures or selected areas, reduce backlighting, crop and zoom in on photos, airbrush imperfections, sharpen blurry images, resize photos, and so forth. Users can add artistic filters to their photos (such as Impressionism and Watercolor). Text can be added, as well as fun special effects (to distort, smear, add shadows, colorize black and white photos, add designer edges, etc.).

Truly stunning projects can be produced with this software. Projects include scrapbooks, calendars, postcards, magazine covers, business cards, photo crafts for kids, stickers, and frames. 

The face touch-up tools are excellent. Users can enhance eye and lip color, remove blemishes and correct lines/wrinkles, whiten teeth with the airbrush, and adjust/correct skin tone. 

The suite's Photo Story 2.0 is incredibly fun for children (and adults!). Users can turn still photos into video with this tool, quickly and easily. The images automatically pan and zoom, kids can add narration or background music, and the resulting videos are exciting to watch and share with family and friends.

[For more information, or to buy: Microsoft Digital Image Suite 2006 at Amazon.com]

 

Although most families will be more than happy with Microsoft Digital Image Pro, some users will want to go a step further with a product like Jasc Paint Shop Pro (see our review for more details).


My Fabulous Life in Pictures

This scrapbook truly is "fabulous". It's a spiralbound keepsake for kids, filled with pages designed to showcase their life—their family tree, favorite things, best friends, pets, and so forth—through photos, drawings, and picture cut-outs. There's a page that frames photos of faces with goofy hairstyles; spaces for collage projects; fill-in-the-blank questionnaires; party pages; "My 20 Year Predictions" page complete with an envelope bound into the book to be used as a time capsule; and even a "Page of Shame" for those inevitable bad photos. Included are stickers to help kids decorate the pages along with a package of templates to use for cutting photos just right. This is a very creative--and creativity-inspiring--book by Klutz Press. S

[For more information, user reviews, or to buy: My Fabulous Life in Pictures at Amazon.com]

 

Recommended Digital Cameras 

For the Kids

It is now rather difficult to find digital cameras designed specifically for kids. However, digital cameras have dropped in price dramatically, and there are some no-frills entry-level digital cameras that are perfect for kids, and they take some nice photos at the same time. Previously, we reviewed the Jam Cam 3.0, which is no longer available (although you can still find this camera through alternate sources: click here for some options: KB Gear JamCam 0.3MP Digital Camera, Silver), and recommended it for kids. 

 

New! The Fisher-Price Kid-Tough Digital Camera-Blue and the Fisher-Price Kid-Tough Digital Camera-Pink look like toy cameras, but are real digital cameras encased in truly "kid tough" material. This is our pick for the youngest of digital camera users simply because it's tough enough to be trusted with preschoolers. The quality of pictures is low, no doubt, but children so young really are not concerned at all about the quality of pictures. Its attractive features do not include picture quality--they include durability and ease of use. This digital camera makes a good introduction to the fun and learning of photography. It has a 1.3" color LCD preview screen and kids get instant gratification when they view the pictures they have just shot. Deleting the pictures that didn't turn out well is easy. Also unique is the camera's two-eye viewing feature, which makes taking pictures sort of like looking through binoculars. that makes looking through the viewfinder a breeze. It has only 8 MB of built-in memory for up to 50 pictures, but there's an SD card slot for expanded storage capacity. The USB cord for connecting to the computer is included, as well as software that does the job of transferring.

Kidizoom Digital Camera by Vtech  Although this camera boasts video and sound, its image quality is poor. Its 1.8" LCD screen is acceptable, and a tad larger than the one on the Kid Tough camera, but still not great for little eyes. It has a dual viewfinder (so kids don't have to squint), and more advanced features, although sometimes more is less when it comes to the target market--preschoolers. For more information, user reviews or to buy: Vtech - Kidizoom Digital Camera - Blue Because lower-end adult digital cameras are really quite inexpensive these days, we recommend getting one of those for kids approximately ages 6 and up, depending on the maturity of the child and the care with which he or she handles the camera.

There is also the new Digital Blue - U Turn Digital Camera, which comes in a blue or pink version and plays to the fact that kids love to take pictures of themselves! It's a novelty concept, for certain, with morphing effects and a twistable set-up that allows for easier self-portrait activities.

 

 

At this point, however, there are alternatives that offer more quality for the same, slightly higher price:

Those parents who simply want their kids to have a digital camera and are not overly concerned about the photo quality might consider a beginner's range camera for adults: the Argus QC-2185 Quick Click 2MP Digital Camera is in the $30-$35 range, and is a beginner's point and shoot camera that also takes movie clips. It only has 8MB of built-in memory. There aren't many features here, but younger children don't need them, and there is no reason to pay more for unnecessary features. The camera is lightweight and easy to use, with automatic settings. 

[Buy Argus QC-2185 Quick Click 2MP Digital Camera at Amazon.com]


For the kids, you might consider a less-expensive digital camera with approximately 6 MP resolution — more than adequate for the photo-shooting needs of children. 

 

Nikon Coolpix L20 10 MP Digital Camera

Top Pick for kids. Currently, we recommend the Nikon Coolpix L20 for children. Although not specifically designed for kids, this 10 MP of resolution and 3.6x optical zoom camera keeps it in the beginners' range of digital camera units, but it's a huge step above the cameras listed above, and not much more expensive! It's a good and reliable choice for families and children. Video clips can be taken, with audio. This digital camera combines affordability and reliability and makes a good choice as a camera you might want to buy your preteen or teenager. It also includes a few color settings for taking fun pictures. This camera is ideal for preteens and teens. This is a fantastic choice, and comparatively very inexpensive (as little as $85). 

[Buy Nikon Coolpix L20 10MP Digital Camera with 3.6 Optical Zoom and 3 inch LCD (Deep Red) at sale prices from Amazon.com]


 

Runner Up: One of the most popular digital cameras, with both reviewers and owners, is the Canon PowerShot A1100IS. This camera is a little more expensive than the Nikon Coolpix above, but it also has better output, with its 4X optical zoom. This digital camera has a video mode with sound. It uses two AA batteries, and it takes very nice pictures.

[Buy Canon PowerShot A1100IS 12.1 MP Digital Camera with 4x Optical Image Stabilized Zoom and 2.5-inch LCD at sale prices from Amazon.com]

If you're willing to spend more money to purchase a camera for the whole family (a "regular" digital camera is perhaps best for children ages 9 and up), consider a mid-level camera with approximately 4 MP resolution, which tends to strike the right balance between price and digital camera performance, generally producing nice quality prints.

For the Family

Our favorite digital cameras for families comes from Kodak -- the EasyShare  line. Why? They're extremely easy to use and deliver high-quality results. Straightforward features make some of these cameras a breeze for novices--and we suspect there is at least one novice in every family.

Top Pick for families. Instead of dealing with screens that take you through numbers and terms like "white balance", a digital camera like the Kodak EasyShare Z915, which uses easy-to-understand language that holds users' hands through what can otherwise be a rather complex task, is refreshing. Its 10 MP resolution and 10X optical zoom (stabilized) means sharp images. Families can have fun experimenting with its multiple modes (for example, sport for action shots, bright for bright beach scenes, etc.). The EasyShare line of cameras are easy enough for a child to use, as well as sturdy and not too expensive. This camera is ideal for preteens and teens, as well as for adults, making it a fantastic choice for families. Another inexpensive option in the Kodak EasyShare line is the Kodak EasyShare 10.2MP Digital Camera - Silver (C180).

[Buy Kodak Easyshare Z915 10MP Digital Camera with 10x Optical Image Stabilized Zoom with 2.5 inch LCD (Black) or the Kodak EasyShare 10.2MP Digital Camera - Silver (C180) at Amazon.com]

This Kodak digital camera is comparatively large, but sturdy enough for family use. The optical zoom means that the camera doesn't rely on the camera's megapixels when in zoom mode, offering more clarity and overall quality of images.

 

Tip: Most people tend to evaluate a digital camera on its megapixels alone, which of course is a decent measure of a digital camera's quality, but would do better to factor in the quality and features of the lens as well. Optical zoom is superior to digital zoom because a digital zoom uses the camera's megapixels to zoom, which comes at a cost to picture quality. More clarity comes with the optical zoom.

 

 

Links 

How Digital Cameras Work: Getting technical about these "filmless cameras". 

 

 

See More on this Topic: 

Computer Crafting Your Photo Memories
Sharing Photos as Gifts

 

 

 

 

 

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